My reply to a reply to my reply on William Powhida’s blog

This evening I realized that I guess my comment fr. yesterday (see below) on William Powhida’s blog rant/post got more traction than I realized. I didn’t even know that he posted it to his blog- when I got the error message that it was too long for google, I just assumed it would never post, and I sent him a direct link to here, thanks twitter. Again, tonight, I got an error message on my reply. Google says it’s too long. It’s probably right. Anyway, I got several replies, but I mainly write back to one: @Jesse Patrick Martin. Here you go, Lovely ; ) …

@Jesse, thanks for what you wrote. No worries- utterly jerkish? No. It’s fine- Yes, I’m maudlin, sentimental, optimistic. That’s fine. But really- alienated? I guess in the way I referred to art-world circles, sure- but as a whole persona, no, definitely not. And I will own the demographic that I am: stay-at-home-mom, family loving, mass-media consuming- Yes. It is not only who I am… (where I come from- that’s a whole other story- yup, my mother picked fruit & cotton out in the fields as a born-in-Mexico-came-to-the-USA immigrant Mexican laborer- take that! how American!)…  but, I hope I develop work about a kind of American experience I don’t see in a lot of art. I hope it’s thoughtful, considered, effective… Someday. If I didn’t know about mass-media, how could I hope to communicate to the audience I care about? Let me elucidate:

All is not sweet & cheery in my view of art these days. I’ve gotten angry only recently. Very. But not about this WoA show. No- it was about some art I saw. I walked through a show. I took my time. I read some the materials. And I wanted to scream. It was just… so… insular. Art about art about art. Where is real life in that? What is real life? It didn’t make me ask any questions about life. I want my own work to mean something more one day. This work I saw- you not only had to have a knowledge of art history at the ready, and of art criticism, but you had to have multiple visual references just to get past the smallness of it. I just hated it. I thought- this is exactly what my friends hate about art. This is why they default to seaside impressions of impressionist painting. I mean- they don’t totally get what I make (when I make it) either. But it’s about them & me. Communicating to them effectively through my work will be a central problem for me in the years ahead. I am not making art for everyone. I primarily want to make it for my demographic. And if it’s any good, it should go beyond that, into those art circles I am learning about. Maybe. One day. Another thing is, I still think about this show. And it drives me. So maybe it worked just fine.

If you think that I looked forward to the release of WoA with wide-eyed anticipation, you think wrong. I heard about it when the call went out last year. The idea of a reality TV game show with a winner-takes-all artist champion, it made me gag on a 10 foot pole. Come on. I watched WoA, like I said in my maudlin way ; ) with 2 sick kids over one weekend. Actually I skipped a couple episodes, I remember now. I didn’t seek it out, I stumbled on it in Time Magazine, I read: “In the traditionally opaque world of art and art criticism, however, where opinions are usually safely buried under layers of jargon, Work of Art has caused a sensation.” I read that Pulitzer-prize nominated art critic Jerry Saltz was there- and I thought- I’m there. I am watching that. Right. Now. I never read a twitter on the spot reaction. I didn’t get into the prattle, I missed all that, yay for me. It would have dulled the whole thing that *I* got out of it. And that’s all that matters to me- what *I* got out of it. Like I said in my 1st comment- I wasn’t talking about the cultural value as a whole, or the broad impact on the un-educated art audience. I hope that the larger public, if interested, can take responsibility for themselves (?) and go beyond what they saw there & do some real discovering. If they get stuck in drivel, wouldn’t they have been stuck in that anyway, just about something else? If they are left confused, led astray… I hazard to think they would have been in nearly the same spot without the show. What I was addressing was the sense that I heard that this show was worthless. Worthless? No. Hate it? If you want. I didn’t. So what? Among the things I take away from watching WoA was that peeling away of pretension. I don’t mean that “unpretentious pap” is the easy to swallow way I like to consume things.  No. I mean, Pre-tend-tious. Like it took me 2 years at art school to figure out how on earth people traveled around or rented great apartments yet seemed as poor as me? Oh. They weren’t. Trust funds. I didn’t know such a thing existed. I like that WoA was a window for me. Like I said- seeing the insecurity, the figuring out what to say, the failures- seeing discussions, even sound bites of critique I’ve heard before- it turned a light on *for me who already has been exposed quite thoroughly to contemporary art ideas but lives outside that place you all speak of*. It did something for me, that is what I was trying to say. Hate the show if you want. I just wanted to enter my experience into the whole conversation of how this show was or was not effective.

It may sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth, but I hope it makes sense to someone: I also really like William’s rant. It ‘s raw, real. It’s what I love about artists, about us. He wrote “The stakes in this game have always been high… for me, it’s just my life. This isn’t a career for me. It really is everything.” He isn’t making art about art about art- he’s making art about people. People I don’t know, haven’t heard of- but people in this whole other circle of life, and he cares so much that he’s angry about this- he’s defining that circle. Come to think of it, I got most angry about work I saw infringed on how I define my circle. But I love learning about circles. ; ) I get how maddening it was that this whole thing invaded his world. That other important things dropped out because of it. I get that, accept that. I just had a wholly different experience is all. I hope it comes across that this is what I was trying to say. I am not a William-hater. I’m just not a hater in general. Actually I am kind of a William-liker. And I am a Jerry-lover now. Even my 7 year old keeps asking about Jerry Saltz, what does Jerry Saltz like. Funny. You’re actually really famous if a 7 year old knows your name. Anyway, I like to see the good in things. Except that artist’s work I talked about, I hated that. : )

And about the bit about how William said artists don’t get challenges in real life. Of course not. The show was off in that way. The greatest challenge we often face is figuring out what questions to ask ourselves. But sometimes we do have to answer somebody else’s questions. We speak with our work. We inform somehow. Sure- “Make a portrait,” “Use junk,” “Shock us.” Basic. I pose another thought- how about juried shows? That’s what I do (um, once a year?) (I know, how glorious.) I *do* have to take on a prescribed challenge, while being true to my work. Anyway.

William said “What scares me most about this, this blackhole of terror that opens up in my chest, is that there is no dignity to art, to this career…” No I think that William’s passion is what makes this dignified, says that this art thing is worth fighting over & fighting for. William said an hour long lecture series would be more productive, “at least I might learn something or experience an idea that will challenge my ideas about what is possible in art.” I present that maybe we don’t need to be at the table of an exalted conversation to have that revelation. Maybe it can be while watching a reality show. Maybe it can be while at some mundane, draining activity, maybe that’s where we define ourselves or rise above, and then go tell that story through what we make. I hope so. I think I get the most out of that kind of work, art that started somewhere invisible, nameless, rejected, or so normal nobody wants to talk about it. How about art that starts when I’m playing with my kids or hug them or a talk with my friend, my regular friend? How’s that for something that makes someone want to gag? Don’t tell me it doesn’t sound stupid. But to take that & make something great? I hope someone does. Actually, I hope I do. One day.

So, @Jesse, I guess this exchange might not mean too much to you, (don’t worry, I don’t feel sad about it, it’s a reality– you are in a circle that I’m not in, & I like my life very much thanks) you said: “Great, here we are ‘talking’ about ‘art’ and our relationship to it by way of a twelfth-rate reality show that actually wrapped up many months ago. We might as well be communicating via kazoos in a typhoon.” I think you are able to engage about the merits of the visual representations of our world all the time, right?… Me? Nope.

So, yeah, I’ll take the kazoos in the typhoon. The funny thing is, I think I hear you just fine. : )

Lastly, thx to @Molly & @Saskia & getting that kid-time-juggle thing, that thing that makes me feel like a fish out of water All. The. Time. : )

addendum: @Jesse is really very cool. He’s generous and I’ve enjoyed a few exchanges we’ve had (via facebook) since this exchange. Super nice! – Winter 2010

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