My state of confusion

Dear Artist, “You don’t understand, Mr. Genn,” said a tall, acerbic gentleman who rustled a chocolate wrapper as he spoke. He had the full attention of the auditorium. “Art is not about light and shade any more, or drawing, or composition, or little pictures of landscapes. That’s dead,” he said. “Art is now about shock and awe and protest and making a statement. The greatest artist living today is Banksy. Have you heard of Banksy, Mr. Genn?”

by Banksy

I allowed sufficient time so he might begin to think he had me. The audience sat nervously, as if an IED was about to go off. Then I said I knew Banksy’s work and had been following his career. “Who’s Banksy?” whispered a small woman in the front row. Since the question was directed at me, and I was the one who had the mike, I told them Banksy is the guy who arrives quietly by night in various big cities and puts up fresh graffiti, generally in the form of life-sized stencils such as a valise-carrying businessman with a sign that says “Will work for idiots.” Another of Banksy’s images is a stern policeman leading a muzzled dog that happens to be made of pink balloons.

by Banksy

The gentleman sat down, giving me the look of one prepared to take on new knowledge. “Some property owners get upset when they arrive in the morning and see what’s been done to their wall,” I said. “Some will have someone come and paint over the Banksy art. On the other hand, some Banksys are put under plexi to protect them from defacement. Some are put under 24-hour paramilitary guard. One property owner reportedly took down his Banksyed wall and sold it to an art gallery for a couple of hundred grand.”

by Banksy

The audience was now noticeably squirming. A guy said, “It’s bull shit.” He said it just loud enough for everyone to hear. Scattered laughter rippled. “But is it art?” asked a girl in a yellow frock. “The world of art,” I said, “is big enough for all flags to fly.” I decided to invite another mind into the discussion: “Andy Warhol said, ‘Art is anything you can get away with.'” The acerbic gentleman stood to his feet. This was good, I thought. It would be nice to give him the last word on the subject. “What you are encouraging these people to do,” he said, “is to get away with making crap.” I’m sure there were some people who had to agree.

by Banksy

Best regards, Robert PS: “Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess?” (Ludwig van Beethoven) Esoterica: So much of the art that many of us like to make is “skilled” (for lack of a better word) art. For most, it’s difficult to do. Sure it can be done, but it’s difficult to do well. Skilled art may take a few years of private effort, studentship, technique development and maybe even apprenticeship. Shock and awe art takes imagination and courage.   Banksy 080310_banksy 080310_banksy2 080310_banksy3 080310_banksy4           Banksy committed to social change by Ana H Galindo, Mexico City, Mexico  

by Banksy

Banksy is a public artist. He never intended to be in galleries (like Basquiat, unlike Warhol), his anonymity says so. He wants to communicate his nonconformity with social issues, or protest in a passive way, awakening people in the streets of things that don’t work in society for the great majority, and arousing awareness. His talent lies in the concept (like most contemporary artists), not in the technique itself. And there, in the idea, lies his skill. He is an artist committed with social change. I admire his courage, and his incisive humor. Perhaps the pictures in your clickback are not the representative paintings that had earned him the status of an artist. Here I send to you two more about the abuse of violence and force. There is 1 comment for Banksy committed to social change by Ana H Galindo
From: im the Emo Phillips — Mar 30, 2011

that Robert Shadbolt has obtained from underneath my little knowledge of how twitter works? Please Robert Return it to me…and well if you followed my Tweets at one point even Weird Al was loving my Tweets…now you’ve done nothing with them…please return pronto?

  Art of a finer reality by Jonathan Wiltshire, Escondido, CA, USA  

“Sequoia King Tree Deva”
original painting
by Jonathan Wiltshire

Was it Warhol who also said, “It’s art because I say it’s art?” My experience with art has led me to understand it serves a higher, more universal purpose than representing the social issues of a given place or time. I also doubt that art serves its highest purpose by providing a new mental concept that requires several pages of text in order to understand it (See the book by Tom Wolfe The Painted Word). While there are many levels of understanding art, I find soul satisfaction in attempting sublime art that leads from ego to an uplifting experience of a finer reality. And to our beloved Beethoven I would respond, with whom can one consult concerning this great goddess? Why the Great Goddess herself, of course.   The state of ordure by BJ Bjork, Foxborough, MA, USA   This supposed state of confusion is quite clear to me. In the visual world there is art that appeals to our senses. It can be the awe of the process, deciding what to admire in life, the beauty, strength, energies, intelligence, and all the amazing things that can be done and seen in life! OR . . . Look at a pile of shit! It’s your choice, or you can just make it. You have a choice in where you find what is beautiful, thought provoking, joyful, or sad, something that makes a statement (I prefer to let the writers do this). Most people will read and listen to crap, but most will not stop and examine it. Bad art is like dog shit, it’s everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you have to like it. There are two ways of watching what you eat. Going in or coming out. As for making money and selling, I only buy cow manure, and that at least is beneficial to my garden. Shock and awe art is very short lived, and a FOOL is soon parted with his/her money.   The primacy of imagination by Skip Rohde, Asheville, NC, USA  

“American Acres”
oil painting
by Skip Rohde

You make a good observation when you draw the distinction between “skilled” and “shock and awe” art. Much like in today’s politics, there’s a deep division between the two extremes that really doesn’t need to be there. It’s like saying, which is more important for survival, air or water? We’ve all seen artworks that are intended to shock, but are clumsily conceived and ineptly executed. Then there are the skilled practitioners who have nothing to say but they say it very well. The point is that both skill and shock are vital parts that make up our ever-changing and intriguing art world. If I ever have to make a decision between the two, though, I follow Einstein’s advice: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”   Matching the couch by Jamie Lavin, Gardner, KS, USA  

“Mount Zirkel at Gilpin Lake”
original painting
by Jamie Lavin

It’s the same old story. In the ’60s ’70s ’80s ’90s and now, the 2000s; these being my only frame of reference, I think what counts As art is simply what someone is willing to pay you for your “creation.” It was the cartoon with Calvin & Hobbes that said it best. Calvin was trying to sell Hobbes on the snow landscape of the back yard, where he lived. Hobbes replies that Calvin did virtually nothing to warrant a cost to him, just because it snowed and besides, it “doesn’t match the couch”! Calvin then looks back at the reader to exclaim something like the art of being avant guard is knowing who is fooling who! Oh, well, I am going to get dressed and wear my “taupe” shirt with my green shorts, try to keep cool in this stifling heat. After all, I gotta look the part today — I’m doing an installation of my prints at Landmark Bank of Topeka, Kansas. It is the State’s 150th birthday January 29th, 2011 and we’re gearing up for the big birthday… And I need to match the couch.   Let freak flags fly by Catherine Orfald, Brooke Valley, ON, Canada  

“Tenacious Tree II”
oil painting by Catherine Orfald

It’s well-known by many designers and fine artists that we need to consider CRAP principles in each piece we create: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity. The gentleman who implied that Banksy’s art is NOT about light and shade or drawing or composition, but only about making a shocking statement, is clearly not really looking at Banksy’s work. Enough with the “art is dead” naysayers! I agree with you that the world of art is big enough for all flags to fly. Let your freak flag fly!   There are 2 comments for Let freak flags fly by Catherine Orfald
From: Grace Cowling — Aug 06, 2010

Catherine, In a human reference, “Tenacious Tree” is deformed,a creature with special needs. You have provided this “soul” of nature with very special needs, a wondrous portrait deserving of its unique condition.

From: Susan-Rose Slatkoff — Aug 06, 2010

I couldn’t agree more. Everybody thought Van Gogh was a “freak”, and he never really sold a picture. Now he has his own museum. “Good art” “bad art”, let’s quit all the judging and honour the joy of the process. Even a lousy artist may be having a spiritual moment when she paints a “mediocre” painting.

  The unique position of visual art by Vianna Szabo, Romeo, MI, USA  

“Ludwigs heart”
pastel painting
by Vianna Szabo

There is a closed minded attitude within the visual arts that traditional skills diminish an artist’s creativity and importance. It is interesting that this is not as prevalent in the world of music or writing. It is unpleasant to hear music that is completely discordant, and boring or to read writing that rambles on. Is a piece of writing more relevant if it lacks punctuation? Knowledge of how to paint light and shade and how it affects form allows the artist a greater range of expression. These are skills that have been passed from one generation to the next and it is arrogant to dismiss them. To me art is about shared experience. Shock is powerful when it has a purpose and that artist skills allow them to make their ideas clear. Kathe Kollwitz used her skills to show us loss and suffering that was part of her life. Art can also be about beauty. It is equally as powerful to lift the viewers’ spirits as it is to repel them. In response to the gentleman’s statement “Art is now about shock and awe and protest and making a statement” — If shock and awe and protest become common place doesn’t it become mundane? There are 4 comments for The unique position of visual art by Vianna Szabo
From: Anonymous — Aug 06, 2010

Shlock and awful is more like it. The notion that art is supposed to have that “dada” touch to be relevant is silly. I say “silly” as a response to how much post-whatever sludge has seeped into the Seine of modern culture and been forgotten. The durable greatness of Rembrandt, Caravaggio, et al becones the weary among us to keep sharpening our skills and try to uplift our fellows. – Michael

From: Kathleen — Aug 06, 2010

Lovely painting.

From: Tooky — Aug 09, 2010

Great point Vianna, “traditional skills diminish an artist’s creativity and importance” was most likely said by someone who’s artistic talent and or desire to do the hard yards was somewhat lacking. What a clever way to legitimise substandard work and enter the art world with nothing more than a bus pass and a high opinion of yourself.

From: Holly — Oct 25, 2014

“Shock and awe”? Wasn’t that George Bush? Now THAT’s confusion for you lol…

  Our different crappy ways by Casey Craig, Wimberley, TX, USA  

“Hill Country Longhorn”
mixed media
by Casey Craig

What interesting times we live in when creative vandalism is heralded as the greatest art, but Banksy’s images are engaging and I agree that “the world of art is big enough for all flags to fly.” I find a certain irony in your acerbic gentleman’s preference for shock and awe and intolerance of drawing, composition and landscapes. We all have our own crap to make and different crappy ways in which to make it. There are 2 comments for Our different crappy ways by Casey Craig
From: Stephanie Vagvolgyi — Aug 05, 2010

This is a great painting. It’s left me with a smile on my face. Definitely not crap.

From: Painter Woman — Aug 06, 2010

Is that longhorn ORANGE? Beginning to look like OK red… on my screen!

  Will stay a reactionary by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“October Sky”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

Art without ‘religion’ becomes bull manure. By religion, I am not talking about labels like Catholic or Jew or Hindu or Christian or Islamist. I see ‘religion’ as spirit, something that is in the human heart that seeks good and is noble. It is our connection with our creator, our best nature which is about love and beauty and respect for all living creatures etc. Religion calls us upward to the heavens. It makes us strive and shine. It is what makes human beings special. People without it become addicts and murderers etc. Very negative. Take that religious spirit away from art and you have Warhol and all that follow his doctrine, like Banksy and his fan in the story. It becomes peeing on a wall and selling it for a million dollars in a gallery. It becomes marketing and what can be more absurd than what marketing can accomplish? Baseball cards sell for hundreds of thousands, graffiti for millions, basketball players make twenty million a year, etc. Warhol’s views are as antique as El Greco at this point. It’s existentialism in paint. It’s boring and old hat, as boring is the reams of rhetoric that accompany the ugly paintings in the alleyways or galleries. I’ll happily stay a reactionary myself and try to create a little beauty while I am around. There are 10 comments for Will stay a reactionary by Paul deMarrais
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Aug 06, 2010

Paul, I totally agree. I think art should be in some way uplifting and make people feel better — and the artist, also! Love what you said.

From: Liz Schamehorn — Aug 06, 2010

Have you actually LOOKED at Banksy’s images?

From: Patrick — Aug 06, 2010

What you said is totally stupid… and your painting sucks too.

From: Rose — Aug 06, 2010

The world is a big place, it has enough room for everybody.So,breath deep and chill out….. Street art is a class by itself,with great statementts…

From: Jonathan Wiltshire — Aug 06, 2010

It’s true that the world is big enough for everyone – from the likes of Charley Manson to souls like Mahatma Gandhi. It’s just that I’d choose to walk with Gandhi, or veiw the painting of those who pursue the higher arts, like Paul deMarrais.

From: Sarah — Aug 06, 2010

It’s most regrettable that “Patrick” inserted an “ad hominem” attack into the discussion.

From: Sadly — Aug 06, 2010

Do you really believe this? “People without it become addicts and murderers etc. Very negative. ” That’s where you lost me…and probably many other friends…

From: Mike — Aug 06, 2010

Mr. Warhol, it may surprise you to know, was a devout Catholic. And if you don’t “get” his prints, you surely can enjoy his wondrous drawings. Paul, you sound so very small-minded and sad.

From: Jan — Aug 07, 2010

Art is in the eyes of the beholder! Art to you may be crap to me. Art to me may be crap to you. To me, I paint what I like if you don’t like it that is ok I have my creative outlet that is very comforting to me. Move on….

From: ath — Aug 10, 2010

What a dumb comment from JW. I would much rather walk with Picasso than with Torquemada!

  The progress of spirit by Marney Ward, Victoria, BC, Canada  

“Twin Stars”
watercolour painting
by Marney Ward

The problem with shock and awe art is, what do you do with it once you have been shocked? I can’t see that much of it is going to continue to thrill and uplift after months and years on your wall, like a good “skill-based” painting can. Subtlety and nuance unfold themselves over time, when the lighting changes, when our mood changes, when we are open to see in different ways. As we grow in our consciousness and hence our ability to perceive, a really good painting unfolds its mysteries to us.

Art that is just an original idea, badly executed as so much of it often is, may win awards for its creativity, but I doubt if much of it will stand the test of time. Satire is a valid art form, but genuine satire exposes the wrongs of society in order that they can be made right, and satirical art that only attacks and never provides an alternate vision comes precariously close to the rantings of a teenager having a hissy-fit. The interesting question is, what kind of art will emerge when these rebellious young spirits grow up? If they ever do! There are 5 comments for The progress of spirit by Marney Ward
From: Anonymous — Aug 06, 2010

Well stated Marney! Your comment, “As we grow in our consciousness and hence our ability to perceive, a really good painting unfolds its mysteries to us.” will be archived by me for future use. Thanks and I love the feeling I get from this painting.

From: Barb — Aug 06, 2010

Lovely watercolor!

From: Brian Bastedo — Aug 06, 2010

You’ve put some thought into this, Marney…appreciate your comments. But, more importantly, GREAT PAINTING!!

From: Judy Gosz — Aug 08, 2010

Beautiful, beautiful painting!

From: DJinny — Oct 13, 2010

I believe that everything has their reason to be, and I agree that we cannot just forget some traditional art just because something else has made a statement. Art, to me is people’s interpretation of something, that they try to communicate. Can be realistic, impressionist or cynic, it’s all the same to me. Some of it reaches me, some of it reaches others. That’s the beauty of it. Some of us don’t think they are artistic, but appreciating art is an art to me too. xx

  How art becomes real by Pat Kelly, Ramona, CA, USA  

“Study, Abraham Darby”
oil painting
by Pat Kelly

I enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow when paintings are brought in for appraisal. The artist may or may not be well known, but some of the paintings are incredible. Others are simply heirlooms passed down, of sentimental value only. I marvel at how over the years someone, some ordinary person, recognized their value, cared for and preserved them. There are paintings in museums simply because at some point a person, someone, somewhere, loved them, spent time and energy to preserve them. Great art is the art we choose to carry with us. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, it becomes real over the time because it is loved. Will Banksy’s art become real? Time will tell, and unfortunately, Banksy, there was quite a bit of graffiti in ancient Rome; almost none of it has survived. There are 3 comments for How art becomes real by Pat Kelly
From: Jan — Aug 06, 2010

Lovely thoughts AND painting,Pat!

From: henri carter — Aug 08, 2010

often by spiritual leaders we are told to live in the present that only this present moment is truly real. yet as i read through these letters most talk only of longevity into the future. maybe Banksy lives in the present moment and is unconcerned about living for prosperity. true that most roman graffiti didn’t survive but then most of Davincis’ work hasn’t either.

From: jeannine — Aug 21, 2010

I love your painting.

  Narcissistic baloney by Toni Ciserella, Marysvale, UT, USA  

sketch by Toni Ciserella

“Shock and awe art takes imagination and courage” has got to be the biggest line of bunk I’ve heard come from your keyboard! Sorry, Robert, but that is just plain copping out. Shock and awe art is mostly narcissistic with a huge ability of bullshit thrown in. Just because it’s making news and people are paying huge sums of money for it does not make it any more or less than “skilled” art. What takes imagination and courage is to be able to paint/create something that uses your skill, talent and determination. What a lost and confused society we live in today when everyone wants to be so popular they are willing to overlook the most basic gift bestowed on us all; Our uniqueness. If you want to teach and encourage artists then you should be telling them that yes, they can shock and awe people with their art or they can calm and soothe or any other way they choose. Art can be anything. The definition of Art is and always will be unidentifiable and inarticulated because it is as unique as the person who creates it. Copying the method of a popular shock artist is just a lesson in disappointment. Your expression of your talents is what makes your art unique and if that means shocking or awe inspiring art that is who you are as an artist. If, on the other hand your manner and form is to be subtle and inspiring using your labored skills, then who judges your efforts worthwhile? Give me a break. Imagination and courage comes from being authentic not from shocking people and watching their jaw drop open. Encourage the expression of uniqueness not replicating the actual act of someone else’s means of expression and if that means any idiot can do it, so be it. There are 6 comments for Narcissistic baloney by Toni Ciserella
From: SUSAN-ROSE SLATKOFF — Aug 06, 2010

Please take another look at Banksy’s works. That is a very very skilled painter.

From: anon — Aug 06, 2010

Good observation: “Imagination and courage comes from being authentic not from shocking people and watching their jaw drop open”. But I disagree that any idiot can do that. Those are usually very intelligent people who like to self indulge by attracting attention easy way. Exhibitionism of a sort.

From: Artesano — Aug 07, 2010

I think we are collectively very narrow in our historic view of art. Do you not think Van Gogh was controversial — “shock and awe” — in his time? Or many of the American masters from Pollock to Warhol? What about Renoir’s sculptures of embracing, passionate nudes? Shock and awe has a cultural and historic bias. What was shocking 100 or 200 years ago is acceptable now. I think art that draws attention to specific issues and events is still art. I wouldn’t want it in my house, but it’s still a legitimate expression of some artist’s reality. We can’t all paint exquisite landscapes, flowers, still lifes or nudes. Some of us live in very violent, dangerous or politically charged environments — art is a response to what’s around you. Me — I’m luck in the life lottery. What surrounds me is gorgeous scenery, lovely flowers, good friends and abundant food — and that’s what I paint. If I lived in Lebanon or Gaza or Afghanistan — or even in Vancouver’s east side — my reality would be different, so would my art. Art is not about nice stuff that people will buy. Art is expressing what’s around you, what’s IN you — as much as writing, poetry, dance, film making. Shock and awe? Bring it on.

From: henri carter — Aug 08, 2010

Bravo! Well said.

From: Toni — Aug 10, 2010

I was not saying that shock and awe art doesn’t have it’s place or that Blanksy’s work is not art or good. I merely was making the point that what is appropriate for one artist in expression is not for everyone and that it takes courage to be unique in your own expression. I appreciate everyones comments. thanks!

From: Don White — Aug 10, 2010

Tony, well said! I have way more respect for an old lady painting daisies on pebbles, than for a rich brat trying to shock by exploiting the misery of disadvantaged people.

  No state of confusion about skilled art by Melissa B. Tubbs, Montgomery, AL, USA  

ink drawing
by Melissa B. Tubbs

In response to your Esoterica included in “My State of Confusion” I must say that “skilled” art requires every bit as much imagination and courage as Shock and Awe art. “Skilled” art requires imagination in putting a unique twist on the traditional and courage to put it out there when the current culture is clammering for shock and awe. You are correct in saying that there is room for all types of art. It does seem to me that the traditional, skilled art is what remains (historically) while shock and awe lasts only until the newest shock and awe arrives. The image of skilled art is purveyed as that of stodgy art. People don’t seem to realize that a lot of traditional realism is quite abstract. It has been said that Whistler’s Mother is one of the most abstract works of art ever created. It requires skill to combine the two, yes, (knowledge of composition certainly); also imagination, confidence, experience and courage. For me, and many others, there is great beauty in light, shadow, drawing, composition and little landscapes because we can all make a connection with those things. I want more than to be shocked, I want to be able to get past the shock and really see the art. I believe that there is also skill in creating shock and awe art that really stands out as with any other type of art. We all have to be good at what we do. I guess I get tired of the current culture of “If you’re not edgy, no one is interested and there is no room for your art” (meaning that if you create traditional art you can forget it). We are all led to believe that shock and awe, edgy art is all that people in the know are interested in and that is just not true. There are 2 comments for No state of confusion about skilled art by Melissa B. Tubbs
From: Anonymous — Aug 06, 2010

Good commentary – however, the word is “clamoring”

From: Carol — Aug 06, 2010

The great philosopher Linus, of “Peanuts comic strip” fame said it best:..”if a thousand people believe a stupid thing, it’s still a stupid thing”.

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2 plate woodcut on paper 18.5 x 24 inches by Ouida Touchon, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes James Bright of Ottawa, ON, Canada, who quoted the manifesto of Claes Oldenburg: “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum. I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a staring point of zero. I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top. I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary. I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.” And also Mary-Sonya Conti of Clayton, OH, USA, who wrote, “‘Nothing determines your creative life more than doing it. This is so obvious and fundamental, yet how much energy is wasted on speculation, worry and doubt without the relief of action.’ (Ian Roberts, from Creative Authenticity)”    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for My state of confusion

From: Stanley Munn — Aug 02, 2010

Perhaps the only thing this fellow proved is that fashion victims make poor art critics. Of course, like art, fashion, too, includes anything you can get away with. It just might look like art; and it might be recognized as such in the fullness of time, if not sooner. Banksy got his recognition sooner. Will he stand out in the fullness of time like Warhol?

From: Susan Holland — Aug 02, 2010
From: Andrew — Aug 02, 2010

Drawing is to Art like Singing is to Birds-practice the rules (composition,values,etc.) 1st

From: David — Aug 03, 2010

Light, shade, drawing and composition are only dead for those who are dead to it. Banksy’s art wouldn’t exist without these elements. As for shock, awe, and protest, Banksy’s work is hardly on the level of expressly political artists such as George Grosz, Otto Dix or Sue Coe. Most of what he does has the political and intellectual bite of a racy greeting card. I’m glad your high-minded blowhard had his moment of free expression. I have to wonder whether he had anything in the way of art that would have made your work, or the work of anyone else present, suffer by comparison.

From: Thierry — Aug 03, 2010

Ludwig said it best, I think: “Art! Who comprehends her? With whom can one consult concerning this great goddess?” (Ludwig van Beethoven) Many artists, well-known today, will fade away; others, now barely heard of, will be famous long after their children have died.

From: Gavin Calf — Aug 03, 2010

I dig Banksy. I love his mixed up contrasts. And art isn’t always so serious!

From: Alice — Aug 03, 2010

Mr. Banksy obviously has artisic skill. However, do we not get enough shock, awe, and protest at every daily newscast? I would much prefer to be awed by the beauty in our world. If I may quote John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever; it’s loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness.

From: Bess — Aug 03, 2010

I feel that anyone who starts by insulting you, and goes on to say something that implies he knows everything about an entire subject [in this case ‘art’]is showing his lack of understanding. ‘What art is and does in society varies. Personally, I think this is good. We need all sorts of views, the array of human thinking-and not thinking- is large and there’s probably room for everyone’s view. Some views are made for and last an hour, and some as long as prehistoric art. If we stay true to ourselves, and are attempting to live with others in a way we can respect ourselves; to me this is what is important in a life.

From: Darla — Aug 03, 2010

Actually, I like Banksy’s work. I might be upset if he grafitti’d my house, though. Unlike the gentleman you were talking with, he has a sense of the absurd. It all comes down to what an artist wants to say, doesn’t it? If all you want to do is shock people, that’s a rather limiting viewpoint. I thought we were over that by now. There’s nothing “new” about it.

From: Jonathan Wiltshire — Aug 03, 2010

Was it Warhol who also said, “It’s art because I say it’s art?” My experience with art has led me to understand it serves a higher, more universal purpose than representing the social issues of a given place or time. I also doubt that art serves its highest purpose by providing a new mental concept that requires several pages of text in order to understand it (“The painted word”). I would much rather attempt sublime art that leads from ego to an uplifting experience of our inner potential. And to our beloved Beethoven I would repond, with whom can one consult concerning this great goddess? Why the Great Goddess herself, of course.

From: Dirk — Aug 03, 2010

I doubt anyone knows where art is going. It’s an interesting question though, which hopefully stimulates a good debate on these pages.

From: Thierry — Aug 03, 2010

A friend wrote this; he gave me permission to mention it here. An artist friend does marvellous, very large landscapes. A voracious reader, he mentioned that “art doesn’t know where it is going next”. I thought there was a good chance that art would start giving comfort. It would be good if art would now become less edgy and less challenging. Art could start giving comfort, beauty and an uplifting experience. Pope Benedict (I never thought I would mention him here) has called on an audience of prominent artists to embark on “a quest for beauty”. I hope this will happen. In ‘another life’, I researched the economic prospects for the world in the coming years: they are not pretty, not comfortable and not uplifting. We will not need more ‘challenges’. Let’s hope architects, artists, directors, musicians and composers start feeling the same way. Two of the more frequent comments I get on my work are ‘how peaceful’ and ‘how beautiful’. I sense an increasing need for this. Locally, I have suggested that government, business and people who can afford it, commission such work. This can include music, sculpture and video. But our mayor’s wife thinks art should challenge. One wonders how she thinks Rembrandt and Velasquez fit into this thought. “I do not like to be a prophet. I like better to paint than to predict what the next painters will do. Though I have a feeling that consideration of order is very much in the air.” (Josef Albers) From the Guardian : Waldemar Januszczak has suggested a new movement in art, a new-ism if you will – emotional minimalism, or emo art: “Did we indeed identify one of those rare and marvellous birds, to join surrealism and abstract expressionism in the story of art? Certainly, in finding something sharp and timely and new, we probably succeeded where Charles Saatchi failed. People have been trying since the nineties to discover and describe the next thing in art after the Young British Artists generation. Saatchi was first over the top with his “New Neurotic Realists” show at the end of the 1990s – and it was a disaster. Critics mocked the attempt to manufacture an -ism from nowhere. Similar efforts all crashed. An uneasy compromise has since prevailed. Everyone wants to hail the new, but the new has not really moved on since Damien Hirst’s era; it’s just become an art fair lucky dip. The 2009 Turner prize created the image of a genuinely new moment in art.” Architecture Regaining its Magic? On the other hand, a change may be coming in architecture: Herbert Bangs is hoping for the End of Modernism, as described in his worthwhile book The Return of Sacred Architecture. He proposes the return of the Golden Proportion in architecture. Herbert thinks that much of today’s art is anti-art: Andy Warhol’s soup cans are an attack on art with a deeper meaning. I never thought I would find an architect who disliked Le Corbusier and his square tombstone-like skyscrapers! Who knows, this may fit in with the trend towards more organic food. In that vein, I like the comment on Mies van der Rohe’s famous comment ‘less is more’: less is a boring glass stump. I think architect Douglas Cardinal would agree with Herbert Bangs. “Cardinal is famous for flowing architecture marked with smooth lines, influenced by his aboriginal heritage as well as European expressionist architecture.”

From: Gordon Fance — Aug 03, 2010

I suspect your confusion is as shallow as the tall acerbic gentleman’s wit. Good response by you. Banksy’s art and success is neither groundbreaking, shocking nor awe inspiring but indeed belongs in a marketing category with Thomas Kincaid’s “paintings of light”. The gent with the candy wrapper sounds desperate to be recognized as a smug art aficionado.

From: Antoinette Ledzian — Aug 04, 2010

What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall in that auditorium! Love the way you handled the situation and your exquisite choice of adjectives in telling this story! Honestly, the way you tickle brains with your writing is masterful! Thanks for introducing me to Banksy! Wouldn’t it be fun to have a contest to design a flag for him?

From: Janet Morgan — Aug 04, 2010

I love this letter. I was just thinking after reading it that as artists we should appreciate other artists skill, courage, imagination, patience, and talent, when I got this horoscope emailed to me from the wonderful Rob Brezsny’s free will astrology: “One of the best ways to cultivate your own radiant brilliance or native talent is to look for excellence in other people. So if you suspect there’s some half-hidden or partially dormant reservoir of genius within you — a mother lode of intelligence that you have not been fully successful in tapping into — I suggest you make it a point to identify the genius in everyone you know. Whether it’s your cousin’s knack for flower arrangement or your co-worker’s telepathic capacity to read the moods of people she wants something from, you can fuel your own luminosity by noticing and appreciating others’.” Don’t you love it?

From: Diane Paterson Mannion — Aug 04, 2010

I’m confused. Why does art have to show “ANGST?’

From: Bob Gregson — Aug 04, 2010

I like art that may be considered great art. The things that civilization has agreed to keep. But I also like “difficult art” from time to time. There are things that I see that affect me — sometime negatively. It means I must shift my vantage point (much like Impressionists vs. the academics). You just can’t look at two different ideas with one set of eyes. Sometimes there are things I really dislike but there is room for all of us — and I sometimes change my mind!

From: Jim Cowan — Aug 04, 2010

What puzzles me about the acerbic wrapper-rustler is “Why was he there ?” Obviously he wasn’t an artist. Banksy isn’t the greatest living artist. He’s just Banksy.There has never been a world’s greatest artist and there never will be. “Art is not about light and shade anymore”. Nice of him to point that out but if I decide that my art is about light and shade then light and shade it is. Art is not about following the directions given by clumsy candy-eaters.

From: Shirley Fachilla — Aug 04, 2010

What is art? Art History 101 answer, “What isn’t art?” I guess such questions help to broaden the mind and perhaps start some thinking that’s less blinkered. But such questions and answers can also be discouraging. I’m one of those people who need limits, standards; golly gosh darn, I guess I need some rules. If I were a poet, free verse would be my downfall. There would be nothing much to test, nothing much to break, and nothing to push against. Give me the sonnet to make the caged bird sing. By the way, it looks to me as though Banksy is working within some rules and standards. Good drawing and composition seem to be part and parcel of his graffiti.

From: Diane Voyentzie — Aug 04, 2010

My word of the day is “troglodyte” A person who is rude, brash, and reactionary. How I wish I could have been there to use it on the “tall acerbic” GENTLEMAN??? Sadly, he probably hated himself, and his ego just had to take control of the situation. A very interesting movie, I just watched was “The Maid” A Spanish film with subtitles….It is a very interesting study in personalities. I recommend it…You can get it on Netflix.

From: Ed Hoiles — Aug 04, 2010

Many thanks for the squib on “Banksy.” What a talented artist he is! And apparently, he knocks these pieces off in one night working in the dark?! Wow!

From: Megan Moore — Aug 04, 2010

I believe that my work would be categorized in that of “skilled” and I’d like to propose that “imagination and courage” are ESSENTIAL in making a successful “skilled” piece of work too.

From: Scott Menaul — Aug 04, 2010

Art is simply communication through any of a variety of media for the purpose of expression. One’s evaluation of that communication is entirely another matter.

From: Mary Moquin — Aug 04, 2010

Having just completed my MFA, it reminds me of my own struggles to comprehend that Art is about more than any of us can begin to comprehend, and it is about different things for different people. What I constantly fought with was my own reaction to shut down on anything I didn’t appreciate and call it “BS”. Why do we react this way? Why do we condemn what we don’t understand? Regardless of your religious conviction, I think the allegory stands that Art is a lot like God (or the meaning of life), trying to define or limit it is ridiculous. Life/Art continues to reveal itself to us in different ways and it is important to stay open to all interpretations, don’t shut the door regardless of how hard the message is to fathom. There is so much to be gained and appreciated from all manifestations of Art, just let it be.

From: Kodo — Aug 04, 2010

Art is interesting. Bullying and art talk are boring.

From: Anne O’Connor — Aug 04, 2010

Thanks for introducing me to Banksy. Paul Klee did a line drawing of a woman and three children that are naked. The woman is covering her genitals with her hands and the children are covering their buttocks. The drawing vibrates with distress. The title is something like ” four nudes awaiting father’s return from work'”. An art history teacher had an old slide photo and I have had no luck in further researching this image. As a former child protection worker the simple image of family violence hit home. This power from the artist that the teacher described as a stay at home father and a playful experimenter. If only I could make the drawing that would end violence in the family!

From: Edna V.Hildebrandt — Aug 04, 2010

I think that art is the artist’s expression of what he is feeling, his dreams and aspiration, his reaction to injustice even to illicit revulsion in the eye of the beholder. It may not be what people consider acceptable but it is still a product of his creation. If his work succeeded in arousing the desired effect or the opposite reaction from the viewer he would have succeeded in the challenge. I think it is still art. I think the question rather would be in the quality of the work.

From: Skip Van Lenten — Aug 04, 2010

We always had dogs when I was a kid. One day, as a practical joke on my mother, my father brought home a fake plaster “dog poop.” He placed it on the kitchen floor when she wasn’t looking, and waited for her reaction. He had let us in on the joke, and it wasn’t long before we could hear her shouting, “Bad dog, bad dog,” as Daisy went scrambling for cover, and we all burst into laughter. The difference between then and now is that today it might be considered a piece of sculpture.

From: Kathy Weber — Aug 04, 2010

I’m a pretty traditional painter, and I get tired of looking at art that seems to have shock and awe as its only goal. I have to say, though, that I loved Banksy’s work. I didn’t find it shocking; rather, funny and insightful and mocking. And well done. I wouldn’t mind having something of his on my wall. Better than dead animals floating in tanks of formaldehyde. Now THAT’S something I really don’t get.

From: Marshall — Aug 04, 2010

“Art is not about light and shade any more, or drawing, or composition, or little pictures of landscapes” and Bansky, “the greatest artist living today”? That is a very biased opinion, which I find insulting. That comment is more of a sales pitch than an intelligent comment. As you state in your letter “the world of art is big enough for all flags to fly”. This is true but it allows people to create crap and call it art. That is like the pot calling the kettle black. For years the public has been fed a line of crap about art for the sake of sales and personal agendas. People have been told they are stupid if they don’t believe what others believe about art. Snobbery and social pressure by so called elite and so called artists has pressured the public into buying anything labeled art. Andy Warhol said, “Art is anything you can get away with,” is exactly what I am talking about. Let’s take that same statement and apply it to a school teacher, teaching whatever they want to our kids instead of reading writing, etc. Let’s take a priest or minister saying the same thing about religion. Lets take a judge telling criminals the same thing about law. We would be appalled by it but when it comes to art we except it. We throw all the rules of art out the window for the sake of money, personal, or social agendas. One could say “all art is dead except for movies.” The cutting edge format uses all the senses except taste and smells to make a statement. What could be more cutting edge? Does that mean all other art forms aren’t valid? I believe it just means we have another venue for our creative outlets. When your art has to be one way or the other or it’s wrong, based on whatever you can get away with it, does it have merit? How can that be a valid art form? Where would art go from there? All I have to do is watch the news and see the same thing happening with out culture. Anything goes has our jails over crowded. Is that art?

From: Fleta Monaghan — Aug 04, 2010

I don’t know what that tall guy was looking at but the images of Banksy’s work in the clickback shows a very solid understanding of the effective use of value, great skill in drawing and a wonderful sense of design and integration of the specifics of the sites to develop these compositions. Most of us who have studied art history know that artists have always inserted their opinions and reflections of their culture in the art. Some we can recognize and interpret, some are just too far away in time for us to understand the political implications. I wonder if the cave art might have had some deeper meanings we cannot interpret. Artists who really care can’t ignore the tools of the trade, whether their art is on a wall or on a small canvas.

From: Debi Bradford — Aug 04, 2010

As a photographer and lover of art of many types, I have a very simplistic view of What Art Is. Personally, I think “Art” is something that the artist must do, HAS to do, regardless of form or type. It’s their gift to the world. The person who needs that art – the art that speaks to his soul – will find and embrace it, regardless of time. Not all people need the same thing just as not all artist’s have the same vision to share. It’s all about individuality. Wouldn’t it be boring otherwise?

From: Betty Brooks — Aug 04, 2010

I take art seriously but like most people cannot define it, other than to say it’s like pornography and you know it when you see it. On the market we have everything from junk art to fine art, commercial to a personal statement, from craft art to professional. My idea of what popularizes any piece of art is whether or not it has a voice and speaks to the “Universal Everyman”. Although art must stand alone on it’s own merits, it must speak to the viewer of vibrancy, form, grasp and last but not least what is indefinable, the known wrapped in the unknown, the unspeakable, the unsealed, all basic facts of life.

From: Karen Weihs — Aug 04, 2010

The movie/documentary on street art/artists, “Exit through the gift Shop” is an excellent flick on street artists Banksy, Shepard Fairy and the Frenchman. Banksy is famous for placing his Mona Lisa holding a gun to her head, lusciously painted and framed as one like a Leonardo, and other fantastically painted Banksy paintings like that on the walls in the Louvre placed with double faced tape, and no one ever in charge seeing him place it there to be seen with the masters! My kids had Shepard’s “Andre the Giant” images on their book bags and skateboards in Charleston, SC where we all lived, and Miss Charlotte, Shepard’s Mom was constantly apologizing for her artistic son who at 16 would roam Charleston putting up “Andre the Giant” street drawings and selling the sticker images to younger kids like mine who adored him/his images and his artistic spirit. Now he is touted as the next Andy Warhol with the Obama Hope poster featuring his very excellent matured work. My kids, now early to mid 30’s still revere him as an expressionist. Now living in CA, away form his roots in a conservative city like Charleston, we follow Shepard’s path from his home as a husband/father of two and a L A business owner, back to Boston and Paris, France to sit before a judge on his arrests for pubic displays. We are proud of his unfolding. I being a contemporary painter and past gallery owner am constantly talking about what is art. I feel it is about the individual, the one who makes it AND also the one who buys it or discusses it. We are all artists, and to see everyone have an opinion is a good thing. Go see the flick at your local art film theatre, you will enjoy it very much and see Banksy, Shepard and the Frenchman in the documentary as themselves, true artists now with collectors who pay 6 digits for their works.

From: Leslie — Aug 04, 2010

I ALMOST agree with the Esoterica portion of your piece, but . . . It seems to me that Bansky has some skill even if he is using pre-made stencils for his own purposes. After all, collage and mixed media artists of all kinds often use already made items to create their art. Would you not call them skilled? Don’t they still have to know the elements of design and the principles of art?

From: Jan Ross — Aug 04, 2010

Banksy’s stuff is quite entertaining and skillfully done…why doesn’t he use canvas or some other surface that can be framed/sold as a work of art rather than deface the property of others? While I’m all in favor of free and creative expression, and Banksy’s ‘art’ is thought provoking, I doubt it will take the place of quality traditional methods the educated world is accustomed to seeing. Besides, performing a criminal act is hardly admirable! I don’t think anyone can accurately declare what’s the latest ‘Big Thing’ in art, since the art ‘trend’ world is a plastic one, changing all the time. Michaelangelo will always be hot.

From: sell owen — Aug 04, 2010

I wonder if Banksy’s work might be seen as ” the handwriting on the wall”?

From: Dwight Williams — Aug 04, 2010

Isn’t this cool, Robert? Some letters don’t get many replies, but look at this tome!

From: Pat O’Hara — Aug 05, 2010

When I was going for my master’s degree at Hunter College I had the famed Robert Motherwell as an instructor and he assigned me a paper and critique of Georgio di Chirico. He was none too kind in his critique of my critique~~~ His comments in his handwriting are of some value I Imagine.

From: Alexandra Korey — Aug 05, 2010

A similar discussion came up recently when I published the news of an artist here in Italy who rather controversially painted, and exhibited, an image of the Madonna holding a baby Hitler. The local priest was up in arms because the image was on the poster for the show which was displayed around town. The debate (which took place in part on my facebook page) went something like this: “This artist is just trying to provoke us, that’s not art. Or that’s not _good_ art.” (This matches your gentleman listener who says artists get away with making and selling crap these days.) On the other hand, this artist has been credited for getting people talking, as nowadays shock value and playing on our emotions may be the only way to get across to viewers. I’m not sure where I stand. If you’re interested, the offending baby hitler painting can be seen here (the official blog for the arts in Tuscany, which I write): PS – i love Pat’s comment, @Pat i hope you kept that paper!

From: Mohamed Razif — Aug 05, 2010

Artists have the right to do or to express whatever they wish whether it’s on the canvas etc. I personally feel that art is something that does not need any explanation or message to look at. It is up to the artist to work out or express their creativity. As long as what their doing would not get tangled with themselves. Knowing too much sometimes in a way, discourage our true creativity and originality that is inside of us.

From: Mary E. Martin — Aug 05, 2010

This is a question to struggle with. What is art? If everything is art, then nothing is art. The best definition I’ve read on the topic is that “art is a creation which pays the viewer or reader more and more with each visit.” Unfortunately, I don’t remember who said that but I believe it means that you keep finding more layers to the work to explore.

From: Catherine Orfald — Aug 05, 2010

It’s well-known by many designers and fine artists that we need to consider CRAP principles in each piece we create: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity. The gentleman who implied that Banksy’s art is NOT about light and shade or drawing or composition, but only about making a shocking statement, is clearly not really looking at Banksy’s work. Enough with the “art is dead” naysayers! I agree with you that the world of art is big enough for all flags to fly. Let your freak flag fly!

From: Margot — Aug 06, 2010

I call something ‘art’ if it changes my perceptions of the world around, or in me in some way. Banksy and his work more than qualifies – he engages people to relate in a fresh way in their immediate, mostly boring, industrial type physical surroundings, while at the same time arousing curiosity, amusement, as well as provoking thought about issues of the day. He wakes us up out of the daily grind coma and into a re-engagement with life. Do think that photographs can’t do justice – it is performance art in a way, something to experience in the real surroundings in real time. He’s great.

From: Janet Summers-Tembeli — Aug 06, 2010

After reading so many artists statements about their work, why they paint what they do, their secret use of this or that, how their work is mathematical, intellectual, revolutionary, inner angst, outer angst, etc. etc. Sometimes the statement is so confusing and boring that it cancels out whatever the painting itself has to say. I paint what I love, am inspired by nature, and enjoy a painting discipline that follows everything I’ve learned yet allows for new discovery. Painting is a pleasure and this is what I hope others receive from my paintings. Great art is and will always remain something that is so beautiful that it touches our souls, and we never tire of it’s beauty.

From: Sheila Minifie MA — Aug 06, 2010

Nothing like avant-guarde artwork to put many people’s noses out of joint! Let’s be indignant! Let’s be righteous! That way we can produce more beautiful and profound work! Yes, the Shock of the New has become mainstream in the fine art world for many, many decades now (at least in the uk) and I’m bored by a great deal of it. There’s no long a shock of the new. However, I do like Banksy and I like some others of his ilk, because I can see where they are coming from, having been taught it at degree and postgrad level. I don’t do that kind of work. I do what I do and they do what they do. It’s not my business. That’s their business. [think Byron Katie]People buy factory made ‘conventional’ paintings from China rather than mine, young people buy ‘trendy’ prints for their new houses rather than mine, people want ‘anything as long as it looks like a photograph’ rather than mine. People buy paintings and prints if you have an RA after your name rather than mine. There is no law and there never will be a law, where artists have to conform to whatever is considered by the majority or the elite to be ‘art’. You just have to pay the price for doing what you do … whatever that is. Maybe you won’t have to pay very much or less than you think. Was it Hokusai who said ‘it’s just ink on paper?’ I’m with that guy. I do what I want to do and what I am able to do. Period. Happy painting everyone. :D

From: David Benjamin — Aug 06, 2010

Art? What is it? To me it is what I enjoy looking at regardless the form or medium. If it pulls me in, makes me cock my head, walk closer to see some detail, it has held my attention and made me think about the artist, the subject, and how he/she presents the topic. While we all familiar with the famous artists of this world, there are many many more who are “artists” in my sense of the word and that is all I care about. Mary Roberson is one example. I know many who do not like her “art” but I love it. I dare anyone to pass by her paintings without stopping, going back and looking.

From: David Coffin — Aug 06, 2010

It seems pointless (mean-spirited?) to deny anyone the right to call what they do, or what they like, Art, if that’s their choice. But when it comes to whether the art is Good or Crap, the most interesting definition of “good art” I’ve heard yet is: Good art generates more art. A learned and now gone friend said this to me long ago, and I wish I’d asked him where he got the idea. So I can’t say where this idea originated, but it’s stood the test of time with me, and I think it applies with equal force to one’s own art-making, and to the World Out There. In my world, the surest and most useful way in which I know I’ve done (or seen) something good is that, as a result, I’m inspired to do more art-making. I’m excited, I feel new options and possibilities opening up. I have a new sense of Purpose! Obviously, things beside art can create similar feelings, but when the cause of those feelings is something made by man, I’m happy to call it Good Art. Conversely, if a work of self-described art fails to inspire me, leaves me cold, leaves my memory the minute I look away, or even annoys, or worse, discourages me, then for myself anyway, I have no qualms about pitching it into the Crap Pile. If I were not already an artist, I think that any work of Man I looked upon that inspired any increase in expansive, creative energy, or even general well-being and renewed enthusiasm for life, would deserve the label Good. In fact, I think that this is precisely what non-artists want and get from whatever art it is that serves them: Renewed Enthusiasm for Life. In re: the World Out There, this notion helps me understand a lot of otherwise perplexing phenomena, such as—just to take a few things safely outside of the world of visual arts—rap music, or even more personally challenging, death metal music. I struggle with these forms. But can I deny that millions of people have been inspired to make more of what to me is Crap? That these forms have not just struck a chord with many other fellow toilers in this Vale of Tears; but have actually given these folk a flash of enviable, blessed clarity about What To Do Next? This seems a sure sign that any negative judgements I may have in these cases is mere personal preference, useful to me, but less than meaningless to the inspired. I think this applies across the board to any so-called art, from the mostly concept- or shock-driven stuff of Koons and Hirst and all those other artists who have meaning only to an Art World that loves them and the critics whose own art has been generated by them (and to those few among the masses who take notice long enough to despise them), to the most conservative, innovation-loathing Classical Realists, and even on to the countless weekend hobbyists and crafty-folk, and certainly including indigenous, tribal, folk, and outsider art… Wherever anyone has looked on art and said, “Yes, we need more of that!”, there is Good Art. You may respond by saying that this is only proof that Bad art generates more art, too. But, see; that’s the great thing! I think it proves instead that ANY art that generates more art, is art that is fulfilling its Purpose: It’s giving meaning and direction, however momentary and regardless of how misguided it may seem to others, to somebody. And if those somebodies number in the billions or thousands or even dozens, then, well, how can you not take it seriously as some kind of real Art? Maybe not YOUR kind of Art, but that’s only pertinent to you. You might say that some art is so bad, you’ve been inspired to do yours just to show the bad stuff off for what it is. Or that there’s a bunch of folk out there doing crap just because it sells, or because they’ve thought, “Hey, even I could do [get away with]that!” Or just to show off their skills/stoke their egos, or whatever… Well, so be it; who can say why anyone originally gets the idea to make art? But if they’re finding that the process renews itself for them and they’re sticking to it, and/or if others are getting inspired by it, in my book, Good Art is getting made. But what about art that just Makes You Think? Isn’t that good art, too? Maybe it is, maybe not; perhaps that depends on how well you like the thoughts you’re thinking as a result. I’m not suggesting that inspiring “more art” is the only useful or justifiable function that art can serve or embrace. Nor am I proposing that all critical engagement with Artistic Statements is irrelevant. I’m simply saying that, for me, inspiring further creativity is arguably the most important, most enduring, and most ultimately valuable thing that Art can do. And if you find yourself objecting that there’s crap out there that the foolish masses are being duped into liking/buying/venerating/celebrating by a bunch of con men and their critical henchmen, but it’s STILL CRAP!!, well, sorry, I’m afraid I can only wonder how much jealous resentment is driving that conviction.

From: Darla — Aug 08, 2010

David — Are you saying that art is neither good or bad, but an expression and force of current culture? In that case, Van Gogh’s paintings were not art in his time, but they are in ours. Maybe that is the case. I think a lot of people would agree with me that much popular culture is trite and/or offensive, but that’s always been so. We might not agree about which part of popular culture is good or bad. You’re saying that the main criterion for art is that it should be thought-provoking, or inspire artistic endeavor. That means that what art is shifts with fashion and current events. Remember the big-eyed children of the ’60’s, Velvet Elvis, and the current fad of cozy cottages? All popular in their times, all have many imitators, therefore all “art”. The question this brings up, is whether art is a product of its time, or is there an independent set of ideals for art? Artists, and people in general, will always disagree about what is good, bad or ugly; hurray for that! If we all agreed, why would we need to create anything different?

From: David Coffin — Aug 08, 2010

What I’m saying is simply that I’ve found this idea (“Good art generates more art”) to be about the most useful and illuminating idea I’ve yet entertained when thinking about the purposes and also the practice of Art, as I experience those things. (And when I feel the need to think about art, which I’m never doing as I make art, and always doing when I’m not!) I like the way it cuts off pretty much any and all value-assigning about other people’s artistic activity and tastes while also reflecting very precisely how I personally work as a maker of art myself. It supports both my instinct to be extremely precise and highly critical in my personal responses to art in the world, and my willingness to be extremely open about what constitutes art for anybody else or in general. So, yes, I’d say that art IS neither good nor bad in general, but I depend upon my capacity to make personal judgments about it for my own art-making. When I make art, I’m exploring (and revealing) my self and what I find important and meaningful in the world as intimately and actively and as pleasurably as I know how. I’ve got to assume that’s what all artists are doing, too, and so I have to take them seriously, whether I find their work personally inspiring or not. If I don’t feel that this kind of activity is what’s behind some creation I’m looking at, i.e., if I think it’s simply commerce (when the maker gambling on what I’ll like more than they’re sharing what they like), then I don’t give it the same regard as I would to anything that I recognize as art. So that’s one line that I’m willing to draw between art and not-art. I also don’t think that being thought-provoking is at all the same as being inspiring. They can certainly go together, but they’re quite different orders of response, don’t you think? I get inspired by visual and formal content, rarely (ever?) by conceptual content.

From: David Coffin — Aug 08, 2010

To clarify that bit about commerce and non-art, I don’t mean that there’s anything suspicious about art being for sale, or that commercially-driven artistic creations can’t be inspiring or artful. I was trying to distinguish between being driven by inspiration and being driven by gain. And I should have added that I might not always be right when I draw that line…

From: Lisa Maine — Aug 09, 2010

Don’t worry Robert, you are not confused.

From: leah — Aug 09, 2010

Dear Robert, most people choose a confused good man rather than a know-all toxic one. That’s why you have so many friends! Leah

From: Kendra Politzer — Aug 10, 2010

Comfortable and familiar, shock and awe, art is nothing if not diverse. Not all works have the same trajectory through the heterogenous milieu of art. Some live long and prosper, some live fast and die young. Making a splash and burning out, or being nuanced, subtle, and being a venue for discovery, is not the issue. The point is that the work exists and has an impact or influence.

From: Robin d’Arcy Shillcock — Aug 13, 2010

Shock art is always short-lived. The cultural community is quickly educated, and adapts their sense of taboo to what is “cool”. The general public reacts strongest to shock art if there’s a high price attached, like the time when an artist dumped a cartload of horse manure on the lawn in front of an art museum, and was paid something like several ten thousand bucks. His name was all over the media, but I’ve forgotten his name as no doubt everybody else. Felicien Rops, a Belgian artist shocked the cultural élite around 1900 with images of naked pompadours with a pig on a leash, and buxom ladies nailed to a cross. His work is kept in museum because there was awe for his skill as a draughtsman besides just the shock. We artists are waves in a vast ocean, with many ways of expressing our ideas, be it through studious works representing the light that shines over the world, or through fast-art ideas. Time will tell what deserves to be remembered, although who does the remembering puts much weight in the scales. Groningen, Netherlands

From: Rick Rotante — Sep 15, 2010

Truthfully! I would rather have Banksy’s graffitti than the usual crap I see. At least he uses paint and not spray cans and tells a story.


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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