Saturday, December 12, 2009

Communication through art

Before reading this post, visit this website: Click Here.

The paintings on this website are very good examples of using art as a tool for communication. Let me begin by saying that I do not agree with the artist on most of what he is saying. The way the painting is executed is also not my favorite style. However, the fact that he is creating imagery to convey his thoughts on issues of the day is excellent. This is what I believe art is for, and what it should be about.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Breaking News

I found out today that Jean Claude, the artist and wife of Christo, has died today (11-25-09). You can read the full article from the NY Times here.

She and Christo worked together on a variety of projects worldwide. While I am not a fan of their work, I do admire them as artists. I'm not sure how this will affect their current projects. She and Christo have had a significant influence in contemporary art, and I have often referred to them when teaching. It will be interesting to see what will happen next.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recently I taught a group of Jr. High students about pattern, and how it is used in art. The above images are some of the projects they made. The goal was to create as much pattern as possible, ultimately trying to fill the page. I had the students start by folding the page lengthwise and writing their name on the creased paper. They then had to fold the page over and create a mirror image of their name by rubbing the back of the paper. The result forms an image from which to start. The students then picked elements from that image and repeated them throughout the composition. It's a simple project, and one I that I think produced excellent results.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This weeks post is in reference to a recent article found in the current issue of Art Calendar. The article is by Elena Parashko, and addresses the idea of being persistent in communicating with galleries and other arts professionals.

Parashko began her article by reminding readers to know the difference between persistence and annoying. She explained that it may difficult to know exactly when one should give up on a prospective gallery, but commented that relentless pursuit is probably a path towards resentment.

She said communication is essential, but not to overwhelm patrons. One suggestion she expressed was to develop an online address book of gallery owners, clients, and other art lovers. Then put together a monthly or bimonthly newsletter that could be sent to these individuals. She offered this as a way to keep in touch with potential prospects without having to be in constant contact.

I found this article interesting. I think a newsletter is a very good idea, but I'm not sure it would work in every situation. When I was in art school I was taught that artists should wait to be approached by galleries, not the other way around. If an emerging artist does not have many contacts, to whom is he/she going to send a newsletter? Parashko did not really discuss options for artists just beginning their career. As there are many artists at this level, I think that this is something that could be considered.

Parashko, E. 2009. Being Persistent or Being a Pest? Art Calendar. December 2009 January 2010

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recent work ideas

Recently (approximately three weeks ago) I decided I would paint one image of a face per week.

I enjoy creating imagery of the human face. We use our faces as our identities in this world when we interact with one another.

I also enjoy the range of emotions and they way color influences the eye, and the overall interpretations of those emotions. Anyway, these are the first three I have done. Comments? Questions?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creativity and Halloween

I took a bit of a break from the blog in October. I am back now, and should have weekly updates. This week I thought I would address the idea of Art/creativity and Halloween. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween, I don't hate it, but I can more or less take it or leave it. I usually wear this pin on Halloween:

But a friend of mine yelled at me over the e-mail this year. She said I'm an artist, and I should be able to come up with something. So this got me thinking. I had to do something fun. Too many costumes are run-of-the-mill. I eventually decided to go as Magrittes Son of Man. Here is a pictue of that:

This costume was fun, and very easy to make. Not to mention inexpensive. I guess my friend was right. I should focus more on the fun creative aspects of Halloween. I wonder what I should do next year. See you next week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Turner Prize

So it's Turner Prize time again. If you do not have any idea what this is about Let me briefly explain. It's a big award for an artist in the UK, given annually. It's named after J. M. W. Turner, a leading British artist (one of my favorites). Here is a link.
I'm also including a link to an article about this years potential winners. Let me know what you think. Potential Winners link. Sorry about the short posting. I'll do better next time. Cheers!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Three Part Blog

When I originally set out to make this blog, I intended to update every weekend. I seem to be falling well behind that goal. Oh well. Such is life. This posting comes in three parts. I don't think I have done a three part post in a while, so that might help make up for my lack of recent updates. : )


Last time I wrote about a work in progress for a show in Atlanta. I have since finished that piece, and have sent it on its way. It arrived at the gallery yesterday. At least that is what the tracking information is telling me. I thought perhaps you might want to see what the finished painting looks like, and for those of you who are not in the greater Atlanta area, here it is:

If you do happen to be in the Atlanta area check it out at the Art House Gallery December 11. It should be a good show.


In addition to being an artist extraordinaire (Hah!), I do some substitute teaching. There is one teacher for whom I fill in, that allows me to teach an art lesson while there. This past Tuesday we did a project on creative problem solving. The students were asked to create an object capable of getting one sheet of paper as far down the adjacent 100 ft hallway as possible. They were free to be as imaginative as they liked, the only limit was in the materials they could use. They were allowed two sheets of paper, three inches of tape, three inches of string, and two paper clips. Some ideas worked better than others, and the ultimate winner got her project roughly half way down the hall. The following pictures were some of their designs.


When I taught Art Appreciation, we would occasionally play a game. This game was called "Is it Art?" Now that I am no longer teaching this class I see no reason to let a perfectly good game rot away. So I thought we could play it on this blog. Here is how it works: I have an official "Is it art?" folder. Here is a picture of it:

As you can see it is full of images. Occasionally I will pull out one of these images and post them on the blog. These images could be anything; a painting, a drawing, or perhaps the internal working mechanisms for the landing gear of a 747. We really have no idea what these images are going to be. Your job is to look at the image, scrutinize it for a bit, and come to some conclusions as to weather or not you think it is art. Post your thoughts in the comments section. I will announce weather it is or is not art in a later blog entry. There is a wide variety of art made these days, so in order to eliminate some confusion here are some other rules. First if the image is art it must be claimed by an established, recognized artist, and be exhibited in gallery, museum, or some other official setting. Secondly, I will never present a photograph. While photography is art, there would just be confusion if I showed a photo of a tree or something. You must look at the object within the image, and decide if this is the art, not the image itself. If you are confused, or have questions post those in the comments as well. Here we go with "Is it Art?" See you next time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recent work

So, I didn't post last week. It was quite hectic, and there was a lot going on. This week I am posting about my most recent project. This December I will be part of a group exhibition that had asked everyone to produce a depiction of "chair." I decided to use the idea of Chair as in chairman, or chair person.
The way I approached this idea was to examine Chairman Mao. Portraiture is not my strong point, and I'm not sure how it is going. But the above image is meant to illustrate how my project is going. it may not look exactly like the other images of Chairman Mao, but I definitely think it has that look and feel of communist leader portraiture. What do you think? I have to submit this image by the the end the week, so I need to finish it up. Post your comments. I would love to see how people respond to my work before it is finished.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaching artists

This morning I was reflecting on the art courses I have taught. Ever since the first day I enrolled in art school it has always been my desire to be an art professor. They seem to have the perfect job for an artist. They get to teach and interact with other artists, which helps develop work and ideas, they are required to participate in exhibitions and showings of their work, which builds their professionalism and recognition, and they have the benefit of salaried employment.

I have recently begun to move in another direction away from teaching, and I'm not sure what, if any, affect this will have on my art. When I completed my B.F.A I went on and earned an M.S.Ed in College Teaching with a specialization in Art. One would think this would be perfect for teaching art at the collegiate level. But all I have managed to secure in the last four years since graduating is a series of adjunct, part-time teaching positions. I have had interviews, and I have had more than one person tell me that they either cannot hire me, or they will not hire me because I do not have an M.F.A. I find it ironic that a field that prides itself on forward thinking, originality, and problem solving is mired in old traditions. I am also sure I am not the only art instructor with a passion for teaching that has been passed over for full-time jobs. The policy makers of education, not just the education of artists but educators as a whole, need to expand their thinking. I'm going to close this posting with a few images of past student works. Post your comments, see you next week.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Response to "Patrons Support Artists on the Web" in New York Times

This weeks post is a response to an article sent to me from the New York Times. The full text can be read here. The article is about Kickstarter, a unique online donation tool for visual artists, musicians, and other aspiring individuals of the arts.

Jenna Wortham, the author of the article explains how this organization works. Through the internet artists with a project idea post their concept. They are then matched with individuals who would like to make a contribution to the proposed project, but cannot fund the entire operation. By combining their resources these donors help get the projects off the ground. The contributors are then often treated to an additional tangible gift as well. Perry Chen, one of the founders, identified his organization as a sort of marketplace of goods and services based on the arts.

I think that this concept is interesting, and without further thought, I might be tempted to sign up for donation support. But I also foresee some potential problems. Any time you open your project idea up for funding from individuals, they are then going to gain a sense of ownership to that project or idea. Their vision may not be the same as that of the artist, and they may become unsatisfied with the outcome. This could lead to arguments among the artists as well as fellow donors.

Another problem relates to the idea of intellectual property. By posting an untested idea on the internet, which is available to anyone, there is a potential for someone who has funding to steal that idea and launch it as their own. There would be no real way to prove who came up with the initial idea.

These problems aside, I think this donation concept has merit. Too often it seems that Americans are uninterested in supporting the arts and cultural development. To see a group who is actively seeking and supporting artists is gratifying. To learn more about Kickstart, click here. I'll see you next week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Economics of art

This past week I sold a painting for the highest sum to-date for one of my works. This got me reflecting on the prices and values that society places on art works. My question is why are the prices so high? With most object-De-arts there is little use other than visual pleasure (or disgust). Life does not depend on these items. So why are they perceived as precious?

This is a thought that I have asked my art appreciation students to consider. In class, I taught that the value of a work depends on who the artist is, what his/her intention in making the art was, and what other viewers think about the work. In a broad sense this is true. These are the basic foundations for why critics and the public value a work, and why people would pay 6 million for a Van Gogh. But the real question of why or how these values are place on these objects isn't really answered. Would Van Goghs' sunflowers still fetch such a high price if it was instead painted by Joe Blow? I somehow doubt it.

This is a problem that I have thought about before, and I have no real answer. I don't know if I will ever completely understand this issue, but it is one that I think should be addressed. What are your thoughts? Post them in the comments, and we'll see you next week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Response to Artist Squatters on NPR

This weeks posting is a response to a radio broadcast on NPR. A link to the full broadcast can be found here. This news piece explained about a situation in Berlin involving a bombed out building from WW II that has been taken over by artists.

The story explains that upon the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980's, a community of artists developed in what was once a large department store. This store had been heavily damaged by allied bombing at the end of WW II, and remained neglected throughout the Cold War due to its close proximity to the Berlin Wall. Eric Westervelt, the NPR reporter, explained how after the wall fell, artists moved in to the building and used it as a makeshift community to create and sell art. They have been doing this for the past 20 years. The reporter went on to describe how the buildings current owners now want to evict the artists and set up a new commercial tourist district on this site. The artists have banded together and are refusing to leave. It's become a legal issue and is set to go to court.

I found this piece interesting, but I do take issue with one thing that Westervelt said. He identified the artists as "squatters," however if you listen closely, the artists have always paid rent. It was a very low rent, but they have always paid their part. I don't necessarily think they could be labeled as squatters.

My second comment relates to something one of the artists interviewed said. Kuri Haran, an artist from Japan said that this was a unique place, but I'm not so sure it is. I know of several cities and towns in the United States that are trying to establish themselves as artist communities. These cities offer artists low interest loans to develop their studios and galleries in what are often historically important examples of American Architecture. The hope is that artists will move in, and bring a vibrant new life to communities that are struggling. As far as I know, these new artist communities have been met with some success. This is very similar to the community established by the artists in Berlin.

I'm not sure the artists should be removed from the building in Berlin. I think the established community of artists could work closely with the buildings owners to create a new environment to work and sell their art. Perhaps the art towns of the United States could serve as an example. If you have comments, leave them below, and I will see you next week.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Southern Illinois Artists Open Competition

This weeks post is about my experience in the Southern Illinois Artists Open Competition and Exhibition (SIOAC). The website for this exhibition can viewed by clicking here.

I'd like to thank the judges and the staff of Cedarhurst for allowing me to compete in this exhibition. Although I didn't win, the display of work was exceptional, and I feel humbled and honored through my participation. I would include some images from the show, but I do not have any. Instead, if you are in or around Mt. Vernon, Illinois I suggest you stop in at the Cedarhusrst Center for the Arts and view the show for yourself. It's very good.

Thats it for this week. Post your comments, and I will respond.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Why don't art schools teach presentation?

As you may recall, I was embroiled in a framing conundrum last week. In case you didn't read last weeks posting (which is most people) I had my work accepted in a fairly prestigious state art competition. The deadline to deliver works was this past Friday (7-31-09). My entries were of an unusual size and required special order frames. I had prepared for this; I placed my order at the beginning of July. However they weren't delivered as of last week. I went into panic mode and began looking at alternate framing methods. Last weeks posting gave a pretty good indication of my frustrations. This weeks posting is all about the aftermath. The images below illustrate the state of my studio area post-framing mode.

As you can see, it's quite a mess. I was working on constructing frames as soon as I got off work, around 5PM, well into the night. In the end my frames arrived Friday afternoon, and the museum hosting the competition agreed to allow me to deliver my works on Saturday. If they hadn't allowed me to do this, I'm not sure what I would have done.

All this lead me to reflect on my art school experiences. I was never taught about presentation. My classes covered techniques, styles, different types of media, and plenty of art history. However, presentation of our work was something that was never really discussed. Now, having taught art classes at two different colleges and familiarizing myself with art school curricula I have to ask; why is presentation not central to the program? As far as I know this is not taught in any art school. I think this is an interesting question. I will be researching this, and I may post what I find out. If any of you have an opinion, or are knowledgeable on this subject please leave your comments. I hope to do a follow-up on this issue in the future. See you next week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Framing your work

My work has recently been accepted for exhibition in a fairly prestigious state-wide competition. I am very excited about this. To prepare for this, I had to get my work framed. The paintings in question are rather large and require larger-than-standard frames. I therefore, placed my order with Frame USA in early July, thinking they would be here well before the deadline to deliver the works. That deadline is now upon me, and the frames are not here. After a conversation with the company, I was informed that the frames are not even shipping until tomorrow. The photo below should indicate just how this makes me feel.

I am further enraged, because after I learned my frames have not yet shipped (and will in fact arrive too late to be of any use ) I cannot cancel or return the merchandise. I am crafting my own frames made of wood, and hoping they will look halfway decent. This has been my unfavorable experience with Frame USA. I would be interested to hear other experiences with this company, so if you have dealt with them, leave your story in the comments. As always see you next week.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Art Show at Southern Illinois University

A friend of mine (Luca Cruzat) recently had a joint exhibition of her work with another artist in the Vergette Gallery on the campus of Southern Illinois University. I attended the reception for this show on Friday. I enjoyed the display very much, and will use this weeks post to reflect on what I saw.

Luca is a printmaker. Printmaking is an art process that is not for me. The few times I have decided to make a print I rely on one of two methods. These methods include lino-cuts and collograph techniques. I was therefore very excited when I discovered that Luca had done a series of prints using the collograph technique.

If you don't know, the collograph technique is one that prints an image from a variety of objects assembled together in a composition. This may include bits of paper, coins, string, or just about any sort of flat object that can be sealed to the surface of a board, and run through a printing press. I asked Luca how she made her images and she explained that she used paper and thread. She said that thread holds the ink prior to transfer of the image better than the paper. She therefore sewed or stitched thread to the paper to help outline the figures, and complete her image. The result was fantastic. Below are some images from the show. The black and white is the collograph by Luca.

More examples of her work, and upcoming exhibitions can be found here. I am interested in your thoughts about printmaking, particularity using the collograph technique. Leave your comments below and thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Do Climate and environment affect the artist?

The other day I was asked if I thought the environment and climate in which an artist works affects the work produced by that artist. I think this is an interesting question, and it's one I've been mulling over for a while. I will provide my answer, but I would be very interested in what you, the readers (Dawn) think.

In my opinion, the environment and climate in which an artist works has an indirect affect on the work produced. I say this because the environment will contribute to the mood of the artist, and this will in turn affect the outcome of the work. I have two stories to back this up.

When I was in Scotland, I met an artist from the United States who had spent the first six months (this was early June) living and working in Scotland. He was having an exhibition of his work from that six month period. The work from late February had a particularity somber palette. The subject matter also took on a drastically morbid character. When asked about this, he commented that at that time of year (Scotland is further North than any of the contiguous States)the sun sets at 2:30 0r 3:00 or something. He said it was always dark, and he was sick of it. His painting strongly reflected his mood.

Story number two. When I was in art school I began as a ceramics major. I later switched to 2-D media for several reasons. One of those reasons however, was the environment of the classroom where ceramics were taught. There were very few windows, and of these they only let in a minimum amount of light. It was dank, all the walls were gray cinder block, and it was near the blacksmith studios, so there were a number of air filter stacks from all the fires used to shape and bend metal. It was a rather unpleasant place to spend any period of time. This environment shaped my mood, and my work suffered because if it. I had to get out of there, so I switched specializations.

So there you have it. Two stories about environment affecting the work artists produce. I am very interested in your thoughts. So leave your comments in the comment section, and I will see you next week.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Resposne to Akarova and the Belgian Avant-Garde

Andrew, N. (2009). Living Art: Akarova and the Belgian Avant-Garde. Art journal, 68(2) 26-49.

This week I will be responding to an article found in the most recent issue of Art Journal. The article by Nell Andrew, examines the link between avant-garde Belgian Art, and the avant-Garde choreography of Belgian dancer Akarova.

Andrew explains first the connections between the art movement in Belgium of the early twenties, and the dance movement of which Akarova was involved. Post World-War I Beguim, as Andrew pointed out, was influenced by many of the countries it bordered. This included Germany, France, and the Netherlands. As a result the art being produced was following the trends in these countries, including Symbolism, and German Expressionism. The daughter of an architect, Andrew explains how Akarova grew up surrounded by her parents literary and artsits friends who strongly influenced her decisions as she began to study dance. Andrew argues that, with particular influence placed on the 7 Arts group, it was this movement that caused Akarova to take her dance in a more avant-garde direction.

Andrew went on to explain, as the ideals of Futurism, Cubism, and Constructivism entered Belguim, Akarova adopted traits associated with these movements. These traits include an emphasis on lighting, design, space, audience experience, political content over the more traditional dramatic contexts of theater. Andrew explained how the idea of movement without motion became central to the way Akarova danced. The author described how Akarova re-formed music in the service of dance rather than separating music from dance, as many modern dance choreographers were doing at that time.

This article was well written, and thought provoking. From my perception it isn't often that two types of art are explored. I find the arts to be very compartmentalized. This article however, nicely explored issues of the visual arts and modern dance.

If the expressive content is similar, i.e. motion and movement why are the arts so distinctly divided? I think it is due to the way creative people work. As a visual artist I like to work alone, on my own thoughts, and in my own way. I also think that this is not uncommon. As the creative process begins in a solitary exploration, this idea of working alone continues throughout to the end of the project. That said, I think It would be interesting to see more collaboration between the arts.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Canceled exhibition

Last week I mentioned this exhibition. It had been my intention to blog about it this week. However, it was rainy this weekend, and the show was canceled. I therefore have nothing to blog about this week. Instead, enjoy this image of the Statue of Liberty in the rain.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Response to Madonna Nude

This weeks posting comes in two parts. The first part is a response to the blog Madonna Nude, the second covers an upcoming exhibition in New york City.

In the Madonna Nude blog we are presented with three images of the pop diva Madonna in the nude. One is a painting, and the other two are photographs. In my opinion, it is a little difficult to understand what this blog is actually about. Are we meant to be looking only at the nude images and comparing them, or are we meant to be thinking about how the use of a famous person in a work of art will greatly influence the price of that work? I'm going to discuss the former rather than the latter.

If we are meant to be comparing the images, I think that only one comparison can be made; that being a somewhat distorted perception of Madonna. Two different media are being used, the painting is more of a stylized interpretation of the relationship between Madonna and Guy Ritchie, and less about the pop star herself, and the photographs depict a very young Madonna before she was a sensation. If one considers this when looking at the photographs, then this too is less about the woman and more about a stylized interpretation of Madonna.

As for the works themselves, I much prefer the painting. I think the painting is more visually interesting. In one thousand years when Madonna is unknown to popular culture this painting will carry more significance than the photographs. In this context the images could be depicting anybody, and the painting holds a narrative, while the photographs do not. This is significant because the narrative can be interpreted by many people and comparisons can be drawn between the viewer and the work.

The second part of this posting promotes an exhibition in New York City. If you live in and around New York, you should definitely check out the "9/11, city, country, memories" exhibition in Battery Park on June 20. Below is the official flier that provides more details. If you have any comments or questions about this weeks posting, place them in the comment section, and I will see you again next week.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Art D Tour not a D light

This past Friday (6-5-09) I took an art tour of several galleries, and Museums in St. Louis, Mo. The details of this tour can be read here. This tour turned out to be a disappointment. I was expecting more because I went on the same tour in April, and it was fantastic. I think there are several reasons why this particular tour went so poorly, and I think there are ways improvements could be made.

The initial problem turned out to be traffic. The continued closer of interstate 64 has made getting around St Louis difficult for some time. This situation is made even worse during rush-hour each morning and evening. These factors combined with a scheduled Cardinals baseball game brought traffic into the city to a crawl. While on the bus, our guide even commented on how difficult it was to navigate the city streets that night. It became such a problem, that one of the scheduled gallery stops was deleted, as there was no convenient way to get the bus to that venue. In future, this event should be planned with more care given to the anticipated traffic pattern for that evening. The closer of interstate 64 was anticipated I'm sure. However, I have difficulty believing the other traffic issues were taken in to consideration when this event was planned.

The second issue was a lack of food. For each stop there was to be a variety of food and beverage samples. As outlined in this flyer:

However, I happened to be on the last bus in the convoy, and for each stop made the food had been consumed. There was hardly a scrap left for anyone. As I picked up my advance tickets I was told that they had sold out, and that the buses were quite full. The number of people on the tour should have been anticipated. This tour should either be advance purchase only, or additional tour dates should be put in place.

These two issues alone would not have ruined the evening. However, the art at each stop was also a disappointment. In April, the tour included examples of a wide variety of works. From old masters' paintings to contemporary sculptures, the array of works displayed featured something for everyone. This tour by contrast involved an excess of contemporary art, including video works and installations. I am not opposed to this type of work, but focusing solely on these ideas makes for a very dull tour.

All of these issues combined made for an unpleasant experience. These situations could have easily been prevented if more thought had been given to the planning of this event. The promotion of art and the culture of art is a positive thing. However, if it is not done correctly the public support of the arts will erode even further than it already has. This blog has discussed how the art world has alienated the public and unfortunately I think this serves as another example. If you disagree, or have other ideas to contribute please comment. I'll see you next week.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Art Vs. Academic Art II

For this post I am going to respond to a comment regarding an earlier post dealing with art and academic art. The commenter suggested my criticism of Thomas Kinkade ( and that of Robert Smithson, as I was comparing both artists' work) was based on his (Kinkade) popularity, and not his style.

Popularity has little to do with weather or not an artist is creating what I call academic art. There are many artists whose work is quite popular with art scholars and the public alike. One example: Andy Warhol. He was practically a pop icon himself with legions of fans from all walks of life, and I would definitely categorize his work as academic art. The term academic art refers more to how the artist is working, and how the end result of his/her work reflects the idea the artist is exploring. That aside, I believe there is a much wider issue here: that of the polarization of the art world.

Look at the following examples:

The images in the top row can be found here.

The bottom cluster can be found here.

As we look at these images we notice that the works by Smithson (Shown on the top) are all distinctly different. Each work represents an exploration of the artist into an idea or an issue (I am not going to go into the ideas behind each work here. If you want to know more about these works click the links and read directly from the artists.). Conversely the work of Kinkade is all very similar. Smithson does not claim to be the artist of anything. He moves from idea to idea, and creates work based on how he best feels he can communicate that idea with his viewers. Kinkade says he is the "painter of light." However, if that were so, he would consider all aspects of light i.e. particle vs. wave theory, the fact that all color is derived from white light, the way a single candle light can hold back the dark light etc. This doesn't appear to have happened. As a result, all of his works explore the same idea, from the same point of view leaving the viewer with a collection of images that are nearly identical. The subject matter has changed, but the overall idea of the work has not.

This is not to say one work (or artist) is any better than the other. That is a judgment that is left up to each individual viewer. What it suggests from my point of view, is that given these two examples; Smithson creates academic art while Kinkade does not. For me, these artists serve as examples to the greater issue: the polarization of the art world.

In my opinion there is far too much academic art being made. This has clouded the definition of art, and alienated those who lack a background in the visual arts. The end result has been a backlash, and created an environment for an equal abundance of simplistic art to proliferate. I am not suggesting that these types of art (academic or simplistic) should not be made. I believe an artist should create works in the manner that he/she best feels expresses his/her ideas. Simultaneously viewers should respond to artists they most identify with. However, I think artists need to spend more time thinking about how they can reach a broader audience that brings these two camps together, and viewers need to reflect more on how artists are communicating with them.

As a final note if you live in or around St. Louis, Mo there is an excellent art event taking place next Friday June 5th. "Art D Tour" takes patrons around the city for an evening of art, food, and socialization. Ten museums and galleries, representing all types of art will be visited. Details can be found here. See you next week.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review

Rooney, K. (2008) Live Nude Girl: My life as an object Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press.

For this weeks entry I am going to review a book. The book is by Kathleen Rooney, and is titled Live Nude Girl: My life as an object.
This book is the first person account of being a nude model for artists. The book is divided into six chapters. Each chapter examines the authors experiences beginning with why she chose to model nude. Chapter two reflects on the sexuality issues associated with posing nude, both historically, and through her own time spent on the model stand. The third chapter examines issues of mortality, and how figurative work extends an individuals presence on earth. Chapter four is devoted specifically to modeling for photographers. Chapter five discusses gender issues, and chapter six offers the authors concluding thoughts. The book was very well organized and the author was succinct in her thoughts. I enjoyed reading this book, and have gained even more respect for the men and women who aid artists in their artistic endeavors by posing.

One of the things that most surprised me was the variety of artists Ms. Rooney worked with. In her reflections she talks about working with everyone from college professors in classroom situations, well established artists in their studios, to those who are experimenting with art making. As I define myself as an artist it is interesting to see how others are doing the same, but in a different way. This was not a part of the narrative of the book, but it was something extra that I gathered as I read through each chapter.

I would recommend this book to any developing or established artist. Apart from the relevant topics Ms. Rooney addresses, their are a number of other issues present, such as the one I identified. The artist/model relationship is important to the continued development of the visual arts, and this book does much to further these relationships.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Art Vs. Academic Art

This weeks post is going to address the question that invariably comes up: What is art? I'm not going to give a definition of art, and explain how works, and/or artists fall into this definition. I think that the definition of art is constantly changing and always in motion. I also believe that this is as it should be. I have often said that art is a tool for communication, and one of the great things about this concept is that art is an adaptable tool that changes with each artist that uses it. In that context, what I am going to talk about is the current state of "Art," and how that relates to what I refer to as "Academic Art."

In my art appreciation classes I reinforce the idea of art as tool for communication multiple times. One of the initial ways I do this is by telling students that anytime they come upon a work of art there are two essential things they should keep in mind when observing that work. The first is that they need to consider why the artist did what he/she created. In other words, what was the idea behind the work? The second consideration I tell my students, is to find out what other observers think about that specific piece if art. Art is a two person operation. One person makes the art, the other observers it, and without this dynamic, art is just a series of useless objects.

The first consideration address the artists intention in making the art. Typically, in the professional art world, an artist makes a work of art because he or she is exploring a concept, philosophy, or idea. This is key in my art-as-a-tool-for-communication definition of art. Using art in this context assumes that the artist is considering an idea over what the final work will look like, and ultimately what the final piece is used for. In addition, the body of works created over an artists lifetime will vary as the artist moves form idea to idea.

The second consideration address what the viewer thinks about what he/she is observing. When each individual looks at a work of art he/she brings with this observation references to things experienced, and things remembered. Therefore, the interpretation the viewer perceives may not be exactly what the artist intended. In this regard a sort of conversation has taken place, started by the artist, and completed by the observer.

Look at the following images:

The one on the left is from the Robert Smithson Gallery and can be found here . The one on the right is form the Thomas Kinkade gallery and can be found here.

Both of these works are distinctly different, and both will elicit a different response depending on who you ask to comment. Robert Smithson is a professionally recognized artist worldwide. The work of Thomas Kinkade however, is regarded with more suspicion by art professionals. One of the reasons for this goes back to the artists intention. The work of Smithson in this case is examining the flow of lava from volcanoes, and is trying to emulate nature similarly to the way landscape painters emulate the terrain they paint. He is exploring an idea, and illustrating his findings from his explorations. Kinkade states that he is the "Painter of light" however, the fact that his images are placed on mugs, mousepads, collectors plates and other items suggests that this artist has an entirely different motivator for making art. One that seems less like an exploration of ideas, and more like a desire to make money.

I am not trying to suggest one work of art is more legitimate over the other. I believe that is something best left up to each individual observer. What I am trying to explain is the way that I perceive why some works of art (and artists) achieve a level of professionalism in the "Art World," and others do not. Which brings me to the term I have coined: "academic art."

It is my opinion that the current "Art World" is fractured. In my perceptions of contemporary art most professional artists create works that explore an idea but the artists themselves, and possibly a few other individuals with art backgrounds, are the only people who truly recognize the artistic merits. Because one needs an academic background in art to appreciate these types of art, I refer to them as academic art. People with a less academic understanding of art are going to understandably turn away form these types of work. I think this has opened up an opportunity for some artists to create works that focus less on an idea, and instead focus more on meeting the needs of this alienated group of viewers.

Since I have stated again and again that I believe art is a tool for communication, I think artists need to reflect upon they way people communicate. When I was in grade school I was taught to write in a way to reach a broad audience. I think contemporary artists should consider this. In my opinion, they are not reaching out to a broad audience, and the image of artists, and art professionals is suffering as a result. What do you think? Please leave your comments in the comment section, and I will begin another discussion next week.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Artists' Statements

Recently, I was discussing artists' statements with a friend. My friend stated that artists' statements were completely unnecessary. As an artist I will say I do not like writing artist statements, either for individual works or for my work as a whole. That said, I would not go so far as to say they are completely unnecessary. As I have said before, and will probably state in the future, I firmly believe art is a tool for communication. Artist statements just add another layer to the conversation. When a viewer examines a work, he/she is going to bring his/her own interpretation to that viewing. This interpretation may be entirely different from what the artist intended. By including an artist statement, the artist has the opportunity to set the mood/stage for what the work is about. In this regard the viewer and the artist can relate to one another in a way they may not otherwise be able. I'm sorry I have no images this week. I am traveling, and am away from my computer files. As always, please leave your comments for me to respond to. See you next week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Edvard Munch Show & Bannanas

This weeks post comes in two parts. In part one I will discuss my thoughts on the Edvard Munch Show at the Art Institute of Chicago. In part two I will discuss the recent uproar at the Scottish National Gallery involving bananas and urine.

First let me say that Edvard Munch is one of my favorite artists. I waited for my opportunity to view this show with much anticipation. Unfortunately I did not find out about this exhibition until three weeks before it closed. I therefore had to hastily make arrangements to get to Chicago and return without interfering with my work schedule. That aside, the Art Institute did a tremendous job.

The show encapsulated the life of, and influences surrounding Edvard Munch. Entitled Becoming Edvard Munch, this exhibition not only showcased Edvard Munch, but it also had works by other artists that Munch collaborated with. It was very interesting to see the work that had a direct influence on Munch. By presenting Munch side by side with his contemporaries it became clear how Munch was very much in control of his work, and the direction it was taking. It was almost like stepping through time and observing the artist as he worked.

One major flaw I felt, was in the final room of the exhibition. In this last room the viewers were presented with a few family photographs throughout Munch's life. Next to this was a wall-sized map detailing the locations Munch lived and worked. I think this should have been placed in the opening space of the show. As viewers entered the exhibition we were greeted by a large self portrait of the artist. If this portrait were linked directly with the photographs and the map, viewers could get a clear idea of where and when Munch was working.

Overall, I found this exhibition quite good. I had the opportunity to view several works I had previously seen only in books or in class. I also got the chance to observe works that I had no idea Munch painted. The Mermaid was one work in particular that I had no knowledge of, but really enjoyed.

Part 2
I would next like to briefly address the issues taking place at the Scottish National Gallery In Edinburgh. You can read about the entire issue here.
To sum it up: an artist placed a standard bunch of bananas in the gallery, claimed to have injected them with urine, and presented them as his work. To some, the whole issue here is whether or not this could be considered art. I think that yes, it could be art, based on the premise that one individual is communicating an idea. However, more than one person is involved in the on-going display of this work, and in my opinion that alters what this object actually is.

The article in the Scotsman clearly explains how the curators have to go to the store and replace the bananas every 2-3 days due to the fact that bananas rot. If the original bananas are not present, and the artist had nothing to do with placing the new bananas in their current location, who is responsible for this project? It seems to me that this is more a sociology/psychology experiment based on trust, rather than an actual work of art. Especially when one considers that the newly placed bananas may or may not actually contain urine. This fact only adds to the suspicions about who to trust. The gallery? The Artist? Whose word is the viewer to accept as genuine?

If this idea of confusion and collaboration with the gallery owners is part of the artists intention, then this is a very successful and unique work of art. However, I doubt that is the case. Let me know what your thought are, and I will post a new discussion next week.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This begins what I hope will be a discussion blog on all things related to the visual arts. I would like to begin this first blog by introducing myself, describing some of my background, and briefly explaining my work. I am an artist and an educator living in the Midwest. I have taught art courses at two different colleges and have exhibited nationally. I have also participated in several community development fundraising visual arts projects. These experiences have influenced my perceptions of art in American culture, and have enriched my own artistic endeavors. I strongly believe the visual arts are a tool for communication.
The idea of art as a tool for communication is a topic on which I have much to say, and I'm sure this will develop into a reoccurring theme. My art making is partially based on this idea and is meant to help communicate my memories of places I have been, and events I have experienced. The above image is an example of one of my recent works. It is titled "Church...going." Please feel free to comment or ask questions about it. This week I will be attending an Edvard Munch exhibition and I will be critiquing this show next week. More examples of my work can be found at