part two of Jemima and the Grits...
Well, i knew i was in trouble yesterday when i got two comments, in pretty quick succession, right after i'd posted that post. Now, i've never met Kelly Love Johnson, but i do know Mary and, in my head, i could see her: making herself kinda small and fuzzy, her eyes all beady with glee, wickedly rubbing her hands together in excitement over whatever blasphemous thing i would eventually write on here. Like me, Mary loves a good conflict (and i'm willin' to bet so does KLJ). I'd made the mistake of creating an expectation.
I re-read my post and saw that, yes indeed, it promised some controversy. "stupid and dangerous opinion," i wrote. "something even i might regret saying." Them's some big words, and i can say some pretty drastic stuff. So what am i gonna do?
Maybe he'll claim that everyone in Charleston's art scene is havin' sex with animals!
Well, sorry to let you down, but that's not what i'm gonna say. Not even close...
After i posted yesterday i had to drive out to Mount Pleasant to Petsmart to get some pheromone stuff so Inky the cat'll quit spraying everything in our house. The drive gave me some good reflection time. On the drive I thought tommorrow maybe i'll talk high theory and explain why the avant-garde is really about the practice of humilty these days, or why post-modernist irony is giving way to the new paradigm of Commitment. Eventually, though, i discovered that what i really needed to do was examine...and get ready for some corny-ness...what it was that i felt in my heart. I feel that this is the right move, because instead of explaining the theoretical concepts above, i could actually live them--theory and process...aligned. *sigh*
First, let me tell you what set me off: In yesterday's Post and Courier, concerning a show at Ella Richardson Fine Art, Larissa Dozier, public relations consultant for the gallery, says "In 1947, Miro began his exploration with the challenging mediums of multicolor etchings and lithographs...Miro pushed the limits of his own creative genius through artistic concerns unique to the graphic arts....although the technique of printmaking and its various mediums are rooted in nearly 1000 years of experimentation and production, Miro approached each [print] with revolutionary concepts of imagery." The article goes on to explain, most importantly, that "Bryson Strauss, curator and oral historian at Timothy Yarger Fine Art of California...will offer his expertise on the graphic mediums," (and get this) "what it means to acquire an original artwork by Miro in today's art market."
Folks, i got nothing against Miro. In fact, i really like Miro. But, i'm here to tell ya, Miro was no genius. His pictures were not "revolutionary concepts of imagery." And neither were Pollock's , nor Warhol's nor Serra's. And neither were (insert a thousand other valid artist names here...)
See, if an artist has any validity, it's not gonna be found just in their pictures. That validity is gonna be found in the fact that they lived and breathed a life that ran counter to a current cultural dialogue.
Now it hurts me to write the above. It hurts because saying that is the act of summing up the center of a thought-onion--a thought-onion that's got a million layers and is a thousand miles across. The above is a wild generalization, and i love wild generalizations...until i start talking about something that really really matters to me (or something that i'm freshly out of a graduate education for) . The above generalization doesn't take into account the avant garde, it doesn't debunk that near-parenthetical phrase "a thousand years of experimentation and production," it doesn't address the cult of the new, and on and on and blah dee blah. For the sake of brevity, however, that's where i'm gonna leave it.
Alright. So, Bryson Strauss is gonna tell us how to invest in a Miro. That's crap. That ain't art. That's investment. And these days, if you're a person in the business of making a pretty picture or a three dimensional object for someone to invest in, then you're not an artist. To take a page from the post-modern handbook, i'd like to suggest a new name for the person that does that: f/artist.
Alright. That's awfully dogmatic. And marxist. (And funny, too). To be fair, i could also suggest the pretty-picture-person be called something i consider a compliment, but what they generally abhor: a craftsperson. But all of that is not what this post was about. That stuff is not really what my heart is telling me to say.
Without further delay, here's where my insides, and yesterdays post, and today's post, line up.
First of all: 99% of art really is a bloated substance-less slob dedicated solely to the consumptive pleasure of wealthy white people.
I'm gonna be 38 years old (!) in a few days. I'm just now getting out of school. I have student loans. I don't have a job. I have developed, due to my studies in art, an ethical manifesto that says privilege is fuckin' stuff up. It also tells me that if i make a living by exploiting that privilege, then i'm part of the problem. maybe i'm hopelessly naive, but i just think it's ridiculous to think that someone is gonna go into a gallery, right here in Charleston, and spend thousands--nay, tens of thousands i'm sure the gallery hopes--on a freakin' lithograph when five blocks up the street someone is hungry. Where realtionships between white and black people still smack of 1859. "yesSUH!," an elderly black gentleman addressed me yesterday.
I don't, for the life of me, want to be a part of that system. But...i'm afraid. I've desperately, and purposefully, held on all these years to the idealism of an 18 year old. I've been able to avoid, for most of my life, actually committing myself to any real process. Sure i've been a satellite member. I've used privilege and money and parents and my spouse, but that membership has always been kept, at least, at a distasteful distance. And now, dammit, i've got to get a job. I've got to shit or get off the pot. Every fiber of my being cries out at producing yet another museum worthy piece of crap that perpetuates elitism and power and whiteness. To produce beauty that only a few can afford...
But what am i gonna do?
If i rail against that system here on this blog , for all to see, then i'll identify myself as the enemy...or a liar. That's why i want to open my big fat mouth, here in this general store, and say that i don't want to join that club. I want to say that i intend to continue being that idealistic 18 year old, and tell you i'll have nothing to do with bronze casting and oil paints and medium specificity.
People have done this and managed to survive. To sight some success stories, I think Steve Whittlesey, my instuctor up at school, has managed it in a way. The artist Dan Peterman is doing it. I even think--although he's gotten really rich in the process--that Neil Young has done it. I even think Gridgey is doing it up there in Cookeville--hang in there Gridgey! I want to say, here, that i wanna do it too.
i'm gonna ride a bike to new orleans, dammit.
part two of Jemima and the Grits...