Saturday, March 15, 2008

List #4: Top Remarks Re: Art

I'm in New York right now so I don't have much time to post, so here's a quick list of the Top remarks I get regarding art from "Non-Art People" and my reactions to them in no particular order (whether I express these feelings to the people who say these things is another story).

1) "I don't get it." This is usually when we're at a show or an exhibit or in a museum looking at something relatively modern. I usually feel like this statement is a kind of invitation for me, with all my wisdom and learning, to explain the deep meaning behind whatever it is we're looking at. My response is, Like I do? Modern art has this great thing about it where you have to know more than just what it looks like to understand it. This means I don't "get" most modern art. I only "get" the things I've read about, or if what I'm looking at seems to relate to things I've learned. And, to be honest, there is a good chance that a lot of stuff doesn't have any real meaning behind it, which is why you'll only find it hanging in coffee shops or McDonald's. So don't ask me, I don't know! :)

2) "An art major, huh? What are you going to do with that?" I got this when I was in college, but now that I tell people I am applying for grad school, I am more likely to get the helpful "warnings" about lack of funding for art programs. My response, usually in my head, is, Not everyone can be a doctor. I mean, what's the difference between an Art degree and a History degree? Or any other degree that doesn't obviously lead to some kind of job (like Education, Journalism, Pre-med/law, etc). Why does education have to be a means to an end? And, PS, art students sometimes have an advantage that history students don't, in the sense that many of us are also trained to write and argue a point (through art history/art theory classes), but on top of that we are trained in design, so there are diverse options other than teaching if you want to stay "true" to your major. Nothing against history students, but I know a few and they're all struggling to find jobs that are related to their degree that aren't necessarily in schools.

3) "I'm just no good at art." Sometimes I will respond to this by laughing it off, but other times (especially when working with kids), I will respond, You may just surprise yourself. I taught a class where I took a bunch of random students who had to make a book from scratch in 6 weeks. They found texts, did artwork, bound the book themselves - you name it, they did it. They had no formal training and the books were amazing. A lot of people either haven't been trained how to draw or have no natural talent, but there are so many things you can do and still call it "art," without having to represent something as you see it.

4) "What's the big deal? I can make something just like this!" This is also usually in response to some modern art. My response is usually twofold, although not usually out loud, Maybe you could, but you didn't, and, One of the great things about modern art is that it isn't all about what's on the surface. It's great and it's frustrating. If you go to a show where you are given no explanation, I think it's a natural gut reaction to look at something kind of ugly or really simple and wonder how that person ended up with a show and you still haven't gotten anywhere. So the next time you stand next to a giant canvas that just happens to be all painted one shade of blue, wonder why it was made, not how. ;)

5) "That looks really cool." Assuming this is (hopefully) a response to something I've made, I say, Thank you!

So there you have it... a short post from me today, from New York. Coming soon, St. Patrick's Day in NYC experience, plus interview #3 which just happens to be at my NUMBER ONE TOP SCHOOL!


Daphna said...

I love modern art, but I don't get it most of the time either. I still love it though, cause every once in a while I'll look at an abstract piece and have so many emotions rush to me. Like once I was at the Guggenheim and saw this painting by Hilla Rebay, and I fell in love with it :) I thought about it for months and months and then finally bought the museum catalog just so I could see it again.

I drag my poor grandma to see modern art in NYC every summer. She doesn't like it very much, but she's a good sport. Sometimes whens she asks me why some of the stuff is art (when it looks like anyone could do it) I tell her it's art cause they did it first. That's the best I've got. :)

Anonymous said...

im with you all the way on comment 2 - ask jewishguy - i suggested he go into humanities not engineering, because he was such a wonderful thinker and writer, plus engineering scared me (!). "why would you want me to do something i dont want to do?" said he - shut me right up!

JewishGal said...

Doba - It's a good thing JewishGuy went into engineering - he can do the mitzvah of helping all of these writing-incompetent engineers with their papers! ;)

Daphna - I just think a lot of it looks pretty and I just take my reaction to it as its meaning for me, so basically I'm with you on that :)

Jen said...

For so many years I've wondered what I was missing from much of modern art.

You have no idea what a relief it is to learn there isn't always anything to 'get'.


austin said...

I like the one about I can do that with the response of "but you didn't." I hate it when someone tells me they can do what I do "easy." Thanks, and you'd be just a broke as me too I bet.

I have more reading to do on your site. I did however catch that you're going to school in Chicago. Congrats on that.


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