No, Not Everybody’s an Artist (Despite what they may think)

By John Stillmunks in Misc > Art Opinion

Here’s a question for you. . . do you think this painting would be accepted into a juried art fair by a typical jury in 2011?

Twombly - Wilder Shores of Love

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Or how about this one? Would either one be accepted by a Zapp jury?

Freud - Benefits Supervisor Sleeping

Probably not, based on what I’ve seen at the juried shows. And that’s a shame, because art isn’t always beautiful. . . or “cute,” “clever,” “interesting,” “nifty,” or “matches what I already have on my wall.”

The second painting is Benefits Supervisor Sleeping by the late Lucian Freud. The one above it, Wilder was created by Cy Twombly who also passed away recently.

Both were outstanding, incredible, professional artists. They were painters. They weren’t crafters, and they weren’t vendors. They poured their souls onto their canvases and they avoided the limelight.

Peter Max and Andy Warhol these two were not. They focused on their art, their painting. The market responded.

But would these two artists be accepted by a “qualified jury”—even if their slides were formatted correctly at 1920×1920 pixels and showed a consistent body of work? Even if they made sure their booths were lighted professionally?

Again, I don’t think so.

Would these painters be blacklisted by some arrogant art director who wouldn’t know a good painter if one died on his lawn? Would these two care? Did they care? Would they focus on selling cheap, no, worthless prints of their paintings at a street show?

Twombly taught a little bit and Freud’s life was a train wreck to be sure . . . but neither of them made crafty aprons to sell at an art show. Neither of them painted lightbulbs for $10 and said they were an artist. Neither of them ordered work from China—and certainly never sold it as their own.

Did Freud and Twombly receive their share of bad reviews and dialogue from lesser artists, critics, and some of the great unwashed? Absolutely. Does anyone remember who those critics or lesser artists were?

It does give one pause. Our standards are low when it comes to artists. People confuse someone with a good idea, a new product, maybe a marketing angle, or perhaps a glimmer of creativity—with being an artist.

Having an idea for something that will enhance someone’s life or provides a great and necessary service is a noble and admirable gift. Henry Ford had a great idea. So did Edison. Einstein. Researchers. Medicine. Engineering. Agriculture. Great thinkers, for sure, probably greater thinkers than many artists to be honest.

But they are not artists.

Most people do not go to the art fairs and festivals to buy art. They go to see the ideas and the widgets. Some go to copy the ideas. Some go to critique. Some go for no reason at all—just a place to walk the dog or push Grandma in her chair.

And some even go to buy kitschy trinket jewelry or some piece of junk for their garden from a buy/sell charlatan or maybe some “original prints” from some mountebank.

Despite the low standards and diminished knowledge about genuine artists and fine art, there are thankfully still people who understand and “get it” when it comes to art.

They intuitively distinguish between a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, a monoprint, or a piece of pottery that touches their heart and soul—art that enhances their lives—and an imported birdhouse or a handmade puppet or even an apron. They can understand the passion and genius of Lucian Freud and Cy Twombly—even if they do not specifically remember hearing of them.

So when I go to a show, or an art fair, those are the people I seek out. Because I am an artist—not an artisan, not a craftsperson, and not a “vendor”—an artist. And no matter what that brings with it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To learn more about John and his art, please visit his website at johnstillmunks.com.

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