Life imitating Art and The Growth of Lying
GERMINATION OF DECAY - mixed media - Ethan Michael Ezra Smith ©2006 Zurich
If Oscar Wilde was correct in his 1889 essay "The Decay of Lying" when he wrote "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life", can we assume then, that it's the fault of the artists that the joke has been taken all the way up to the highest office of President of the United States along with the art of lying?
written by: Erin Thomas 11.2.18
Artists tend to be reactionary when creating rather than consciously predictive, which ends up ironically as a reliable prognostic tool to glimpse what is looming on our horizon. Over the last couple of decades the contemporary art world has slowly become quite the yarn with well intended and witty artists visually biting the hand that feeds them and dismantling their own art market with deep pockets and irony that has been endlessly amusing to sit on the sidelines and watch ... at the same time the age of the internet has made every single breathing human an artist, thus rendering art more boringly common to the general public...the irony and agony of the weird paradoxically place that is the current "big art market" is that it shoots itself in the foot over and over....but it will run out of tendons and bone to shred before it's eventually rendered immobile.
at least until a brave artist and investor come along to rebuild the foot and a gallerist sings the the toes well again.
The foretold artistic sound byte of history has rolled in once again with it's loud pipes and glossy candy-red Koons menstrual paint and it's garnering all the attention of the masses with little gain for everyone outside of the game board and it's worsening effects within local design and art markets are being felt...the money has become the flaunted joke now, rather than the art. With the 501(3)c art non-profit administrator skimming off the top or just plain creating work themselves, there is little to nothing left to grow poor talent unless that game of WOW is played with the big money players. When the creative content that is trending is so intrinsically easy to recreate if you have money enough to build it bigger or hire labor to do it for you, there is no longer a general perceived need for the studied or masterful artist.
Find something amusing or depraved, shine a light on it, blow it up, throw it in everyone's face and call it art ...
This will dismantle this art market monstrosity that was inadvertently built ... eventually, maybe...hopefully.
Most recently, Banksy sold a simple acrylic stencil at auction for $1.5 million. The very second the gavel came down to seal the deal, the piece began to shred through the frame, shocking the onlookers and elite buyers. Even though it didn't work correctly, it's still going to be considered one of the most brilliant stunts an artist has pulled off this decade...and no doubt, someone, likely whichever artist holds the most financial backing and pull, will try and top it very soon.
Do we all think this art stunt was resplendent? Indeed we do. The awkward satisfaction of a middle finger directed at the buyers that are playing this ridiculous game of artopoly is a rather deserving salute after they made their own sort of mockery out of the art market by manipulating it for their own financial gain amongst each other. The preverbial shot to the foot is that these are also the very same folks that financially sustain artists like Banksy in the first place, thus the paradox. The wealthy have become a socially acceptable target of mockery and shame of late, and then we are all left scratching our heads and complaining that they won't share with us less-than-well-to-do's....and so we turn our sites on our government to help us while the art investors shake their head with a furious NO after getting played enough times, then everyone, including the government begins to distrust the artists and must put adminstrators in place to manage (pilfer) the money before it gets the artists, thus rendering the government sanctioned art sterile and ambiguous and less...
CYRIL. Well, you need not look at the landscape.
You can lie on the grass and smoke and talk.
VIVIAN: This is no isolated instance that we are giving. It is simply one example out of many; and if something cannot be done to check, or at least to modify, our monstrous worship of facts, Art will become sterile
and Beauty will pass away from the land.
We can look at at what has happened to the art world to understand the mockery that has now also parked itself in our policy office. A great basking in the high art of creative lying. A gigantic Joke. Wilde's essay was focused on the worship of hard facts, the extreme opposite of what we are experiencing right now...by the time his essay was published, a more educated and logical Theodore Roosevelt won the votes in the US while Matisse and fauvism and Albert Einstein began to root...in 1905 Steve Porter was popular while Fats Waller was honing his craft to usher in the next wave ....seriousness, realism and stark fact worship began to sterilize supported art to the point of oblivion and if Wilde's essays are any indications, fans of truth and beauty at it's purest were just as impatiently waiting for the next creative wave to come and break this bleak time in creative history as we are now...if you believe in transcendentalism as a reaction to rationalism, then it's a fact that the pendulum can, and will, swing in the complete opposite direction with the artists at the helm...it's nature...and we are nature...even while lying on our plastic yoga mats so we don't feel the icky wet grass. The art of lying has become so prevalent, and so bizarre that it is rendering much of our art and politics into a ridiculous over-the-top unsustainable humorless pile of shit....so much humor that it has officially become insane rather than beautiful reactionary brevity. I cried when I first glimpsed a Rembrant ...but when I recently gazed upon the giant flat-black ball that was described as representing our place in an empty universe at a recent show at a contemporary gallery, my reaction was more...indifferent and mundane. My eyes enjoyed it, it was interesting in the space, I appreciate design bla bla...but my soul was left rather... unmoved....and I just kind of want to be moved by art.
VIVIAN: "The popular cry of our time is ' Let us return to Life and Nature; they will recreate Art for us, and send the red blood coursing through her veins; they will shoe her feet with swiftness and make her hand strong.' But, alas! we are mistaken in our amiable and weIImeaning efforts. Nature is always behind the age. And as for Life, she is the solvent that breaks up Art, the enemy that lays waste her house."
Most people realize by now, the art market on the larger scale is almost entirely comical to the average person, and it has been for a long time...many of the "famous" artists that you can commonly name from the last two decades have household status simply because of the gallerist, market manipulators, speculators or financial backers, not because they were the artists that were the best of the best our country has to offer.....yes, sometimes they even have government backing. You know Jackson Pollack solely because he was chosen specifically to improve our national cachet during the Cold War...and that's not to say he wasn't talented...I can say with all confidence that most artists I know personally have the potential to be great should they be given the rare opportunity to do so. Give an aspiring artist a huge stock of gigantic canvas, time, space and money and 100% of the time they will fill it with paint, because that is what they are driven to do by inner truth and beauty. Deny their place or overly insult their craft, and lose out on masterful art. So I think in this case, it's the curators, gallerists, speculators, investors and market manipulators that are not doing their job, not the artists. Give the artists what they need, and it will trickle up into our politics, we desperately need this cultural attache.
This is an important topic even to those of us in the smaller markets here in Maine as the national dialogue and impression of artists as a general participatory concept greatly effects the local market, just as a leader in a high office can effect everything down to the homeless and downtrodden, the larger art market will greatly effect the paintless and studioless. I've stood next to big money investors while they've called investing in art "charity" and "money pits" and "too risky"...many of them fear the perceived liberal politics of an artist, or they don't currently see the valued return because it can not be measured in an excel spreadsheet.
But Life soon shattered the perfection of the form.
"poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects...
They did not exist till Art had invented them"
Art in all it's forms has always included the silly or mundane, many of us grew up with a bit of Weird Al sprinkled in between our Led Zeppelin, lest we become not well rounded or TOO serious about life... so this is nothing new in any decade, but when the joke has become so yuge and engrained into our policy and decisions that directly effect lives, it's time to roll up our sleeves and plan for the rebuild of the system while it's being deconstructed with jokes and lies.
While journalists rush into Art Basel to find the next big potboiler like it's an episode of Super Market Sweep, the thoughtful and more serious painter will quietly continue to study to be in place after the tsunami takes the joke back out to sea for the salt to finish it off. Oscar Wilde was begging for a farce to show it's face, so he may be amused by what we have built today...but....is it too much to ask for that little sweet spot in between? Weird Al is a pretty good palette cleanser for Zeppelin, but too much Al breads inner anger for sure. This giant fable may also be causing the entire market to fray at the edges and effectively also demolishing respect for artists on the local level, but rest assured, after all the best jokes have been told, the real conversation can be had, and it sure feels as if we've almost reached that apex.
VIVIAN: The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art. But of this I think I have spoken at sufficient length. And now let us go out on the terrace, where "droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost," while the evening star " washes the dusk with silver." At twilight nature becomes a wonderfully suggestive effect, and is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets.
Come! We have talked long enough.
This abstract painting shown at the beginning of this article is actually a photograph of a painting that hangs in my bedroom.
It was photoshopped into a gallery setting and was really created by my 1 year old child Finn in 2006
when I gave her ample art supplies and time to play. If you'd like to purchase this painting, it is currently valued at $1.5 million.
How does a self proclaimed art skeptic read art?
We searched far and wide to find a new friend that stated:
"I don't like or care much about art"
We asked her to review two of artist Beth Wittenberg's most recent paintings.
Her name has been changed to protect her from the public shaming for her insipid taste.
(We found her in the "wall art" isle of Target purchasing a set of pink flower prints)
We showed 'Not An Art Lover' new works from artist Beth Wittenberg and recorded the conversation
Tied and True
mixed media on canvas 30"X40"
MOD: This painting is called "Tied and True" ... What do you think of this artwork?
NOT AN ART LOVER: It's colorful, maybe too colorful, and kind of scary...it makes me nervous!! TIED and true? oh boy.
MOD: What makes you nervous about it?
NOT AN ART LOVER: That snake thing, and the word "Beware"...it's weird ...and scary...
the colors are childlike and happy, but the subjects seems.... dangerous. What are those...ants? I don't like ants either! They make me itchy! Oh Lord!
MOD: Do you think there is anything symbolic about the snake or the ants?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Symbolic? hmm. I suppose there is something to be said about being made itchy or uncomfortable by just a drawing, although that's not hard to do for me...I just now got even itchier just by saying the word "ants" out loud.
MOD: That's an important thought.
NOT AN ART LOVER: That ants make me itchy?
MOD: No, that there is something to be said about art that makes you feel uncomfortable.
NOT AN ART LOVER: (laughter) I thought ants making me itchy was some "art" thing I don't know anything about...
It's making me feel something, that's for sure. I see blocks, an exit sign... is that the way to escape this trap?
MOD: You feel trapped?
NOT AN ART LOVER: no, yes....well, it has things in it that make me scared or uncomfortable, things that SHOULD make people like scared....ya know, like the snake, the ants, tangly stuff, chains and claws...those are things that make me uncomfortable, those are things that make me want to run or leave...they should make anyone want to leave!
MOD: Are you having trouble looking at them?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I suppose, in some ways, but as I explore more, the blocks and colors are more fun and soothing, and making it sort of okay.
MOD: When you look at the art, does your eye follow a certain path?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, yes...I saw the snake and the BEWARE first and looked away, but then you made me look again and I found the blocks and and that soft blue path that led me to the EXIT so there's a way out...but I'm still confused.
MOD: Can you relate your feelings about it to a similar feeling that you've had in real life?
(very long pause of silence)
NOT AN ART LOVER: It reminds me of an accident that I was in twenty years ago when I first got my license..shock and confusion at the flashing lights and people talking to me at once...like I didn't know what was happening....and relief that everyone was okay, anger that my car was really broken, nervous that I would not make it to work, more relief and elation after it was all over and I was home safe...I suppose this painting brings out too many feelings at once, so it feels like "confusion". And it also makes me think of children, the colors and the blocks, there is something child-like about it...
but I don't want children to be around the snakes and ants and claws!!
MOD: See? You are speaking art already.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Oh! I thought I'd need more school for this. (laughter)
MOD: Ready for another painting?
NOT AN ART LOVER: By the same artist? Hang on, Let me brace myself.
Why is Everything Broken?
mixed media on canvas 30"X40"
NOT AN ART LOVER: OH! Oh my word...this one is almost scarier than snake-ants, that's a severed head! Maybe not human, but human-like for sure. Has the artist experienced trauma? I bet the artist has had some trauma. I think I have trauma now!! But at least there are no snakes and ants! (laughter)
MOD: I want to know what you think, and how the art makes you feel, and I'll tell you who the artist is later.
NOT AN ART LOVER: I'm a little bit queasy! .... but I think I really love the color combination hahaha. Is that a severed tail too? So violent. Whoever BW is, he maybe has some dark thoughts.
MOD: Do you think the artist is a man or a woman?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I suppose I assumed it was a man, maybe like we all do when we hear someone say "Doctor"... is that because history has showed us more male artists, or are women just as artsy? I can't think of any women artists, other than you because you told me you were an artist, and you are a woman...
MOD: Yes, women are just as artsy, and probably underrepresented publicly for sure
NOT AN ART LOVER: I suppose I shouldn't assume, that's a difficult thing to change in myself, but the way kids are now with their gender confusion, I feel like I don't know what to say to anyone anymore especially about genders. But Geez, I hope you don't tag me in this, I just sounded stupid.
MOD: Did this painting make you think of these things, or was it my questions?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Geez, I don't know...now I'm thinking that the human shape with severed thingies looks more like a stomach or an organ and all the pink looks like dried up blood...it's making me think of medical things and trauma again.
MOD: There you go, looking at art like a pro again.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Haha! See? This shit is easy! Oops, can I say shit?
MOD: You can say shit.
NOT AN ART LOVER: I imagine talking about art is easier than making it, but I still don't feel qualified to talk about it...Is there something I'm supposed to look for, like hidden messages?
MOD: Everyone is qualified to talk about it, and I think you found what hidden meanings that you can relate to pretty quickly.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Did I find the meanings that the artist meant for me to find?
MOD: We can ask the artist later, but if you see those meanings, than they are valid.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, I want to dislike it, but now I sort of want to know more and get some answers.
Is it a stomach? I really want to know if that's a stomach, or a human form. I also want to know if the artist is suffering!
MOD: Art is more about questions than answers...you may never find those answers, or you just have to come to a conclusion for yourself.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Girl, what are you good for then?! (laughter)
No really... what do YOU think about this art? I know, you gave me that question, so there is my question back! I like it now because I'm feeling more bold all of a sudden, but I can't imagine I could look at the chopped up stomach all day in my house, but I wouldn't mind visiting stuff like this at an art place.
MOD: Like a... gallery, maybe?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Wise ass, yes, I suppose a gallery, but I never go to them...(laughter)....I do enjoy the street art the kids make in the city when I visit, it's neat, except for the vandalized buildings with swears....And I see stuff online on Facebook sometimes, like my cousin who paints pretty landscapes with watercolors,
but I never looked at them for any deeper meaning.
MOD: Do you ever "consider" the street art you see on a deeper level or ask yourself questions?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I will now, yes. This is the longest I've ever spent looking at a painting!
MOD: My work here is done. (laughter) Do you think to qualify something as art it has to look nice in a home?
NOT AN ART LOVER: For me to buy it, yeah, I guess so...
I better love something before I see it day after day after day, I don't want to think deep thoughts when I'm shaving my legs to go to work or making a pot of coffee or chatting on the phone.
MOD: What sort of things do you have hanging in your home right now?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Let's see...family portraits, antique copper pots, some shabby chic wood pieces from ten years ago, they look so pretty....Oh! and some crafts that my gram made me...like a witch thing that holds toilet paper.
I do have a really old painting or a print of two cats under a tree that I found at an antique flea market...
Does my cat art qualify as art?
MOD: How do the cats and apple tree make you feel?
NOT AN ART LOVER: They are just pleasant to look at.
MOD: Is that art's only job? To be pleasant?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, now I'm staring at this painting of a severed stomach and thinking about my IBS.
MOD: So art can make you think all different things?
NOT AN ART LOVER: I'm seeing your point, but maybe I don't want to think about my IBS everyday because it does just fine reminding me it's there (laughter)...but I'm really happy you made me do this, I think that I will think differently when I see any art now....
MOD: Will you walk into an art gallery?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Hell no! Well, maybe. (laughter)
MOD: Sending you over information about the artist now.
NOT AN ART LOVER: So she is a beautiful woman! Why do I think all artists are men? That's not great of me, is it?
MOD: I guess after this conversation, you'll think twice
NOT AN ART LOVER: For sure I appreciate this thing you are doing, I may actually confidently walk into a gallery this weekend and tell them I know Beth Wittenberg and I am an expert! (laughter)
I just realized that thinking all painters are men is like thinking all people from California must know each other, how have you put up with me for this, I must be maddening!
MOD: Actually, I was wondering if you know my friend Patrick...he lives in San Fransisco
NOT AN ART LOVER: I see what you did there... Can you show me one more, I feel like I'm on a roll!
MOD: Alright, here is a large canvas from her social media page...
NOT AN ART LOVER: Whoa! Is that a lobster claw-hand? I can't even!!
I wonder if she does pretty landscapes like my cousin
MOD: I don't think so...no...definitely not.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Where do you artists come up with this stuff?
MOD: Beth says it comes from the space in between...the invisible unseen space that most people ignore or maybe they don't know it exists.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Well, there's the philosophical part, right? Invisible forces...if this is what lives in that invisible space, I don't want to visit....and as I'm saying that out loud I realize I believe in heaven and hell, so maybe we are not so different.
MOD: Are you looking at the painting?
NOT AN ART LOVER: oh yes, I do like the heart and how it looks warm surrounding the heart but everything else is dark.
MOD: Do you think maybe that's symbolic?
NOT AN ART LOVER: Of what?
MOD: Even in darkness and despair, you can keep the heart well lit.
NOT AN ART LOVER: Geez, that's getting deep again...but yea, yes....yes that's actually true. When things are bad in life, our hearts are where we keep our light isn't it? Now I like the painting, the philosophy your talking relates to the church teachings that I pay attention to. Maybe I should ask you the hard theological questions next time?
MOD: Sure, why not?! Anytime!
NOT AN ART LOVER: The face is...a face only a mother could love though...or maybe was attacked by it's own claw hand. (laughter) I hope Ms. Wittenberg doesn't think I'm the crazy one. I think after you showed me who the artist is, it made me like the work even more, and I like her a lot, I like her.
NOT AN ART LOVER: The humanity attached to it, I suppose. Like the spray paint art...if I thought of who might be behind the art, I may get less angry when I see a dick drawing on the side of a building. Why do artists do that?
MOD: Maybe the dick artist just needs a hug...or maybe they are not quite an artist...yet.
NOT AN ARTIST: That makes sense. Can we do this again soon? Maybe with an artist that paints cats?....haha!
MOD: For sure, we will do this again soon, but you know, I probably won't show you normal cats.
NOT AN ARTIST: I expect as much, can't wait, thank you!
Wittenberg created two of the pieces featured above during the MODspoke event "A Wake in The Woods"
TIED AND TRUE and WHY IS EVERYTHING BROKEN?
are available right now for purchase in our online gallery and shop
Beth Wittenberg's next public gallery show will be at University of Maine Farmington
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