Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bigger is Better

Paul McCarthy's White Snow Dwarf
Day 12 (12/18/11)

Bigger is better, or so it would seem in the art world. The same train of thought which brought you the Hummer, Escalade, and Suburban is coursing through the world of art. If you have one battered stool you have junk or a piece of furniture from the art room but if you have stack of battered stools you have art. I must admit that I like most of Wiewie’s art. He is one of those people who can design even with old stools. I am not sure that it is worth thousands of dollars however. When I follow the same principle in creating art with junk on the bike trail I give it up for free. Don’t get me wrong, I also like some large art. Walking into a room and being accosted by one of Chuck Close’s works is an experience second to none but most people wouldn’t have the room to house one. Having the area to put one of these large pieces of art becomes the impetuous for their existence. It is another way to keep “high” art out of the hands of the little people. Another prerequisite for art to be worth millions, it seems, is shock value. Again, in Gopnik’s article he features three large sculptures by Paul McCarthy, pornographic renditions based on the Snow Whites dwarfs. Here we have the best of both worlds, it is large and revolting. I have never claimed to be a person of great intellect and perhaps if I was I would understand the obvious significance of dwarf with phalluses or Santa with a butt plug. Art of this type always reminds me of Charles Biederman’s statement from the 40s and I paraphrase badly; when the surrealist opened the door to feces and genitalia in art all art would become about feces and genitalia. It seems that in many ways he hit the nail on the head especially in regards to the avant garde. I have always defended shock art as a means of getting people to think but again does a large pornographic dwarf deserve a six figures price tag. I can go into just about any public restroom and find the same type of renderings on the stall. It is interesting that for all artists have tried to demystify art and bring it to the people it has managed to stay the providence of the wealthy.

Paul McCarthy's Santa with Plug

Monday, December 26, 2011

Twas the Day After Christmas

Day 13 (12/26/11)

Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even us because we are at the beach. It is not often in Wisconsin that people head to the beach on the day after Christmas but when it is forty three degrees and sunny you take advantage of it. Eileen was running out of stones to drill so we decided to try out our new hiking boots on the beach. We were surprised at how many other people had the same idea. There was even a guy out surfing, not very successfully I might add. It was a little windy but otherwise beautiful. We were able to get quite a few stones. P.S. The boots worked great. We will have to wait to try out the snow shoes.

Surfer Dude

Friday, December 16, 2011

“Why does art cost so effing much?”

Day 11 (12/13/11)
Christopher Wool "Blue Fool"
“Why does art cost so effing much?” I just read this article by Blake Gopnik in News Week Magazine. Perhaps it should have been titled why does some art cost so effing much while some can’t be effing given away?” The obvious answer is quality but that is not always the case. In this particular article Gopnik featured two works, one by Ellsworth Kelly that sold for 1.5 million and one by Ai Wiewie which sold for over half a million. I was not able to access the exact Wiewie but there was an illustration of the Kelly. I don’t mean to get into a critique of this work here since both artists have established their reputations. I do question though why this work can command millions of dollars while a lot of good art remains unsellable. My theory is that few people if any know good art from bad and rely on a few dealer/critics to tell them what is good. At a certain level critiquing art is easy. I could set out three pieces of high school art and have 25 students rank it and most would put them in somewhat the same order. This even seems to be true with most abstract pieces. When you get into the world of professional artists though all this changes, what appears to be bad is sometimes good and what appears good is sometimes bad. When I teach my students about critiquing I encourage them to seek value. This value can be found in the arts ability to tell a story or teach a lesson, or in its ability to make us think. I remember back a few years ago, after a trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum, a student was outraged by Christopher Wool’s “Fool”. After listening to her rant I encouraged her to research his work for her senior art report and see if she could find justification for his work. After hours of research and writing she was still not convinced and I teased her that perhaps the value lie in its ability to get her to spend so much time contemplating it. Value can also be found in an artworks esthetic quality or even its reflection of the artist. Even here though according to Gopnik the tables are turned, because of the nature of conspicuous consumption among the wealthy patrons, the less actual practical value of the piece the more monetary value it may have. Perhaps this is the real truth of Wool’s “Fool”, not only does it not have a great deal of practical value but is somewhat offensive which makes it a perfect choice for the conspicuous consumer. Incidentally, I noticed Wool’s “Blue Fool” went up for auction at Christies with a estimated value of one and a half to two million dollars. It sold for over five million.  As I said before it is not my intention to critique individual works as much as to critique the system that promotes the sale of these works for outlandish prices while many outstanding young artist can’t pay off their loans from art school. I realize that this is also true for musicians and actors, after all where would we get our bartenders and wait staff  if not for struggling artists. I am not even trying to say that we should not continue to buy art for millions, only that for every million dollar purchase they take a chance on a couple of thousand dollar pieces.  Again, I suppose this would defeat the purpose, since people may get confused when somebody actually has something esthetically pleasing that they didn’t pay a fortune for. Oh, the chaos that would ensue in the art world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Amsterdam beach

Day 10 (11/13/11)
For whatever reason I have had a hard time keeping up with my blogs, it could be the busyness of school or the classes I have been taking or just a lethargic attitude, I am not sure. I have decided that for my own good I have to get back at it. In this post I am looking back exactly a month to reminisce over what turned out to be a magical afternoon. We had spent most of the day doing our weekend chores and thought we should go get some fresh air and of course pick up rocks. Since Eileen got her drill press picking rocks off from beaches has become one of our favorite pastimes. Soon I will do a blog with some of her jewelry. It was another one of those days that was just windy enough to really stir up the lake with crashing breakers. The sky was beautiful when we got there but continued to become even more picturesque the longer we stayed. You don’t usually think of sunsets on the lake since it is better situated for sunrise but that night the sky was just fiery red. It was an excellent way to end the day and perhaps the beach combing season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost Blogs

Day 9 (11/6/11)
Eileen needed more rocks for some jewelry she was making so we decided to head back to Algoma where we had found the rocks the first time. We thought since we had to drive past our son and daughter-in-laws place we would ask them to go along. We noticed on the way up that the lake was quite rough. Inland it didn’t seem real windy but once you got on the beach you knew why the lake was so rough. We probably would have spent more time on Algoma’s beach had it not been so windy. In spite of the wind we managed to pickup quite a few rocks. We then started working our way down along the lake. We stopped at Kewanee Custard Shoppe for lunch and then continued south until we got to Point Beach State Park. This place definitely deserves a better look during the summer. It has some of the most beautiful dunes and beaches. On a warm day it has to be a great swimming spot. But alas the sun was starting to get low so we had to head home vowing to get back next summer.