1halffull's Blog

Who Decides?
August 22, 2009, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Art Critics, Designed to Sell, House Beautiful, Modern Art

When my kids were growing up, I tried really hard to expose them to a wide variety of cultural venues.  I left sports exposure to their dad.  He was more than successful.red circle

The first time that I took them to an art gallery proved interesting.  As we walked through the various halls, we’d comment about one piece or another, talking about what we liked or didn’t like.  Our first foray into a hall containing modern art was most telling.  My son, Mike, took one look at a painting that was nothing more than a white background with a red circle painted on it and asked, “Who decided this was art?  I could have done this.”  He was about 10 years old at the time.

He brought up a question that I’d had over the years:  Who does decide what really good art is and by what virtue do ‘they’ get to decide?

For my money, really good art is a piece that flawlessly looks like something or someone real.  Really good portraiture is amazing.  A painting that captures the vivid colors of a sunset or the motion of the sea or where you can see through the glass vase on the canvass, that’s art, that’s gifted talent.  A red circle on a white background is, in my opinion, made by someone who has no more talent than being able to draw a circle.  It’s not art.

Being a fair minded person, I do not limit my opinion about creativity to just the art world.  Oh, no!

I picked up the August, 2009 edition of “House Beautiful” from a pile of discarded magazines I found at work.  I’ve been looking for ideas that might inspire me toward doing some much needed home restyling.  I thought surely there would be some good ideas hiding in the pages of this famed magazine.

I should have known better just by looking at the front cover; it was ugly.  I thought maybe this was the before picture of some lovely makeover.  I was wrong.

When I opened the pages to the cover story, here’s what I read:  “This room is great because it’s by Bunny Williams” with this subtitle:  “American decorating at its best, by a master.  It’s a room we didn’t want you to miss.”

Once again I was faced with the question:  Who decided that this person is a ‘master’?  Other than the paint color, the room was just about as ugly as any room I’ve ever seen.  In fact, if Roger and Tanya from ‘Designed to Sell’ walked into the room, I’m convinced they’d start yanking things out and rearranging it immediately!  Yet, I’m sure there are people all over the country who picked up this magazine and immediately called their decorators asking to have a copy installed in their homes immediately, another nod to the gullibility of society.

Remember the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes?   The one where the emperor walked in the parade naked while everyone told him what beautiful garb he was wearing?  I think that’s what we have not only in the art world, but in many areas where creativity is subjective.  It’s where people who can’t do, decide to become the critics of those who can, or think they can.  In a bizarre little twist, those who catapult themselves into the critic’s seats decide to make fools of those of whom they are jealous, ridiculing real talent and elevating to art status those whose only talent is to be able to draw a circle.

Another possibility is that truly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  With that in mind, I think there are some people who would fare better if they wore permanent blindfolds.