Friday, August 03, 2007

My name is bon...

...and I am a recovering artiste.

Twenty years ago in High School, I was all about art. I was good at it, enjoyed it, and I defined myself with the term of "artist." I took art classes at the community college because I disdained the calligraphy heavy art courses the HS offered, and was a little creeped out by high saturation of Wrestlers and Stoners who took the Crafts course: essentially a ceramics class taught by the wrestling coach (although I gutted it out for a year and learned some interesting vocabulary). I hung out with kids who called themselves Punks, Wavers, and Mods and I knew that was "who" I was... an artist.

I don't do that much anymore, label myself as an artist.

People who knew me then are always surprised, when they meet me nowadays, to find that I have very little to do with the visual arts any more. More than once, I have felt that I have let them down. The feeling doesn't last long, but it's not fun while it's here.

What a strange place I am in, and in some ways it makes me a little sad; this diffident relationship I have to all things "art" these days. We are strangers, but for the love of crayon and glue that my girls have. Strangers, and I was not even aware that we had slipped completely out of touch until I read a recent post on Feminist Mormon Housewives the other day. The post was regarding balancing the love of art and still keeping to LDS standards. An interesting read, and something pertinent to my life... but HOO! The comments started to get off into the realm of "what is true art" and some commenter's started labeling the bulk of mainstream LDS art as "propaganda" and "cheesy." If your interested, go read the comments for yourself... for my part, I started to feel annoyed at some of the dismissive and arrogant stances some of the folks were taking about "art". Attitudes and ideas that I suspect a nineteen year old "bon" might have subscribed to.

On many levels... art annoys me. Especially art that considers itself ART, and I am trying to figure out how I ended up here, and how long I'm a gonna stay at this point in my relationship to (esp.) the visual arts. Visualize the face a two years old would make upon biting in to a piece of baking chocolate.... expecting sweet-yummy, getting bitter-yukky. THAT'S the state of the relationship.... on my side at least, because ART, and the art world? Could not care less that I no longer love it.

There have been specific points in my road to disenchantment with the art world, and I may catalog a few in a different post, but mostly I am sick to death of the elitist attitudes that so many involved in art seem to sport. The idea that all real-and-for-true art must "challenge" us and make us "think." The dismissal of beauty for beauty's sake. But mostly the dismissal of people... any people who do not get it, or do not care for high ART.

Perhaps it is sour grapes from hour long critiques, and long winded and blatantly BSed discussions on the artistic process.... maybe it was the gleeful, half-ironic attempts of my fellow students in trying to start the UNM Eff-You-ist movement. Perhaps it was the semester I learned that the Advanced Painting instructor, who was ostensibly trying to get us to find our own "voice" and "expression," really only wanted wanted us to do it within HIS version of the artistic process.

And then a few years later while working at the local art supply store, assisting that same instructor and coming to realize that the man knew jack about the chemistry of his own craft, and was barely cognizant of archival issues. Teaching. Advanced painting.

I learned almost nothing that I wanted to in school.

(2 B continued)


looney said...

I SO know what you the art class in the movie Ghost World--the artistic girl is dismissed because her art doesn't reflect what the teacher considered "real" art-in that case, namely shock-feminazi-art...These days my art consists of quick sketches on my son's magna-doodle...But the great thing I am discovering--my son's love of drawing. I am so excited to be RAISING an artist--so I can guide him in the ways I was not. I'm sure you can provide that to your girls, and let them know to value their creations, and not to dismiss another's vision just because it isn't matched to yours...

Anonymous said...

Hello Bon, this is Uncle R.
I don't consider myself an artist, but do consider myself as a landscape painter.
To me the raising of your children is an art in itself and you are doing a great job.

gingerstory said...

I think you could say similar things about the craft of writing--subsituting dismissing beauty for dismissing a story. Art, and writing, which I suppose is an art, are valuable on many levels. Yes good writing must be worthwhile, but but upon a closer look, so many have great art, writing, and other talents that are easily dismissed for reasons told to us by the high and mighty. Sad. Dreams and desires should be supported and loved and cultivated! And afterall, someone theory about art and writing and most things anyway, can sometimes be just someone's opinions... but said with authority!

Bon I think you are an artist, and it shows in so many ways in the way you live--it's very fun! And your time to "art" again will come, if you want it too that is.

elizasmom said...

Get. Out. Of . My. Head! :-)

What you are articulating here mirrors so much of what I have thought about The Arts and their adherents over the past years. For me it's mainly music and literature — the people who disdain a band because they get popular, or who won't read anything with normal punctuation or whatever. (It was funny, last night at my bookclub meeting when we discussed Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America", to hear so many of us admitting that we were surprised the book was so readable — that is, that he was a critically-anointed writer who actually wrote a good read.)

I don't think you have to be a Professional Artist to live your life in an artistically rich way, though.

I didn't know you back in the day (though we would've been peas in a pod, I suspect) but when you have alluded to your artistic past it doesn't surprise me at all because from where I sit, your writings, the quilts you make, the way you decorate your kids' birthday cakes — you seem to have found a way to incorporate that part of your past into your life today.

The Daring One said...

I really have nothing to add but I love this post. I love the way your mind works and how eloquant and plain spoken you are. Excited for part 2.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Bon, and my very own daughter, Eliasmom,

I only want to comment on one of the points Bon makes in her post:

The idea that all real-and-for-true art must "challenge" us and make us "think."

I detest, despise, ok, even almost hate, people who think that I, poor brainless person who never had a thougt of her own - because I am not a subscribing member of their elite, cynically snickering crowd - need help thinking, analyzing, forming my own opinion, etc. I am thinking all day long, every day, and many nights that I am not sleeping well. If anything, it has helped me to discover frauds of any kind even more easily.

Cow dung is cow dung, whatever you call it. And I don't have to think about it. I smell it, and know that I don't like it.

Ntohing against cows though. They are cute.

sarah k. said...

Dangit! I just typed up a good comment and blogger ate it. Anyway, Derek and I just spent hours last night talking about that post, and he thought it was so funny, how many people jumped onto defining art as, "this is good, and that is crap."

I'm a recovering art snob. I have issues with the whole subject, but I sure agree with you that the thinking about it is not what makes it art. I loved the example of the hangers. Curiously, Derek loved the one about the used female stuff. (trying not to R-rate your blog, here.)

And I'm with Elizasmomsmom. Cows are cute.

sari said...

I agree with you on this. There are too many people involved in too many different fields that try to make others feel like idiots because they don't subscribe to the same elitist snobby view. I know if I like something and I know if I don't, that's all that I need to know. When I became a mom I learned that it's just too much work to worry about what everyone else thinks.

I'm also looking forward to the to be continued.

Mama D said...

As I think you know I am friends with two people (well one only kinda) who are very involved in the art world. And frankly it depresses me. It seems in their cases they have to dumb down their art because it's too arty or beautiful or something.

And then there is my friend's fiance who is incredibly talented and yet cannot break through into the field and make a living. I predict him becoming so depressed that his art will eventually reflect this and then he will be a great success...

I'm with Uncle R.

Becky..Absent Minded Housewife said...

I was Miss Artiste in highschool too. I was the art sterling scholar and all that yammer. Got a scholarship too...

I HATED that art had to mean something. I didn't want to make a political statement. I didn't want to convey some negative or broody mood. I wasn't going to accept that splashes and splotches on a canvas were rebellious.

My brand of happy art was negated. I didn't know suffering. It didn't matter that it pleased me and that people liked looking at it. I hadn't made a profound enough statement!

It was a profound moment for me to realize that all the art I was doing was really costume design. Costumes are allowed to be frivolous and happy.

Suburban Gorgon said...

Okay, I know this wasn't the point of this post, but I haven't seen the word "waver" since 1985, and I am ROLLING, remembering my own stupid asymmetrical haircut with the rattail, and the shiny satin shirts over stirrup pants, with the brooch at the neck! AAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!

bon said...

HA! Did you ever attach a bolo tie end to the end of your rattail?

I was STYLIN'!