Art for Art's Sake

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I draw a comic strip for two dailies, a bi-weekly and a couple weeklies. I also draw a comic book for an on-line comic book company. When people want something drawn up—a logo, a little cartoon advertising some local event, etc.—they come to me.

This leads to some people calling me an artist, and that’s starting to bug me.

I like art, but I am worried by anyone who talks about art as if they know what they’re talking about. Some of them are friendly, but too many of them are jerks.

See a painting/sculpture/poem/explosion you like? Talk about it. See one of those things you don’t like? Feel free to talk about that, too. Very few people do this, though—at least in “art world”. The doofs you run into most often either talk up their preferences or talk down their (what’s the opposite of “preferences”?) whatevers with disdain for all who think differently.

I can’t stand morons like that and hate the suggestion that I might be one of them; hence my revulsion at the term “artist”.

Part of the problem is that our culture has was too much free time. Now, I am a big fan of free time (where do you think this blog comes from), but the enormous amounts of free time we have in this country has created a whole class of artist/critic wannabes who have nothing better to do that criticize. Oh, heck, maybe we’re all a little like that. But the more time you have to devote to such pastimes, the more critical (and cynical you get). That’s just human nature.

What we wind up with is a whole segment of our culture who claims to love art—or a particular form of art—but can no longer enjoy any of it. Did you enjoy the last Indiana Jones movie? Well, then, you’re a class-A moron according to this chattering class because … it doesn’t matter. We’re lowbrows because we plunked down money on a movie, watched it, and enjoyed it as a pastime. If we’re not bright enough to notice flaws in direction, acting and lighting, well, we probably shouldn’t be taking up space in the planet.

I go to art shows because I like to see what people are doing. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t. Sometimes I’m intrigued with how a person did what they did, but mostly I’m just looking at the total picture and thinking, “That looks good” or “Was that on purpose?” I realized I was off the art reservation at a museum opening several years ago that was showcasing the works of young artists from the local university. The grand prize winner was canvas that was about 5 foot by 4 foot and had been painted a solid layer of brick red. Then, it looked like someone had stood back about a foot and flicked a toothbrush covered in black paint at the lower-right-hand-corner. This, according to whoever judged, was the best art produced by the local students. I didn’t get it and I still don’t.

A month ago I went to a show of a local artist who had a water-color painting of an Indian village with the clouds in the sky having faint outlines of buffalo hovering over the teepees. I looked at that one—watched it, really, ‘cause it seemed almost like the buffs were moving—for quite a while.
I liked that guy’s work (some of it more than others). I don’t know his motivation, but he doesn’t seem to have succumbed to the usual artist’s temptation of producing art that’s designed to please other artists. I guess there’s nothing morally wrong with that. Most art is produced with an audience in mind. If your audience is other artists, don’t be surprised (or, nowadays, indignant) if your artwork doesn’t also impact other segments of society. This is my problem with the whole Sundance Film mentality. Most of those movies are made for other movie-makers. Fine. What bugs me is that the makers act like it’s the fault of the rest of us—some deep moral failing—that we don’t enjoy their work. Only enormous arrogance would lead me to think you—or anyone—should go against your own judgment and like my art.

I don’t want to be called an artist because artists seem to attract way too many of these cynical, self-absorbed doofuses. Why would I want to hear THEM?