Let’s talk about art. Nay, let’s talk about “cute” art. As an artist and Master of Fine Art candidate, I’d like to think I have some sort of idea of what art is. It’s easy enough to say, “It’s art because I say it’s art.” Marcel Duchamp loved that shit, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that sentiment. I do however disagree with so-called “artists” wasting my time not only visually, but in my studio, right in front of my face, with their cutesy images of owls and bunnies frolicking through the woods, increasing my lab fees because of how much ink they waste on a stupid print of a butterfly. To me it’s the equivalent of taking a digital photo of your pet and calling it a photograph, or a photo of you and your boyfriend snowboarding and turning it into a print and showing it at a critique (yes, this happens more than I’d like to admit).
Let me first make it clear that I am totally aware of how inadequate I am as an artist; in fact, I remind myself of it daily. I am certainly in no position to say another person’s work is garbage, unless it just so blatantly horrible that I’m forced to be an asshole about it. And here we are.
It’s obvious that I’m referring to specific people when I write this, but I’m also addressing a larger issue here. It’s safe to say that there’s a very large community of people, whom I will not label here (but you know who they are) that eat this kind of imagery up like it’s a Thanksgiving Day feast. It’s not that the visual aspects of this type of work are terrible; in fact, sometimes they’re pretty nice. As a slave for anything cute, mainly felines, I find myself torn (which thus pisses me off even more) between actually buying into this garbage and having to consistently remind myself that there’s nothing behind it: no substance, no context. A “dead behind the eyes” sort of piece. And how do I know this? Well, because the artists have told me so themselves.
There are graphic artists (I only use that term because that’s usually what this sort of stuff gets thrown in with, or illustrative art) that are crazy talented. They can draw, they understand composition, craftsmanship, and most importantly, color and technical refinement within a selected medium. People who have a strong and apparent understanding of these elements are people I can respect to some degree, but when you’re taking JPEGs from Google image search and filtering them in Photoshop and then coloring them in like a coloring book, I can’t respect you.
Let’s talk printmaking, specifically silkscreen, for a minute. There is a huge difference between creating a graphic image that is, say, 12 colors (thus 12 separate layers, or more) that are perfectly registered (lined up), and is in a perfect edition of more than six compared to a one or two layer print that you can’t possibly screw up because there’s nothing to it and it took you three hours to make. And especially when you have nothing to back up your work! No explanation, no concept, no narrative that follows it, no inspiration other than that you’re maybe kind of dorky and like to wear flowers in your hair.
Can you see the difference?
And just for some context, that first work is a piece by Camille Rose Garcia, considered a modern pop-surrealist, and “Her paintings of creepy cartoon children living in wasteland fairy tales are critical commentaries on the failures of capitalist utopias. Creative influences include Phillip K. Dick, William Burroughs, Henry Darger,Walt Disney, as welll as politically aware bands like The Clash and Dead Kennedys. Her recent solo show, Ultraviolenceland, explored ideas of violence and empire.” (taken from the artist’s website) See?! Concept! Context! Inspirations!
How do you think it feels to be struggling every single day to figure out not only how to translate your ideas into a visual language, but come up with an adequate idea in the first place, and then have some cutesy chick in a floral dress say, “I don’t know, I just like looking at things so I make them. I don’t really think about anything when I work. I don’t have any conceptual ideas.”
How does that feel, Marena? Well, I would equate it to something like this:
The only comfort I can take in the hype that is given to this sort of work is that only one demographic is buying into it on a serious level, and they’re usually of the same idiotic mindset as the people who are creating it. As long as they keep to themselves I’ll be happy.
Write a book about a bunny, illustrate it, and then maybe I’ll give you the time of day. Art should not only be about skill, but about evoking emotions in both the viewer and the creator. If the best your work can do is make someone go, “OH MY GOD, AWWW”, then get out of my face.
Finally, here you will see my point illustrated perfectly.
And now I will shamelessly plug my website where you will find nothing of the above: marenamitchellart.tumblr.com