Saturday, January 24, 2009

First Day Postscript II

“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it..” - Frank Zappa

A few more add-ons here about the opening lecture.
During the show & tell, I discuss how for many folks, if not most, their definition of “Fine Art” usually implies something framed and hanging in an expensive gallery. That’s cool - I do that, and if that’s their trajectory or goal, I’ll back them up and show how it’s done. But there is an annoying little statistic I’ve observed over many years in that the vast, overwhelming majority of folks in this community (and most others unfortunately) never ever set foot in a gallery. And furthermore, of those that do, the overwhelming majority never actually buy anything. So if that’s your definition of success in the arts, lotsa luck. Chances are, you will reach far more people and have a more lasting, intimate connection by doing your own damned xmas cards every year, or a tshirt or etc. Kinda white-trashy/low-fi approach, but puts it within reach of most beginners and is a palatable enticement into doing art, like a gateway drug into creative expression I guess.

This dovetails with an epiphany I had several years ago: I had a piece in a juried exhibition at a gallery, and after attending the opening reception, went across the street to a popular bar where some friends were performing. I had set up a table there next to the stage to sell signed posters I had done for the band, along next to another table full of tshirts also sporting my designs, and their logo that I had designed had been newly screened onto the bass drum, plus a couple of the guys were also wearing it on their tshirts, along with a few other people in the crowd. I realized then that it was a perfect case in point of having one foot in both worlds: art on display in a dark, locked space that not too many people will ever see vs literally alive in an environment where it was thumping, sweating and dancing around.

This leads me to a second point, in that I have a pretty simple, functional working definition of my own when asked about “what is art?” – I usually clarify by way of an answer: visual art? If so, then simply put, it should be seen. Hence my experience and strongly influence from time in the trenches as an illustrator, both with a professional studio and solo freelance gigs. That’s why I absolutely love promoting the usage of images everywhere and on anything – tshirts, logos, ads, cd covers, posters, mugs, fliers, greeting cards, websites, magazines, newspapers, etc. etc. hell, you name, it I think it should have your art on it. So I really don’t fret much over any arbitrary and stuck-up distinctions between “fine” art and “commercial” art, it’s all good. Most of my close acquaintances can’t afford to buy art anyways; the closest they can get is the exhibition card – I can’t count how many refrigerators and outhouses I’ve seen that are mini-galleries. So I’m also a big fan of staggering items in terms of affordability at shows: cheap digital prints done at a local Xerox shop, slightly higher-priced archival giclee prints for the discriminating consumer, and for die-hard fans the expensive originals are all available for purchase. All this pretty much buttresses one of the pivotal aspects of the whole postmodernism movement; the erasing of boundaries between high and low art or culture. This in turn creates some cognitive dissonance later in the class, when I seem to abandon the strict, linear acquisition of skills geared towards creating traditional, classical works concerned with the more formal elements in drawing and start emphasizing and playing around instead with content, intent and application or usage of student’s images. Sending out mixed messages works about as well in parenting, but it sure can be fun as hell.

So, as mentioned above, while recognizing that striving to create works of “fine” art to be selected, displayed and purchased in a gallery is often the be-all/end-all holy grail of most artists, and again, while understanding and participating in the gallery scene myself, I will support & encourage students who wish to follow that path. But there’s some value in also recognizing that that particular approach of traditionally defining the function and role of an artist and their work can severely limit it as well, and even inhibit the . The customary gallery model is following the same path as the recording industry, and will ultimately suffer the same fate - failing, but still serving an important purpose within the overall scheme of things in the art world and within creative communities. In the meantime, promoting a viable and profitable presence, and maintaining a healthy balanced “art-diet” wherein an artist is well-rounded enough to participate in multiple mediums, venues and creative outlets is a topic I will return to here on this blog, as I incessantly harp upon it in class.

“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” -Andy Warhol

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