Maybe Folks Just Don’t Like Art

John W. Pinkerton

I am more than a little amused when fellow artists start making excuses for people not showing up to art shows, and if they do show up, not buying art.

Let's see: the weather is inclement, the Chili Fest is this weekend, the Cowboys are on television, or the Aggies have a home game, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I allow them to chatter on, and then I bring them back to reality with my comment, “Maybe…folks just don't like art.”  The comment is usually followed by nervous titters and giggles.  (By the way, I like the word “titter.”)

Think about it.

Why would anyone hate art?  It's just a reinterpretation of the world using paint or pencil or bronze or clay or film or found objects or whatever the artists choose as their mediums.

There doesn't seem to be much wrong with the idea of reinterpreting the visual world.  We reinterpret the world through writing all the time,  and no one seems to strongly object.  Heck, cavemen began the reinterpretation of their world eons ago with their cave paintings.  They seemed to think it was worth doing, and I'm pretty sure it was appreciated.

I contend that many folks do “hate” art.  Deep down, you fear I'm right.

Let's begin our reasons for this feared phenomena with artists whose purpose is to shock.  Shocking folks is a reinterpretation, but a questionable one.  “Oh, Oh, it's so deep!”  Give me a break.  Placing a Christian cross in a jar of urine is simply bad taste, not deep.  Reinterpreting the “Mona Lisa” as a McDonald's clown isn't shocking, but, Hell, you can do better than that.  Most of what I see which is intended to shock is just bad art.  Now Picasso's “Guernica” may be a strong and disturbing statement about war, but it isn't shocking, and it has merits as an art work.

Okay, shocking art is just a minor reason folks may not like art or may even “hate” art.  The biggie for folks “hating” art is right at the end of our uplifted noses: snobbery.

Those who profess to love art, and, often, artists themselves give me the fantods when they wax eloquent about a work of art.  They write or speak with the attitude of a pet poodle sitting on a bar of gold.  (I'm not sure what that means, but I like it.) Bubba is seeking a pretty picture: not world peace through a painting.

John Lennon said, “Avant-garde is French for bullshit.” Well, it's not the art that is “bullshit”; it's what the critics or artist themselves say about their works.

When an artist places a yellow dot on a blue background and calls it “The Salvation of Man,” I nearly vomit.  Now I may like the work; I may even admire the placement of the yellow dot on the canvas; but it is only a yellow dot on a blue background, not the salvation of man.  Henry J. Kaiser said, “When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt.”  Good advice.  All an artist needs to say about his works is, “Well, there it is.”  A boatload of thesaurus inspired words won't make the work any better or any worse.  When the artist or critic acts as though he holds secrets that only he or she fully understands, naturally the viewer is put off unless he's a rich Texas oilman with an inferiority complex.  So maybe these pompous, bombastic, balderdash peddling folks are the reason people don't like art.

Have you ever been in an art gallery and were totally ignored.  It's as though as you walked through the door, you magically became invisible.  This is no accident: the gallery managers' attitudes are intended to make you feel so insignificant that you won't believe your own eyes and will question your own values.  So, maybe, this is another reason people “hate” art.

Another reason folks may hate art is that they think of artists as strange people.  There is a mythology which probably will never die and is strengthened by folks who don't know diddly.  I've read a lot…a lot of artist biographies.  Most of these folks were as average as your neighbor with the one exception, that they were artists.  Few cut their ears off or labeled a urinal as art.  Even Andy Warhol seems to be pretty much a garden variety human being who worked as an art designer for Harper's Bazaar.  Norman Rockwell is probably closer to the correct image of artists in general than Van Gogh.

Look, folks, charge whatever you think you can get for your art.  The key words here are “whatever you think you can get.”  Even amateur artists tend to charge way too much for their art.  Every gallery owner I've dealt with has encouraged me to charge more.  I've notice that they're not purchasing my works even at a modest price; why should I think someone will pay more?  Apparently a lot of amateurs like myself are confusing their work with the works of the old masters that sell for millions. 

Years ago when I visited galleries, I'd usually only look at the price of the first painting.  I was often offended by the price and never bothered looking at the price of other works.  Look, they're not buying a new refrigerator or car or house.  It's just a painting, dear deluded ones.

Now for you folks who are professionals, who have made art your life's work, go for it.  Get whatever floats your boat.  The average working wage is $46,481.  Yeah, they're going to work all week for at least fifty weeks a year and pay you $2000 for your precious 11x14 painting of a darling duck.  Frankly, some of the pricing of art just simply pisses people off.

There's one more reason folks may not care for art: a lot of it is just bad.

If people hate art, it's our own ding-dang fault.


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