On Facebook, I am friends with Jerry Saltz, famed art critic and advocate. His discussions on art and the market are enlightening to read- until his myriad rabid devotees start groaning like artist zombies, mimicking his every comment like it was their own. Anyway, I like Jerry. I liked his lecture when he visited VCU and I liked his book, Seeing Out Loud. What I like most about Jerry, however, is that he makes the art world seem accessible and ridiculous, holding it accountable for its self-indulgence and dogmatic affectations. He’s funny and passionate and sincere and smart. In short, I would very much like Jerry Saltz to be my crazy Uncle I’d see 2 – 3 times a year.
Anyway, when Jerry posted a topic on facebook asking artists to leave their artist statement in the comment thread for the scrutiny of thousands to read, I watched the drama unfold for several days. This morning, he reposted the topic, and I jumped in with a quick edit of my nearly 4 year old statement. This is the discussion that followed, with no editing for spelling or grammar, just the ol’ cut and copy treatment directly from the FB:
Jerry Saltz: Repost V: Now over 800 people have responded in 2 days. Post your ‘Artist Statement’ in the comments. (I or more likly) Someone will edit what strikes them as empty, platitudinous, cliched, boring etc.(suggested rules for writing artist statements see thread of 12-24-09). Tell us the Riddle that the Shpinx asked you at The Gate. Then tell us how you answered so as not to be thrown off the cliff.
Jerry Saltz: 100 words or less. DO NOT SUBMIT MORE. 100 words or less.
Pop culture, suburbia, consumerism and art history influence my work. These interests combine into ridiculous and strangely humorous puzzles that lack a logical conclusion. An inadequate key is presented resulting in an ambiguous understanding, yet a coded significance is still apparent. Nostalgia for places I’ve never been, people I’ve never met, and things I’ve never seen instigate the desire to amass these experiences for myself, however vicariously. I rearrange images, found or collected from the internet, remove them from their original context and group them with unrelated imagery in order to create, if only for a moment, a fleeting feeling of grandeur through fabricated histories.
Jerry Saltz: Judith Baumann:
My comments are in ALL CAPS:
Pop culture, suburbia, consumerism and art history influence my work. (NICE SENTENCE. PROBLEM IS THESE THINGS INFLUENCE EVERYBODY AND EVERYTHING SO THIS, WHILE A CATCHY SENTENCE AND PROMSIING, SOUNDS GENERIC AND MAKES ME SCARED TO CONTINUE BUT HERE I GO …)
These interests combine into ridiculous and strangely humorous puzzles that lack a logical conclusion. (AGAIN NICE WRTITNG; AGAIN, IS GIVING ME NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE ON ABOUT … GETTING MORE NERVOUS…)
An inadequate key is presented resulting in an ambiguous understanding, yet a coded significance is still apparent. Nostalgia for.places I’ve never been, people I’ve never met, and things I’ve never seen instigate the desire to amass these experiences for myself, however vicariously. I rearrange images, found or collected from the internet, remove them from their original context and group them with unrelated imagery in order to create, if only for a moment, a fleeting feeling of grandeur through fabricated histories.
I AM SO SRRY; YOU’RE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CLIFF WITH CROWS FEASTING ON YOUR DRY BONES ALONG WITH 100,000 OTHER ARTISTS. PITY. YOU ARE A VERY SNAZZY WRITER. SMART.
BUT SMART IS NOT ENOUGH.
I WILL PAY YOU 1000 DOLLARS FOR EVERYPERSON WHO CAN READ YOUR STATEMENT AS IT IS AND GET ANY IDEA WHAT ON EARTH YOU MAKE; THEN I WILL GET 1000 PEOPLE OF MY OWN TO READ YOUR STATEMENT AND YOU WILL OWE ME 100,000 DOLALRS. DO YOU ACCEPT MY CHALLANGE?
JUSDITH; REALLY. YOU SOUND SMART. YOU ARE A GOOD WRITINR SO WRITING AND SMARTNESS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM.
IT IS AN UNWILLINGNESS; YOU ARE HIDING FROM THE SPHINX; IT SEES YOU AND HAS KILLED YOU.
TELL US WHAT IT ASKED YOU; TELL US WHAT YOUR ART LOOKS LIKE AND WHY IT HAS TO LOOK THIS WAY OR YOU WILL DIE.
IF YOU CANNOT DO THIS IT PAINS ME TO TELL YOU YOU WILL HAVE TO BE CONTENT TO BE SMART AND A SASSY WRITING BUT A MEDICORE ARTIST.
I AMREALLY SORRY. AS I HAVE SAID BEFORE; I SAY THAT YOU ARE MEDIOCRE AS SOMEONE WHO SPENDS EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE FIGHTING MY OWN INITIAL FAILURE BEFORE THE SPHINX.
GO; SPEND A SEASON IN HELL. WE ARE PULLING FOR YOU, YOU WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE ….. OR NOT.
Judith Baumann: HAHAHAHA! Thanks, Jerry. I do accept your challenge and while my bones are mending from the shove off the cliff, I’ll start typing up a new draft with my Jell-o fingers.
Jerry Saltz: Judith: We are with you. Your fngers are great; ditto your sharp mind.
So there you have it. I have been handed my ass on a platter by King Jerry Saltz and nothing has felt so good and honest in a long time. I feel honored he actually responded at all, since most of the ‘editors’ were fellow FB artists giving their 2 cents in the peanut gallery.
Now I need to do some hard thinkin’ about what my art really looks like and why it needs to look the way it does. It’s harder than you’d think. It’s much easier to articulate what it’s about than its aesthetics. Can aesthetics and concept coexist? Are they even separate from one another?
I’m looking forward to jumping off more cliffs in 2010 but I hope to avoid spending another season in hell.