Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

Oh, my dearies, it has been a while!! I'm so, so sorry!

So much has happened (could you think differently?). Well, I got a truck!! I bartered a painting for a pick-up truck, so am now officially a bonified redneck! Ha! No, seriously, I got a great little pick-up truck for a painting. Win /win if you ask me.
What else? I'm moving YET AGAIN! So the truck came at a good moment. I'm switching studios yet again. Photos to come for sure...

I was going to write a post about the personality of cars, and how my PT Cruiser is a fat white boy who wears one of those awkward rainbow hats with the propeller on top. And my new pick up is a hard workin' cowgirl with a manicure.

However, instead, I want to address something that is on my mind. I just finished watching a very interesting talk on youtube by artist Scott Burdick (thanks, Steve!). Scott is an acquaintance of mine, and a wonderful painter. His 4 part talk on youtube is about modern art versus traditional figurative art. He goes through a lot of examples from both camps. His arguments are rooted in some very important thoughts, and I don't disagree with a lot of it. He talks about how the biggest reason why many traditionalist painters today are unseen in museums is because of their subject matter, specifically that it is beautiful. In order to be in a museum today, you must paint paintings that are void of beauty, is his argument. Not such a crazy argument to make, when you think about it. He goes on to root this issue as being in the power of the critics and curators of museums. Since traditional art takes much longer to produce, artists who chose simpler methods of painting (i.e uglier at times) were able to produce more work, thus making them a more profitable commodity to sell. Some points that Scott also mentioned (and I'm leaving a lot out, so you should listen for yourself) are about how modernists believe beauty to be a shallow subject, and how beautiful art is uplifting and therefore reminding people of the good in the world.
So, I don't disagree. But I do.
And watching this video has made me really come to terms with being in the middle of a changing tide. I am part of a generation that is slightly lost as to how to use the tools we are given. Personally, I have been trained to paint beauty well. I'm nowhere near the best in my field at this, but I am technically more proficient than a majority. And yet, I struggle with how to use this skill. I struggle with the idea that I should use this skill to only paint beauty.
I do agree that I think somewhere in art history people got fed up with having to go through all sorts of painting training, and the "ugly duckling" syndrome was born. By this, I mean the glorification of decidedly NOT being competently trained in your craft. I'm not for that idea at all. It is anti-education.

BUT, and there is always a BUT.... is beauty the only way? Granted, the best point Scott makes is that he does not want to see modern art destroyed. He just wants to see traditional art accepted in museums and given the same rights. fair enough. I totally agree... it is an assault on human choice to not include other types of works in museums. Modern traditional painters are alive today.. they are modern.

BUT I'm a little stuck. There has been many a moment when I have taken refuge in front of a Rothko, and basked in the glory of NOT BEING TOLD WHAT IT IS ABOUT. I don't agree that you have to know all about abstract painting history in order to enjoy an abstract painting. Sometimes, it is quite the opposite. It is almost a child-like love to just look at big shapes and colors and let them take over. Sometimes the very strong dialogues found in many a figurative painting can get a bit loud. No, I don't always want to see pretty women, or babies, or mountains or religious icons.Or old men with interesting wrinkles or paintings of foreign people. Sometimes I want the open space that isn't telling me what to think or feel whatsoever.
Maybe I'm a little bit of a hippie at heart.
And so, as a creator of visual works, I am constantly stuck in the middle of these two places. Which is why I am so fascinated by artists who learn a craft entirely, then abandon it for abstraction. Why? Why could Picasso paint pretty well when he was younger, then progressively walk away from technique?
I have no idea.
The only thing I do know is that if there are two opposing sides, I'm smack in the middle. Strangely, there are not too many people who paint from that middle place. There are more musicians coming at it from this perspective. Classically trained musicians who use their education and love to produce very new work. But in painting it's not so easy. To paint something open and modern that is a mirror of how life works TODAY is extremely hard when your tools are from the past. But I DO believe it is possible. And far more interesting.
So, for all of my gibbering, I want to ask you, dear readers, if this same problem is true in your field of work? Because I have seen it very much so in a lot of other art forms. Photographers have never had such good technology as they do today. And yet, if you read about Annie Leibovitz, she talks about keeping her set-up and craft as simple as possible. This woman is literally at the top of her field, and she chooses simplicity. And with this, her photos are both beautiful and ugly.
One could argue technology is the same way. We are INCREDIBLY skilled as far as technology is concerned. And yet, we write messages about when we are going to a friend's hous eon FaceBook.
I guess, in a very long-winded kind of way, I really hope to see the few artists who have taken the time to train and equip themselves with skill properly make an effort to make their art relevant. And maybe the whole point that Scott was making is that beauty will always be relevant. BUT I'm not always sold that pretty girls and old men are the only way to show this:)

on another note, I leave you with this:



It's for sale, by the way:)

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