As a former art student and lover of all thing aesthetic I am game to appreciate all kinds of art. There are few things I love more than strolling lone around an art gallery and discovering hidden treasures. I will admit that there are a lot of things I don’t know about art. I never took an Art History course nor a lesson in Art Appreciation, and in spite of taking an art class for at least 18 years of my life, I think I peaked at age nine.
So when viewing the artworks of others I just go with my eyes, drinking in things I find beautiful, and passing by others that I find less interesting. I occasionally read the blurbs next to paintings. I find tidbits about the artists’ lives interesting. I also like to know the ingredients of the piece. But the one thing I hate more than anything in the art world is this seemingly new need for “Artist Statements”. Frankly I think they are the biggest, gimmicky, self-indulgent pieces of bull-shit ever invented.
Now, I’m not saying art should not have meaning. And I’m not saying that having found out the meaning the artist intended takes away from the art piece. Meaning is very important to art, in the way that it often inspires and drives its production. I get that. What I am saying is that it seems that a bulk of current artists are focusing entirely on their meaning rather than the art itself. And it’s just really boring.
That’s right, your art is BORING. It could have been interesting but instead your ostentatious attempts at “meaning” made it BORING.
But my real bout of contention is when art teachers insist that your art have a meaning. They force you to explain why you’ve made the choices you made.
I remember when I hit that crucial age that changes art class from fun to freaking awful. The age where you can write full sentences and have probably hit puberty, and therefore are filled with angst and rage that needs to be transformed into meaningful art via a slew of self-portraits, perhaps painted in your own blood. Look people, I was fourteen at a freaking private school. I haven’t seen much of the world, can’t I just focus on my attempts at creativity? My artistic interests? The past masters that inspire me? Or I don’t know, maybe actually learning how to draw? No? Instead I have to pour out my soul and write about the tragedy of the human condition so I can pass? Oh, colour and composition don’t count? Any actual artistic skill will just garner a few bonus points? GREAT!
And it just continued. For the most part, save a few wonderful teachers, my foray into the art world was constantly hindered by the necessity of “deeper meaning” which had to be expressed not only in my art, but in an artist statement which would sit right next to it. So I made shit up. I strung together big words, and depressing thoughts and tried to present them to my peers with a straight face, when all along, I just wanted to make plaster casts of milkbones and arrange them in a visually interesting way.
Why can’t we just let art enthusiasts make their own meaning, instead of forcing it down their throats? Does all art need to be this obvious of a social commentary? Is the idea of subtlety lost? And seriously, if you have to explain what exactly your art represents ad nauseum, you probably did a shitty job.
And on that note, I present to you, the great meaning behind one of my great masterpieces (which was actually part of the students’ exhibition at the AGO – yeah that’s right bitches):
“Joey the dog faced boy and the Tower of Bones”
Once upon a time there was a boy named Joey the dog faced boy. He had a face like a dog. He lived in Canada with his family, in a house.
One day his friend, Rhino the Albino, made fun of his dog face. He was funny, that Rhino. Ha ha ha. Joey, however, was really hurt. And not just emotionally, but that twig in the eye was especially painful. Ouch.
Joey the dog faced boy decided to run away to where he would be respected and loved – perhaps a land with no twigs. So he set out to the bus station and caught the bus to Montreal. But dog faced boys can’t read, and he ended up in Belleville. Oops.
… In Belleville he lived off wheat grass and olive oil, buying his rum with the money he earned performing tricks for the local residents. On his way to the bar one night he met a girl named Georgia the gorilla faced girl. He thought he had found a meaningful relationship, but he was wrong. She started running with that circus side show crowd, and Joey the dog faced boy just couldn’t keep up with high society.
He hopped a train to Montreal, where he knew he must go.
There he stumbled across a pile of plaster bones. He decided to make a condominium out of them bones, them bones, them dry bones. He built a gate around it. Then he realised he had trapped himself within his fortress of bones.
Aren’t we all like Joey the dog faced boy?
Trapped alone in our fortress of bones?