Thursday, October 23, 2014

Art in the buff (Part 2)

It is probably too simple to say that any creation can be aesthetically considered art. Philosophers, aestheticians in particular, who have spent years examining the value of art and its social implications have yet to come up with a consensual definition of art. It would seem then that the only assumption there is to make, is that art is something subjective.  Most of us are taught that good artists have MFAs and important art comes framed, boxed, or sitting on a pedestal in a museum. Like animals in a zoo, "good" art does not roam free; they have to be visited. Their implied importance separate them from the everyday. People read about art, artists, and artists' statements and think they know the facts. But all the same, art remains distant. People recognize art but they do not experience it; it is the meaning, not the image, that interests them most. And sadly, art becomes a commodity and is accommodated in most societies as a kind of privileged communication. 

street art indiana
here one day, gone the next. not an unusual fate for street art.
Street art is the antithesis of that kind of art. Street artists communicate shared experiences. They transform their observations of the everyday into colorful and concrete forms that are tangible. They make art accessible and applicable to people from all walks of life. Most street artists work anonymously, keeping their identities separate from their art. Works are put up, works are taken down. Works are put up, works are covered over. This ephemeral nature is inescapable. 

What happened to Sagan Newham's piece on the Haywood Printing building was not censorship (contrary to what she believes). It was simply a contractual agreement. She had full knowledge that her work was going to be removed. She was notified of the building owner's concerns after her first day of painting, and told the work was coming down after the painting was complete. The J&C reported that story, so even the public knew the work was going to be covered over. For her to say she had no knowledge of this is disingenuous. Her own fecklessness kept her from mounting a defense of the work over the past month of its existence. She was contracted to install 2 other works in town.  But she quit the project instead of choosing to respond to criticism through her work, like any other artist would have. What she sees as censorship, I see as a failed work of art. Not because it was a bad painting or that there was poor technique or skill or vision, but simply because it didn't communicate her concept. That is her failure as an artist, not the failure of the public's ability to view art. You don't get an artist statement with street art. Intentions are meaningless. The work has to be able to stand on its own two legs.  This one did not.

I'm tired of seeing people bash public perception as though ignorance is the only thing that plays into their bias.  Likewise, it is unfair for her to be upset with the "unfortunate folks" who did not get her painting. Their opinions are just as valid as hers. And when a work is put up in public, it is left to the public to decide its meaning. It is elitism for an artist to dismiss public perception of public art. It is pretentious to want to paint the experience of "factory workers" when the artist has no access to the experience she is depicting. Her work ends up being presumptive and stereotypical, shallow and superficial. The painting lacks research, investigation, and effort, and it shows.

p.s. "Art in the buff" Part 1 can be read here.

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