Policing Other People’s Art

Art World News, Painting

Okay so I need to get this off my chest. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves in the art world and I’m getting kind of sick of it. Then again, I guess that’s what I get for reading the internet comments sections, regardless of the website. Of course now that I want to write about it, I can’t find the specific comment that set me off. It was either on Elle Decor or Decor8 or Domaine Home or something like that but I can’t find it for the life of me. It was in response to an article on Oliver Jeffers and his dipped paintings. (Which literally everyone is writing about right now. It’s hard to keep track.) These altered portraits are gorgeous and mysterious and completely innovative. They have also inspired a new DIY decor trend where bloggers and amateur artists all over the internet are trying their hand at his technique. I think this is pretty cool. But apparently a bunch of random people online feel the need to police what is and is not art.

The offending comment said something to the effect of, “this isn’t art because it doesn’t require any precise brushwork or because it wasn’t technically difficult to create.” This internet commenter, a self-proclaimed artist, seemed to feel that it was insulting to her work and her craft that someone who makes easy-to-produce art should be recognized as an artist. But art is not defined by the effort put in, but rather by the result. You do not judge art based on how hard the artist worked to create it. You judge the piece itself. And sometimes, the simplest brushstrokes have the most profound effect. Whether a piece takes three years or three minutes to create has nothing to do with its quality. Some of the most tremendously talented artists of our generation make art which doesn’t require this woman’s narrow-minded definition of artistry. In fact many of my absolute favorite artists are those that push the boundaries of what can and cannot be considered art.

I personally love Oliver Jeffers’ dipped paintings. I think the neon blue ads something incredible to an otherwise hum drum and traditional portrait. It’s brilliant. But that is just my opinion. Whether or not it is art; that’s not up to me. That is up to the artist. And I would advise anyone involved in the online arts community to recognize this difference. I may love a piece or I may hate it, and it is my right to share those opinions. But I do not get to chose what is art and what is merely craft. That is not my right.

Cady Noland is a Bit of a Rebel

Art World News, Contemporary Women Artists

I just stumbled across an interesting article about Cady Noland in ArtNet which asks who is crazier: Noland or Richard Prince?

Since I am conducting my Senior thesis research on Richard Prince, anything with his name in the title immediately piques my interest. Prince is a notoriously strong personality and, if you ask me, kind of an asshole. Apparently Cady Noland is also incredibly intense and hard to work with. She rarely gives permission for her works to be shown and has gotten into legal issues with collectors over her refusal to remount pieces.

Once a work is sold, the artist really doesn’t have much control over when, where, and how it’s being shown. She no longer owns it. However, Noland’s work in particular is quite precarious and is entirely dependent on how it is assembled. It seems to be intended as something ephemeral which exists only in a single context. However, museums and private collectors are constantly trying to reshow the most famous works of her past. I understand how incredibly frustrating that might be for some artists. Your name will be attached to a work forever, even after you have no rights to control its display. Is it still Cady Noland’s art is she didn’t set it up or approve the positioning? Or is it just a bunch of empty beer cans? Where does the art happen?

The cynic in me must also question if this is just some part of her public persona, perpetuated to establish notoriety and mystery. Does it make the works more valuable? She seems entirely in conflict with the business side of the contemporary art world. Ironic for one of the top-selling female artists of her lifetime…

“It’s an interesting predicament, given that Noland is one of the top 10 most expensive female living artists, with her 1989 sculpture Oozewald holding the record for the highest price ever paid for an artwork by a female living artist at $6.6 million. In a way, her refusal to cooperate with the people who want to buy, sell, and display her work is the ultimate biting of the hand that feeds. Considering the current state of the art world, in which artists often complain of feeling like part of a meat market buffet, it’s a fascinating, if somewhat misguided, act of rebellion.”

I saw her work exhibited (without permission) at the Brant Foundation over winter break in Deliverance which also featured works from Prince, Christopher Wool, and Larry Clark. It is weird to look at an artist’s work while being acutely aware that they did not want it to be seen. It makes me kind of sad for her. I mean yes she seems really extreme and rather antisocial. But not having control over your own art would be supremely frustrating. Then again if she is making $6 million off a single piece, I can’t pity her too much…