Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Is This Art?

One of the things, in fact the first thing I heard, when I joined the Pomona Valley Art Association, was that no matter what we thought or felt, we should never ever put down the art of another artist. Sensitive to this subject myself I realized that I couldn't agree more. However, we ARE human and sometimes the non artist side of me gets in the way. In a gallery setting, no. What you say there can come back to haunt you!

I have had long and intense arguments with artists, many of whom I find pedantic, crass and unrelenting in their criticisms of others but unable to take it themselves. My argument, with rare exceptions, is not that their or anyone else's art is good or bad, but what determines art? Is it fine art, or as a friend of mine says, bathroom art? There is no denying the creator had a vision but the rub comes on how skillfully it was rendered. And there in lies the rub.

Jane Perkins rendition of Vermeer
I spotted this in my Pinterest feed and intrigued had to follow it to the artist. Jane Perkins from the UK has created quite a few artworks of this type. They are unique versions of famous artworks or famous photographs. Using a collection of "found" items (I can't imagine anyone having all this stuff laying around but I'm a man) she creates with buttons, shells, beads, pieces of jewelry, pottery, anything that creates an image that comes pretty close to the original.

I have chosen her rendition of Vermeer's timeless "Girl With A Pearl Earring" surely one of the loveliest portraits ever rendered and her version of one of Van Gogh's equally timeless "Sunflowers."

"Girl With The Pearl Earring" by Vermeer
What makes them recognizable is that another artist has come down this path before. Without the original, would the copy be something unique in it own right? Is it unique at all? This question and many more sure to follow has to give any artist making such a creation pause. Would we be as intrigued by the rough kind of beauty these found objects give IF there had never been something famous to create from? Like the thousands of photographs that were all the rage a few years back creating in their almost unlimited numbers a variety scenes...famous art, peoples faces, scenic wonders. I thought at the time, "Who has time for all this? Why not just pick up a pencil or pen, paint brush and go to work?

"Sunflowers," by Jane Perkins
To accept Andy Warhol's rendition of everyday graphic's as art when rendered larger than life, graphics such as a Brillo Pad box or Campbell's Soup cans, is to agree that in the modern context anything goes. Yet, is that so? When is the line crossed between art, I mean great art and pandering to be great art? How long will these movements last?

It is true that there are usually several movements butting against each other at the same time. When the Armory Show hit the United States in the early 1900's, exposing the mainly Impressionist, Expressionist and early Cubist movements in Europe, most American artists were involved in something else. Sure Whistler, Hassam and others had seen the "light" in Europe but it had yet to make much of an impact here. Yet, that show changed American art almost immediately. Artists and collectors were either "for" or "against" what they had seen or heard about. In any event, it changed American art forever and unleashed the permission to create just about anything.

Artists here and abroad chose another path and whether we agree or disagree, they are a form of art. By recreating a form of collage they created something not really so different from artists that came before. The debate that will rage in many circles, like the Laguna Pageant of the Masters who uses humans to recreate great works of art, is it art? I sure hope they used good glue because with so many pieces, time is not always a kind preserver of things; pieces will fall and be lost.

What do you think?

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