Friday, March 7, 2014

Art Critism

When I was around 6 or 7 I took a painting class at the local library.  It was taught by an enthusiastic young man who took a special interest in my "work".  I think I was pretty good at watercolors and able to get the way things looked, sort of, with not too much messiness. This has to be unusual for a child that age.  He insisted I have a "one girl show" at the library to celebrate my “genius” as the local newspaper put it. 

In that show there was a landscape with only the head of a horse in the middle.  My enthusiastic teacher, who was probably just a young art student, said this was part of my talent. Meaning that I was free to put just the head of the horse in the picture because I knew that was all that was necessary to indicate “horseness”.  I thought that I had only included the head because I had no idea  how to draw the rest of the body.  I didn’t tell him that.  I liked his idea better.

I think this small incident pretty much defines for me everything there is to know about what other people think an artist is about and how that influences what artists say to other people about what they do.

But, suppose he was right.   It certainly is true that children, if they have not been overly praised or scolded about their art are freer to do what they want to than they will be as they learn more about what "art" is.  It is also true that the head of a horse does indicate "horsiness" and I felt free to put it in the painting without the body, even though I would have included the body if I knew how to draw it. 

When an artist in full control of the power of expression chooses to leave something key out of their work to create a certain feeling, that is art.  When someone simply doesn't know how to draw and so only includes what they can do comfortably...not so sure.  A lot of outsider art has this feel to it and often it is very moving.  If this concept is to hold water then art education is a big mistake and everything that is taught except how to wield a brush or sharpen a pencil leads to the burying of "talent".  

What do you think?


6 comments:

Anne said...

The great thing about outsider art is there's not alot of thinking about how to do the artwork or weather they even can. It's not an issue. They just do it ( am I now in trouble with Nike for treading on their trademark?)

The individual has a deep wish to do make the piece and the deep need is often communicated. The need is art and their answering it so freely is moving

Funny! An art teacher of an earlier generation would have admonished you for leaving the horse in the air.

Which would be right? Nether truly

It seems to me your teacher was making his own statement by picking your piece and giving it his idea ( I'm sure however it was worthy of notice! :)

I got F's in my art classes because I generally blew off assignments and did what I wanted to do lol. I could not imagine doing what others told me to do...what was the point of that? I do art to make things I wanted. Lord.

But the lament that HOW to do stuff like build an armature, or fire a kiln etc. is sorely lacking in art education has been around for some time. Probably since the 2nd generation of cave artists lol!

Nancy Herman said...

Not sure if this was posed to me or rhetorical, but my answer is that the artist gives us a new way of looking at something, which is enriched by his or her personal experience. I think most outsider art that is later recognized as "really art" had been selected by people who already bring their own experience of what art is to that judgment. Even Barnes already had the sweeping color riot that delecroix brings and the ice cream merger of color and light of constable when he discovered soutine.

For an artist with a rich background it takes great leaps to make something new because everything looks like someone else, for the naïve artist, this impediment does not exist.

Your teacher was familiar with disembodied animal parts, from the Elgin marbles to busts of famous old white men scattered all over the planet. He may have felt differently if you left just a leg in the middle of the field.

The only time a teacher should rep d negatively is to the direct copy or variation with no sign of individual emotion. I got told this in junior high when I redid the Love icon fir a linoleum cut project. Back then I didn't understand art, and was surprised when he loved the rat I made for our ceramics class. I wish someone would have said to try harder to understand it back then, instead all my sweat went into math that I can't possibly do today.

From the train into town,

Nick

Nancy Herman said...

antastic and well said!!!!!
i have taught and given tours at the phila museum of art for over 35 years…i could not agree more..!
let self expression reign
all best,
deena (gerson)

Nancy Herman said...

I think that both the creation of art and the reaction to the art created are, and ought to be, very subjective. Would the interaction between the teacher and student be improved if the teacher had asked the student if she thought the work was as she intended, and if there would have been anything that she would have added if she could? As described, I think he missed a chance for a "teaching moment"

Bill

Nancy Herman said...

As you can tell I have copied comments from my email in order to try and get a discussion going. I did not make these comments up.

Anne said...

Well they are signed by others so indeed one can tell ...but having the same icon for each is interesting lol