TITLE: The Two Worst Art Mediums
DATE: 10/07/2004 06:50:00 AM
When I attended art college I remember unofficially switching my major three times. Even later, when I officially announced I would major in fiber, I had trouble with my allegiance. I spend more time in the ceramics, video, and sculpture areas then I did in my own department. I needed variety. I didn't want to hear the same conversations over and over. It was important to have outside influences and to escape the bubble of safe conversation available in the fiber department. All of this contributed to my work and after some formidable floundering, by my senior year, I felt like I had finally gotten it right. I had found a system that *clicked*.
Now, working with artists and craftspeople, I find that most of the time an artist's choice of medium is far more arbitrary than my quasi-formulaic reach for diversity.
Many artists, it seems, choose a medium due to family heritage (skills that are passed down), chance (their high school art classes only had clay classes, for example), or mainstream romanticism (wanting to be a painter because of Monet, ugh).
Then, in walks (to this conversation) what I regard as probably the two worst mediums today: Acrylic painting and jewelry.
Why am I picking on acrylic painting? Acrylics are so readily available (from art stores like Utrecht to crafty stores like Michael's) and so inexpensive that you can likely find classes in your area with students of every age group sitting around fruit & veggie still lifes with pre-stretched canvases. Acrylics are washable and pretty. The colors are saturated and intense. Thanks to Bob Ross, the popularity of acrylics have skyrocketed since the 80's. Unfortunately the downside of popularity means A LOT of bad acrylic paintings. Lots of garage sale art. Lots of ebay flowers, landscapes, and cutesy things. Have I mentioned that most of these bad painters and ebay artists view their work as art, rather than hobby? Yes, popularity also means that the line between hobbiest and artist becomes blurred, muddy, and sometimes messy.
Why am I picking on jewelry? Like acrylic painting, jewelry is so widely accessible that it almost ceases to be regarded as a skilled trade in our mass market culture. The artistry behind enamel work, mokume gane, and intricate beadwork are lost between seas of weekend hobbiests with plastic design trays and 'how-to' books.
If you are an acrylic painter or a jeweler and you take offense to this, I apologize. I don't term these as the worst mediums because I haven't seen great work that overshadows the junk. Of course I have. But the fact remains that they are the hardest to succeed in, the most challenging to rise to the cream of the crop within, and the most tainted with unsuccessful attempts. Let's face it: If you're an emerging jeweler or a painter, you have a long uphill battle ahead. Make sure you have serious rock climbing equipment with you.
AUTHOR: Lisa McClow Berry
DATE:10/08/2004 07:03:00 AM
Ding!Ding!Ding! Wow Alisha, you are right on target - especially about the jewelry. We've been doing shows for 29 years. In the past couple of them, I've seen "jewelry" that left my jaw ajar. Shows with previous high standards seem to have simply suspendend those standards when allowing some of these people into their shows. I don't mean to sound harsh, but it is really hard to sell hand woven tapestry pieces with hand spun, hand dyed yarns (with their appropriate price points) next to strings of manufactured beads displayed hanging from a coat hanger, selling for under $10!! (That really happened to us this summer.) I can just imagine how hard it was for the other jewelers at that show to compete with such price points.
We all have a big educational challenge ahead of us with the show juries and committees - and with the public. I believe that our livlihoods may depend on it. (The subject of another blog perhaps, Alisha?)
To all the hard working jewelers and painters out there - I wish you well!
DATE:10/08/2004 09:33:00 AM
Thank you for having the courage to point this out. Everyone has to start somewhere--I myself started out as a beadstringer!--but the point is to go somewhere that calls for the very best of your own unique self. Unless you have the courage and the determination to go the whole 9 yards, your work will never rise above the crowd.
AUTHOR: Barbara J Carter
DATE:10/08/2004 05:29:00 PM
Interesting comment about my chosen medium, acrylics. Around here (Eastern Massachusetts) I find that many people still think of acrylics as newfangled and unusual. I've even had to explain what they are... to artists! Here, beginner art classes tend to be in watercolors, not acrylics. Oil paintings still command the highest respect (and prices), but acrylics don't do too badly.