by Brian Sherwin on 10/22/2014 11:40:31 AM
Artist David Hettinger recently posted an article that forced me to think about the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that is prevalent within specific circles of the art world. I’m sure you have all observed examples of this mentality -- the oil painter declaring that acrylic paintings are ‘amateur works’ due to choice of medium, the representational artist snubbing abstract paintings because ‘a child could do it’ and so on. These opinions often boil down to one thing: Money.
As implied above, I have found that harsh words about specific art styles and mediums tend to surface out of frustration spurred by works that have been sold to art buyers. The offended artist is shocked when anything that goes against the grain of his or her chosen path is purchased by an art collector -- which leads to suggestions that art collectors have been ‘duped’… "Why else would they buy that?" Folks, you can cut that level of narcissism with the edge of a knife… it is thick -- and the offended artist is thickheaded!
David Hettinger stated: "Do not limit yourself to studying just one school of art. Study the old masters, but do not discard the modern artist, the abstract artist, or the pop artist. There are reasons for these non-realistic works being so popular with art collectors. Don't let people tell you 'abstract' is a con. Do not think that studying pop-art will not aid you in doing plein air or that understanding Jackson Pollock's art won't help you with your portrait of an 89 year old neighbor. A closed mind will do nothing but stagnate your art."
I’m in 100% agreement with artist David Hettinger. His words tackle the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that I’ve mentioned. I, for one, feel that this is an issue that needs to be hit on more often. I have long been tired of this 'us vs. them' mentality. As I’ve said in the past, there is enough room in the art world for all of us!
I repeat: There is enough room in the art world for all of us! There is room for the representational painter AND the abstract painter. There is room for the bronze sculptor AND the wood sculptor. Differences in style and medium can be discussed without the conversation devolving into a ‘that is not art’ tug of war. I don’t think that is the true complaint in the first place. I firmly believe that the ‘it isn’t art’ rhetoric is often little more than sour grapes -- an attitude triggered when an artist working in a different style or medium is able to see his or her work sold!
Think about it: Is the offended artist upset because he or she feels that the buyer has been fooled into thinking that a specific style is ‘good’? That could be the case. OR it could be that he or she is mad because the specific buyer is interested in something other than what he or she creates. It seems clear to me -- based on various art disputes that I’ve observed over the years -- that downplaying the personal taste of an art lover is a good way to boost one’s self-esteem. It is sad!
I know an art organization that champions a specific direction in art. The organization seeks to raise awareness about that direction. There is nothing wrong with that on face value. Unfortunately, the founder tends to viciously rant against other artistic directions in the process. He could raise awareness without resorting to petty jabs against other styles of art. He could raise awareness without questioning the credibility of established art movements. He could raise awareness without questioning the sanity of artists working in different directions. He could raise awareness without declaring that you must do ‘this and that’ in order to be an artist.
It is a turn off when I observe this organization rant about how so-and-so was not a 'real artist' OR about how art buyers have been tricked. The founder refuses to accept that people have different visual interests. The founder refuses to acknowledge that opposing visual directions may have just as much of an impact on a viewer as the work he champions. Just under the surface there is a need for him to increase the value of his art collection. Again, you can often find dollar signs at the heart of ‘us vs. them’ arguments within the art world.
In closing, people DO like various types of art for a reason. There is a reason why some people ‘get’ conceptual art. There is a reason some viewers love representational art over abstraction. There is a reason why some viewers want to own fine art photographs over paintings. They are attracted to what they like visually. More power to them! All the harsh words in the world won’t change that. All of the ‘us vs. them’ battles within the art world won’t change the way they view art on a personal level.
Note: I have representational paintings in my home -- I also have abstract paintings, folk art paintings, examples of pop and op art... the list goes on. I have not been 'duped'. I have a wide range of interests. My love of various directions in art can be easily observed if you look at some of the selections I’ve made on the FASO Daily Art Show board on Pinterest.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin Editor of The Art Edge