Sunday, March 29, 2009

Good Art Day Today

Finished this one today! "No Two Lines the Same," 2009, 30"x44", graphite on 90# white Stonehenge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Art on the South Side of Chicago!

Last Thursday, March 26th, attended a panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which featured Joyce OwensLowell ThompsonNatalie MooreAndre Guichard and Patrick Rivers, organized by Quiana Burwell, all discussing the notion of the "Invisible Artist: Creators from Chicago's Southside."

First,  in the disclaimer department I'm a northsider (and a Cubs fan) born and bred.<

The genesis for the panel was the notion that at the School of the Art Institute students are not pointed or directed to art, artists and art-life on the south side of Chicago. The short answer is that there very much is life, art, artists and art-life south of Roosevelt Road. The long answer as to why the art-school and general public at large have a different and possibly negative perception lies in a multitude of answers, many of which are racist and which I won't go into here.

I want rather to look at the question that Quiana posed which is why did the school not point its majority and minority students south of Roosevelt. My thought is that perhaps it would have been nice, but it is my general unscientific not backed up by any type of data but just anecdotes that the Art Institute and its school are not interested in Chicago art. The school is a machine for matriculating and graduating huge numbers of artists who then make whatever way they can in the world, as artists or not.

I also posit that art schools and major art institutions have serious significant relationships with power, be that money and politics. All I had to do was look out the window of the room that the panel was held in, the former ballroom of the former Chicago Athletic Club to see the Pritzker fountain to the left and immediately across the street to the main entrance of the Art Institute itself, where when you walk in, you are flanked by the bronze plaques of the donors and major endowers of the place, Swift, Armor, Medill, Patterson, some of whose fortunes were made on the backs of underpaid, under-privileged migrants the world over.

Which brings me to my next point, we were all, all of us, so privileged to be there, to be able to complain, while we still live in one of the most prosperous countries on earth, have full bellies, have the means to make art and to try to sell it, under the auspices of an art-school that has a director of multi-cultural affairs as a panel leader.

It occurs to me that my African-American artist brothers and sisters want the same things I want, the means to make art and the means to sell it, to gain some recognition for it. Bless us all.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

James Mesple at Printworks

[caption id="attachment_733" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="James Mesple, "sol and equus""]Mesple sol and equus[/caption]Next Friday night, March 27th, get yourselves over to Printworks Gallery, 311 West Superior Street, Chicago between 7 and 9 pm to see James Mesple's works on paper. Mythic, lyrical, enchanting, other-worldly, precious and yet pungent are some of my thoughts on seeing his work. This one is entitled "Sol and Equus," mixed media on paper, 12"x20".

Too Much Academia in the Arts?

Dana Gioia, a former poet laureate of the United States, has lamented in a May 1991 article in the Atlantic Monthly that as the number of poets, published poets and academic study of poetry has bloomed, the numbers of the public reading and appreciating poetry has plummeted. He attributes this largely to the academization of the study and production of poetry. This process has isolated this art-form to a subculture of the public at large.

I contend that much the same has happened to the visual arts. MFAs abound everywhere and are seen as a key to university jobs and even acceptance by gallerists as proof of artistic achievement. Note, however, that the quality of instructors is high, even in locations and institutions far from the art-centers, New York, Los Angeles and even my beloved Chicago. If you take an art class you will find a good teacher.

But the visual arts, like poetry, have been consigned to the status of a subculture, largely unimportant to the people at large, except when a piece or an artist astounds and offends and is seen as somehow having been paid for out of the public purse.

Further, the visual arts have been isolated in the subculture of the high-end hedge fundies who drove the prices so high as to render relative value absolutely meaningless.

Why should anyone care? Why do I care? I make art no matter what and I make art in spite of my MFA from a university degree factory. I spent years unlearning what I learned at that program so that I could find my own 'visual voice.' I care, we all should care, because we are part of the human condition, we comment on it, we are.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Art & Fear II

Another quote from the book Art & Fear by Bayles and Orland that I refer to in my previous post. On page 79 they quote Howard Ikemoto as follows:

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college--that my job was to teach people how to draw."

"She stared back at me, incredulous, and said 'You mean they forget?"

"To the artist, art is a verb." (page 90). I think that's the crux of why the non-artists find us artists to be strange and often crazy; we haven't forgotten how to draw, how to make art and we are much less afraid of failing to make a good drawing. We know we are going to make bad art, we will make work that will not satisfy us, whether or not we show that work to the outside. The "outsiders" don't understand that and they insist on labeling art as a "talent." Talent doesn't go far without the work; it goes nowhere.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Art & Fear

Art & Fear from an artist's perspective, not the viewer's. I am reading Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland (1993, Image Continuum Press), which I picked up this morning at my local library.

We artists are plagued by doubts and fears. These fears fall into two general categories, fears about ourselves and about our reception by others (p. 23). Bayles and Orland enumerate a list as follows:

I'm not an artist--I'm a phony
I have nothing worth saying
I'm not sure what I'm doing
Other people are better than I am
I'm only a student [student/physicist/mother/whatever]
I've never had a real exhibit
No one understands my work
No one likes my work
I'm no good
(p. 13)

All of which are potentially true, but all of which are totally destructive of the art-making process. These authors bring out another interesting point, which is that if as is true in the academic art-world, that 95% of the MFA and BFA graduates are not making art in 10 years, that if this was the case in the medical profession there would be congressional investigations.

Fear of failure and fear of success are the only reasons.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who Owns Museum Stuff?

I grew up in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History, which means that I enjoyed and learned about the world looking at the fruits of loot inside these magnificent catch-all encyclopedic repositories. James Cuno in his book Who Owns Antiquity argues that encyclopedic museums, those catch-all of goodies from the world-over are good things.  He has been excoriated for this.  I stand with him; I agree that these museums are a good thing.

The British Museum is not going to give the Elgin Marbles to the government of Greece.  If each and every nation-state insists that whatever is in the ground belongs to them and only them, then whatever current national interests exist will be the only things served.  Thus in the face of increasing Sino-ization of Tibet, the Amharization of Ethiopia, the Russianization of the former Soviet border states, what contrary issues and ideas will survive.  Eleven and twelve centuries ago an entire tribe of Tartars converted to Judaism, their artifacts lie in the Trans-Caucasus between the Caspian and the Black Seas.  Russian archaeologists deny that those artifacts are Jewish. The Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan out of pure religious zealotry and spite with no regard or respect for their own antiquity or anyone else on the planet.

Der Spiegel ran a story today about the discomfort and downright political hostility experienced by Erika Steinbach, leader of a group that calls itself The Federation of Expellees in Germany that wants to document the sufferings of Germans expelled by the Polish government at the end of the Second World War.  The Polish government argues fearfully that such Germans should not be permitted to see themselves as victims of the Nazis.

I argue that they are victims of the insistence that the modern nation state defines nationhood and nationality on narrow bases of tribalism, race, religion, and language.  Cuno argues the same for archaeological artifacts.

Cuno posits that the argument over rightful ownership of antiquities is not whether they and the sites they come from should be preserved but how to preserve them and increase our knowledge of and increase public access to them.

We are all one tribe, we deserve to see all of our ancestors goodies and treasures; we do not want them besmirched in the name of narrow national interests.