Thursday, April 28, 2011

Art on the Defensive

I heard a pretty interesting comment today from my painting teacher at Western Carolina University. He said that there was something strange about how artists (and I’m talking about painters here) have to be able to defend their position for making art and what subject matter they choose. Yet no one is asking a writer to paint a painting in defense of his writing. I understand this is an illogical supposition, but one that is somewhat truthful. What it proposes is that art is not valid until it has gone through a focus group type review (a critique) and that artists should therefore become even better communicators than they are artists, because it takes quite a skillful wordsmith to write up a meaningful artist statement. The more one thinks about this, even more issues spring up. For example, no one is asking a baseball player to defend what he does, or the WWF wrestler to write a statement explaining his attempts at leaping at his opponent in skin tight spandex. There is an artificial construct put in place that seeks to demonstrate that art is valid by having the very people that create it make that claim. I find that rather amusing given the fact that I am a fan of soccer, and yet I still have problems defending its validity in the face of someone who does not enjoy it. “It’s just entertainment… or the players have great skills” might the line go. But so what? Does the skill of kicking a little ball around warrant a multi-million dollar salary? Does a single game of soccer warrant a possibility that some people might end up dead, injured or In jail afterward because we know what emotions sports can bring up? Hasn’t everyone watched a game of sports and wondered what the hell these people were doing and thought how ridiculous the whole spectacle was? Yet I don’t see a single case where a football player, or Paris Hilton, for that matter, has to write up an essay in defense of what they do. As a society we just accept the benefits of those positions, their qualities as entertainment give them credence to exist in their own right, so why not painting? Why do painters have to constantly defend their position to the public when so much of the public willingly accepts the validity of cheap entertainment?