Tag Archives: opinion

Self-doubt About your Art and how it creeps in

One of the more terrifying issues an artist must deal with is self-doubt.  It’s so easy for a person to get negative about their own art. Mostly, this occurs because you hear critics put it down.  Sometimes the criticism is justifiable. But most of the time its just opinion.

Photography is an art form that is very dependent on focus, composition, and lighting. If you get these wrong you don’t require a critic to point it out to you. Your own self-doubt causes you to have no doubt that something is terribly wrong. This is a point where a little self doubt actually is helpful to making better art.

Other works of art have expected benchmarks you judge by the medium used to make it.  With charcoal drawings that benchmark might be shading. But pastels and painting could be measured by the shading, blending, and use of color. The personal feeling that you somehow don’t reach that mark is what causes self-doubt.

Each notion representing the proper way one creates a work of art in a medium has its supporters and dissidents. These people are critics.  The endless bickering of critics and artists cause some real tense social moments.

Self-Doubt Grows:

For instance, I’ve been told at gallery opening, directly to my face, that I could never be a fine artist simply because photography is barely an art and just can’t compare to painting.  Never mind that I had to convince them that the work was a photograph and not a painting.

Red Tulip
Red Tulip – definitely a photograph

This was bruising at its best and self-doubt most definitely tried creeping in.  Upon further conversation, I discovered this nice little elderly artist developed that opinion from their professors at some art school back in the 1950’s. The artist then repeated it so many times for so many years it became a mantra.

All I can do is stand there and look in disbelief of such narrow vision. I also felt sorrow because they paid money for that education.  I wanted to argue, but an opening is not the place. So, I entered into the respect your elders for one day you will be one of them zen mindset and let it go.

An event later that week was just as much fun.  I get approached by a nice middle-aged man who proudly claims, loudly enough for dead, that he could take the same picture with his new iPhone. Again, here comes the zen mind tricks.  I told him that I couldn’t wait to see it. But even after forgiving the ignorance, the rudeness, and the lack of common decency, I was, at this point, strongly considering moving to the French Polynesians like Gauguin did.

Gaining Clarity:

The next week, I learned something valuable that helped with the self-doubt caused by these caustic doubters.  I was at a speaking event with about 50 other artists. There were only 3-4 photographers and everyone else worked with pastels, oils, mixed media and a lot of watercolor.  The speaker was a visiting artist in her late 80’s. It wasn’t her age that was inspiring, although you have to admire it.

No, it was what she proceeded to do.  She talked and slightly rambled on about her life as an artist and what that meant as a young woman in the late 40’s.  But then she shared what her professors had shared with her. If you were an artist you had to paint in oil.  Watercolor would never be a real art.

I almost spit out the sip of coffee I was enjoying while she talked. She went on to berate about 25-50 percent of the room as only a lovable elderly old woman with a stuck opinion can do.  It took everything I had to keep from jumping to my feet, pointing around the room and yelling “See, that’s what it feels like!” Ah, the sweet vindication.

The result is that criticisms are opinions.  Usually bad and terribly weak opinions created by people who find what you are doing threatening somehow.  Consider their source and why they might feel that way before you give any credence of their opinion of your art.  Most of all be honest with yourself.

It’s your art.  In the end only one person has to like it.  You.


Nudity: Going Naked for Art? or Just Chimp Marketing?

Nudity has been the bedfellow of art since the ancient Greeks. The Greeks had naked bodies everywhere in their art not to mention what the Romans did with theirs. It’s not the sight of a naked human body that I find rather disturbing. Rather it’s the degree to which the idea of getting naked as performance art at major art venues is becoming the norm.

We recently covered an article about the artist Milo Moiré. Her strange desire to get naked in Basel, Switzerland during an art festival did not go unnoticed by either the authorities, who could do nothing legally, or the sponsors of the event.   I realize that one naked performance artist tramping her way through crowds of art sightseers is hardly a pandemic of nefarious nudity.

However, according to Artnet news, in May, the performance artist Deborah de Robertis decided to produce her own version of Gustave Courbet‘s L’Origine du monde (Origin of the World) and exposed her genitalia for the room to see.   The authorities at the Musée d’Orsay saw very little humor in the unscheduled event and had her performance cut short with a police escort.

At this point you might believe that this is a European problem. Alas, no. According to NPR, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi is currently facing a potential 2 year prison sentence in Japan for creating a kayak modeled after her genitals. This is a strict no-no in Japan. She has already run into trouble with the Japanese police for just trying to raise the money for the Kayak and once again for sending pictures of it online.

Again, the issue is not the nudity. It’s the notion behind the nudity. None of these artists are arguably creating anything more worthwhile that scandalous publicity. It’s one thing to dutifully perform these acts as a symbol of protest or support for some political or ideological ideal, it’s quite another to just get naked and/or proudly display your genitals for a bit of publicity.

For the record, each artist claims they did these acts of exposure for artistic reasons. That’s fine in a sense. However, the more skeptical minded would see this as a mere attention-getting stunt. I mean, what are you protesting by exposing your genitals to a room full of people in front of a painting made in 1866?

Would it be wrong to see this as a simple yet rather effective marketing ploy that hopefully results in higher art sales? That of course brings us to a secondary question. Will it work? That these stunts might actually lead to a rise of personal sales by each of these artists is troubling.

I find this kind of marketing desperate and rather inartistic. If one wants to openly display oneself as some primal oriented object to garner personal attention, then how is that art?

Feeling by Andrew Chianese

Our primate cousins do this on a daily basis. Have we reduced  the arts to the level of chimpanzee marketing?  How then does this display make for art of a higher purpose? If it doesn’t, why do it?

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Kings, Activist’s and Dogs: Spanish Statue Controversy Exposed

There is no denying that art is often full of controversy. Artists, curators and yes, even critics are all people and as such each have their own view of politics, religion, and so on. Often times these artistic views are not  what the current powers that be would always consider acceptable.

2015 has shown all of us a dramatic and disappointing on going amount of what amounts to censorship and saber-rattling  to repress and even destroy art simply because somebody doesn’t like it. The recent destruction of the ancient city of Nineveh and museum relics are perfect examples of the barbarous inability of some people to leave the mental stone age.

I’ve long taken the stance that art should never be censored. This should become the standing rule in societies around the world. The ending of excluding thought provocative art and satire for the simple reason of not agreeing with the message behind it is paramount in our species departure from a cultural stone age.

But all rules have exceptions and there is one form of censorship that should exist.   Self-censorship. As an artist, this is the act of realizing when your art is dangerously close to losing it’s message because the audience is so shocked that it offends their reason to sympathize with the sensibilities of the statement.

When that happens, the public starts to believe that the artist is more interested in a shock and awe moneymaking campaign than making art with a genuine statement. Case in point, I’m pretty sure that there were some hidden political agendas behind the recent row at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. But that’s been lost in the moment.

There is a work on display that has already cost two curators and the museum’s director their job by allowing it to be displayed. The work in question is Doujak’s Not Dressed for Conquering, 2010. It displays the former King of Spain having sexual interaction with both the Bolivian activist Domitila Barrios de Chúngara and a dog on a bed of Nazi SS helmets. (The Art Newspaper)

Ines Doujak's Not Dressed for Conquering, 2010
Ines Doujak’s Not Dressed for Conquering, 2010

Is this art? Yes, unfortunately it is. Does it have the right to be included in a museum? Yes, yes it does. Is it something I want to see displayed? Personally, no. I find it too drastic for my taste. Why do I want to go to a museum to see a copulation exercise between 2 men and a dog? Truthfully, as a tourist in Spain, I would not go see it.

Indeed, I often wonder about the exercising of the mental judgements used in creating such works.  Did Doujak sit there for days on end wondering how he could get his political message across?   Does he finally, in a flash of inspiration, think, “I’ve got it, I’ll have him copulate with a dog!” and upset that bestiality is not shocking enough,  he includes the SS headgear?

Or the curators who saw the work and decided that it’d be just great to show something scandalous like the dead king committing bestiality in a museum where it so happens the widowed Queen is on the board of trustees.   I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?  Though, I do have to admit that it makes one powerful resignation letter.

No, The real question is where does the artistry stop and lewdness for simply lewdness sake take over?  As for me,  I think I’ll spend my time finding a nice Rioja and paella and not visit that.

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The Death of Ancient Art: ISIS Strikes Again

Historical art dignifies our past. It provides a bridge between the wonders of a bygone era and the technological future. Like most people with archaeological training, I look upon carvings and statues from the ancient world with wonder and amazement. The detail and dedication that went into the their creation is always inspiring and visiting a

Garden Buddha
Garden Buddha

museum is paramount to everyone’s education into the arts.

When the Taliban destroyed the ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan I was aghast that such wanton violence on another cultures artwork and belief system could still exist today.  It appeared that civilization was always doomed to repeat the stupidities and mistakes of the past.   It was a sad day when they destroyed that significant work of art because of over zealous self-righteousness.

Little did I know that the extremists in ISIS, or ISIL would figure out a way to top it.  These extremists somehow decided the ancient Assyrian art found in Mosul’s Art Museum was offensive to Allah and destroyed them on Feb. 26, 2015.   I say somehow decided because even though according to the NY Times they state on their video why they did it. The answer is not one of some quaint religious or misguided ignorance, but rather that ravager of all nice things, greed. They want money, and if they can’t get money, they want followers and attention that will get them money.

I find it amazingly convenient that the artifacts they destroyed in the museum all appear to be large pieces that could not be openly sold on the black market to fund their particularly self-righteous behavior. According to the National Post and AP they’ve had no qualms about selling other proclaimed immoral artifacts in the past. Nor, do I really feel they will have problems engaging in the black market in the future.

It is strange that I almost wish that they had been able to sell those priceless artifacts on the black market.  At least these treasures would be saved for possible reassignment to the museum after ISIS becomes a bitter historical footnote of civilization.

It’s just sad to think that a statue of a winged bull survived for 2,800 years of war and destruction in one of the most historically violent areas of the world. It survived the, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Parthians, Mongolians, several Caliphates, Sultans, and Emirates, even the Turks and the Mamluks. It passed into the 20th century as a kingdom and British occupied territory. This statue survived a republic and the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein, and American occupation only to be destroyed by some illiterate thug with a power drill. Really?

 Not a good day for art.

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Does Your Art Have Heft?

Here is a post brought to us by Michael Zhang of Petapixel.  http://tinyurl.com/cxcutk6 about a review of photographic art by Andrew Graham-Dixon of The Telegraph in London.

It’s a great post, and the article in The Telegraph http://tinyurl.com/corwqco is worth a read also. However, I do not think that Mr. Dixon is a big fan of photography. He is too busy lifting the weight, heft, of his bias towards only one form of art. The quote in the article is:

“The truth is that very few photographers have ever produced images with the weight of thought and feeling found in the greatest paintings. The camera is certainly an artistic tool, and photos can certainly be works of art. But can they be works of art of the same order as paintings? Modern critical orthodoxy would say yes. But the real answer is no. Photography lacks the depth and heft, the thinking sense of touch, that painting possesses.

That is why the greatest images of the last 150 years– the images people argue about, contest, return to again and again – are not photographs but paintings”

This made me wonder what would happen if we started to look at other forms of fine art from the same hefty reference point.

“The truth is that very few sculptors have ever produced works with the weight of thought and feeling found in the greatest paintings. Clay for bronze casting is certainly an artistic tool, and sculptures can certainly be works of art. But can they be works of art of the same order as paintings? Modern critical orthodoxy would say yes. But the real answer is no. Sculpture lacks the depth and heft, the thinking sense of touch, that painting possesses.

That is why the greatest art of the last 150 years– the art people argue about, contest, return to again and again – are not sculptures but paintings.”

Nope, still sounds rather hefty.  I wonder how he would define a class of preschool finger painting?
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