Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Who Died And Made Them King?

I have never forgotten a professor at my university who failed everyone in his English class for a paper they had written a book review on. It turned out he had his own view of what the author's intent was and if you didn't agree with him, well, you failed. You can imagine the commotion that created!

I know and YOU Don't!
One of the students was so incensed that she sent her paper to the author who read it and wrote back that her paper was exactly what the purpose of his book was. The student had received an "F." When shown the letter from the author, the professor still refused to change the grade.

I use this example to point out that everyone can be a critic; we frequently are in fact, but does this mean what you think and believe is valid? Maybe yes and maybe no.

Critics are in every walk of life. They "review" movies, books, TV shows, what people wear...ad nauseam. That we allow them to become famous, to guide what we think and do and want is something that has always puzzled me.

Now this isn't to say there aren't critics I haven't enjoyed, however, I don't always agree with them. I look at what they say and take their comments merely as a guide. I remember when Siskel & Ebert would review movies. I enjoyed their banter and often conflicting views and had learned from personal experience that they both tended to like violent movies, something I don't like, period. I still watched.

Art critics also fall into this realm. I suppose today that most have degrees in art history, art theory or are failed painters, but what they say can often make or break an artist. If you have never seen the movie "Pollack" you should. It has some interesting scenes about the discovery of Pollack by Peggy Guggenheim, a true mover and shaker in the art world in the 50's. He developed a friendship after his "discovery" with a very influential art critic. There is one scene near the end when Pollack, having reached a block and unable to go past his spectacular splatter style, to reinvent himself again, is told by the critic that this was the end. He had a good 10 year run and well, you know. Pollack is stunned. So was I watching this.

All art, however created, is valid. It is an attempt by the artist to explain their place in the world. Of course, of all these artists, only a few will attain fame whether, alive or dead, because they reach out and move us in ways that are not always explainable.

I recently read that one art museum, after an extensive remodeling, got rid of all statements, explanations, all the things museums have added over the years to "explain" to viewers what they are seeing. Instead, they have the name of the painting and the name of the artist. Nothing more. They discovered it freed the viewer to enjoy what they were viewing and let them make their own opinions.

What brought this into a sharp focus was a review I read on the new Superman movie "Man of Steel." The critic made a comment about a small detail, the use of Clark Kent's name. He noted that "Clark" was used only once in the entire movie. When I gave up counting at 10 I wondered, did we see the same movie? What other things did he miss or ignore? That led me to again question the role of a critic and like what we read in the papers or see on TV, or read on Wikipedia, don't let others sway your own opinions. They are, to you, your truth! However, this isn't to say you can't or shouldn't change your truth; that decision should be yours, not someone elses.

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