Sunday, June 30, 2013

Art history / Art school

For decades the teaching of art history survey has been built on the canon. The history of art has been tweaked to become the history of Western art. Selected women artist and artists of color have been added along with some art of native and Asian cultures. With some acknowledgement of cultural, social and political forces, as time allows, the focus is still largely artist, date, style.

With new scholarship, new isms and an expansive and expanding array of artists, it’s almost impossible to adequately fit art history into the two-semester survey format. The traditional survey assumes it knows what art is, even if its makers never have called it that. It assumes that chronology is the correct approach, even though in practice most people don’t experience it that way. Still, this approach may work for the traditional college or university curriculum.

But what about an art college? Great art proves its greatness, according to Henry Geldzahler, by always continuing to be new. The meaning of a piece of art in its time is not the meaning of it for artists now. If great art has the power to endure through time and to emerge with fresh meaning and impact, then this is perhaps the important process to investigate. This would be to see art history as a living organism with roots in the past and tentacles in the future. Art would not plod through time, but dart about making connections and defying its boundaries in time and place.

This would be a very difficult and time consuming undertaking. It would be a wonderful opportunity to learn a great deal as well as for falling on your face. It would be a chance to think your way through art history rather than memorize your way through it. It would be a way to answer for yourself the important questions that the canon assumes have been already answered.

If you decide to do this, good luck. Let me know. I want to sit in. I know it’s something I couldn’t do without great trepidation.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Naked people

Naked people:
Nudists, newborns, flashers, couples making love, political prisoners, nude models, people in hot tubs, cadavers, people taking baths or showers, some indigenous people, some people vacuuming their houses, movie stars on the big screen, skinny dippers, toddlers on the loose, hard core strippers, European sun bathers, a few dedicated modern dancers, an occasional mentally ill person on the street, a victim thrown into a burial pit, a prostitute, a politician caught with his pants down, a sexting teenager, two Boy Scouts masturbating in their tent, the lady next door tanning, an old woman looking in the mirror at her sagging flesh, a 3-year-old splashing in a bubble bath, a porn star, a Playboy model, somebody in an art photo, Carolee Schneeman, Vito Acconci, you from time to time
and me from time to time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What is art?

I've been wrestling with this question in one form or another for a while. I still have no answer I can trust fully, and I suspect there is none. Still, it bothers me that we are in a time when anything is art if it is deemed so by anyone who identifies themselves as an artist. On the one hand, I like the egalitarian aspect of it and its openness as a form of expression to anyone. On the other hand, the lack of acknowledged criteria to distinguish among all the art expressions and objects is frustrating, even discouraging. Simply putting the work"professional" of "fine" in front of art does little to help.

Lately, I've been thinking that maybe we have it backwards. The artist doesn't make the art. Rather art makes the artist. That is, think about what should accomplish, what demands it should make on the viewer, what its purpose is, what demands it should make on you. Then become the artist that makes that art.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


In my career as an artist and teacher of art, I've see a lot of images. In recent years it's become very clear to me that the objectivity (at least as much as can be reasonably mustered) I have as a teacher doesn't have to be an element of my personal preferences.

So here's some of the things in art that I find tedious:

1. Art that is just as superficial and undemanding as the popular culture it comes from.

2. The visual pun that is clever, but no more than that.

3. Art that has to hide out in the nice, white, well-lighted cube.

4. Videos which take something vibrant in the real world and turn it into pure monotony in the gallery.

5. Art works that beg you to love them.

6. Art works for which works are crutches, not wings.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The old grouch speaks: #1

Get that cigarette out of your mouth, your ass back in your pants, trash food out of  your diet and a good paying job. After all, I expect you to ensure that my Social Security checks keep coming and my Medicare benefits are generous at least until I'm 100. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mini-sermonette #6: Your ass

Your ass is in the wrong place if:

It's in my business

It's on the couch

It's on Facebook

It's above your belt line.

Corporate America

Corporate America tells me that I can be the me I deserve to be and reach my pinnacle and be loved and admired by just wearing the right clothes, getting the right look, having the right body, exuding the right attitude. I can bling my way to fame, fortune and self-adoration. All I have to do is just do it and be all I can be. Hell, I can consume my way to happiness.

But who's telling me that compassion, sharing and community might also make me a happier, healthier person? After all, the newspaper story about these values will never be as big as the full page advertisement for more stuff.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More hot stock picks

GPS, Inc.
GPS (global politician search) is an app for your phone that allows you to collect locational coordinates and time durations on the activities of your elected representatives. If they are on a junket sponsored by a big dollar lobbyist, or on the golf course, or in a pricey DC love nest, or out of the country while purporting to be just around the corner, or talking to their lawyer about how to take care of a DUI or in an FBI sting, you'll know exactly where they are and how long they were there.

EDCenters, Inc.
This is a rapidly rising company with a chain of facilities to treat erectile dysfunction. As the population of American male baby boomers shoots up, this company is planning rapid expansion. Each patient is guaranteed skilled care by specially trained nurses. All care is hands-on and extremely sensitive to the patient's needs.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Mini-sermonette #5

Two-thirds of the world's population still lives on hardly more than $1 a day. So it's pretty likely that if you're looking for the second coming of Jesus, he would once again be born in a cave or a stable or maybe a refugee camp. And nobody would even notice.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Ten Commnadments of Contemporary Art

1.              Believe in yourself.

2.              Make art that validates your belief in yourself.

3.              Don’t suck up.

4.              Acquire discipline and skill and know when to use them to best advantage.

5.              Draw.

6.              Know, respect and challenge your audience.

7.              Listen to criticism with an open mind and measure it with discernment.

8.              Maintain passion and persistence.

9.              Learn to accept rejection with grace.

10.           Make art from as deep as possible within yourself, and bring that to the viewer as
            a gift.

Recommended summer reading

First a message from the sponsor. I am trying to get as many hits as Justin Bieber's dog. Will you help me?

Good summer reads:

Puppy Lust: The Life and Times of Justin Bieber

The Biography of Joan Rivers’ Face

Flesh Pots: How to Dress for Shopping at WalMart

They All Look Like Mitch McConnell: Confessions of a DC Call Girl

50 Shades of Red: Sexting without the Proper Equipment


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The New Ten Commandments: Version #1

1.              Search for and honor the god within you.

2.              Act with personal integrity.

3.              Respect all of creation.

4.              Make every act of love meaningful.

5.              Honor the gifts you were given.

6.              Create justice within your reach.

7.              Make the world a better place as best you can.

8.              Be a decent human being in all your actions.

9.              Forgive, and learn from, human failure in yourself and others.

10.           Make every sexual experience healing, mutually satisfying and healthy.