Art is definitely subjective

Friday, July 4, 2014

On Tuesday, I joined the Spencer Ambassadors in welcoming the new director at Arts on Grand, Jennifer Galm, to her new position.

No stranger to the area nor to the art world, I'm confident she will do a good job in her new role and will be a strong fit for the downtown artisans hub. Former director, Martin Arthur, the staff and an army of volunteers have done a great job building up the exhibit schedule and programming at Arts on Grand, providing Jennifer with a solid foundation to build on and I wish her the best of luck going forward. I'm excited to see what she can bring to the position.

While there, I had an opportunity to enjoy some of the artwork in the current exhibit featuring the landscape photography of Bruce Ellingson. He has some amazing work displayed on the walls at Arts on Grand and I was really stunned at the colors and images taken from locations across the country. I became an immediate fan. You see the photo and you want to be there.

And do you know what I enjoyed about the pieces, aside from the obvious beauty in the images? The fact that I actually knew what I was looking at.

Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Yellowstone National Park. Seventeen states, 15 national parks and monuments. I didn't need an interpreter to explain it to me.

I am a huge lover of paintings, photography, sculptures and a variety of artistic craft. However, I am not a fan of what the art world refers so elegantly to as "abstract art." Abstract art translated means high-priced junk.

A canvas completely covered in black.

In a snooty art "expert's" voice we get the explanation: "This represents man's inner struggle with his dark nature. It's the Jekyll and Hyde complex. It's like looking into the emptiness of a desperate man's soul."

Really? Just looks like a black canvas to me. I'll wait for the movie, thanks.

Here's a bunch of tangled wires, wrapped around a statue crafted from Q-tips to resemble a lion.

Same snooty art guy: "The beauty in this piece comes from the contrast of the gritty metal wires binding the peaceful lion who is attempting to break free of the constraints of the man's oppressive zoo system."

Huh, guess I just thought it was the work of a guy with too much time and a lot of spare hygiene items on hand.

Snooty art guy one last time: "Well surely you can appreciate the creativity and beauty of this piece. A basketball was dipped in different colored paint and given to this gorilla who then dribbled and rolled it across the blank canvas. This particular piece so amazed one collector that he offered $50,000 to own it. Certainly you can see the relevance of that."

Yep, I sure can. There's a sucker born every minute.

As a great philosopher, whose name escapes me at the moment, once said, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."

I'll stick with Mr. Ellingson's work. That's true art. Stop by Arts on Grand through July 19 and check it out. A reception is being held from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, that would be a great opportunity to check it out.

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  • Obviously cluelessness exists in the world of journalism as well. Another quote you may have heard, "Art is in the eye of the beholder." Bob Dylan said it best, "Don't criticize what you don't understand." The fact that you don't "get" a piece doesn't mean that others won't or shouldn't appreciate it as a work of art. They also aren't automatically "suckers" if they decide to purchase. Being the author of this column and a professed, "huge lover of paintings," etc. you show yourself to be both a philistine and a hypocrite. Desist Sir!!

    -- Posted by Cookster on Sat, Jul 5, 2014, at 6:45 PM
  • Yet another quote: To thine own self be true!

    An artist working in any media must first answer to his or her muse, conscience, and whatever drives the creative force. When you purchase a piece of art, or listen to a piece of music, or attend a performance art event (theater, dance, etc.), what you're purchasing is a moment in time of the human experience, a piece of the artist's imagination captured in the work you're experiencing.

    Of course the artist and his or her audience must at some point fall in love, or at least have an affinity. Such that - perhaps the audience for some of these more conceptual artists does not include you. This is all right.

    As a playwright, I'm baffled that directors and actors and theatrical types in New York and now Boston and San Francisco really like my little play, but I can't get any love for it in Spencer, the Lakes, or my original hometown of Sioux City. And it's not really high brow, conceptual, Yoko Ono "capture the wind" stuff either.

    Beholder, audience, perception, experience -- it's an individual thing.

    -- Posted by AmyPeterson on Tue, Jul 8, 2014, at 10:42 PM
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