Category Archives: theory and philosophy

Shame On You, Artspeak: Clever Strokes

It’s no secret: I firmly believe that ridiculous, overinflated art language does little to help people understand or appreciate art. At best is alienates viewers who would be more receptive if you just told them what you mean. At worst, it makes you sound ridiculous. Shame On You, Artspeak highlights those latter moments.

The Shame:

The captured oil paint, placed with conviction, permanently shows off the cleverness of the stroke.

Really? How is a stroke ever clever? Velociraptors are clever. Strokes? I remain less convinced.

The Intended Message:

It’s a little hard to tell here, but in the context of the page where the captioned image is illustrating the usage of copal painting medium, I think maybe something like:

The use of this medium lets the detail in these strokes show cleanly, and adds durability to the paint that’ll let it last longer.

But, again, who can tell? Artspeak saw to that.

A New Way of Pricing

Determining the worth of art is hard. It just is, always will be. Do you charge by the hours involved, and what your time is worth? Unless you’re a big name, no, probably not because no one wants to spend that kind of cash on something from an unknown. Do you make up a price based on subjective qualifiers like how much you like it, or how much people say they want it? Do you keep prices high in case you get picked up by a gallery, or do you undercut your value to make rent?

Honestly, I don’t think any of those are right, but none of them are wrong either. It’s a delicate balance of understanding your own finances, your budget, and why you’re making art in the first place. As for me, I’m not going to pretend I make a living off fine art. i don’t, I have a day job doing commercial work same as most people. Sure, some of what I do is still art, but a commoditized, on-demand style of art called design. But, I’m lucky, my design pays my bills, and buys my paint. My fine art is free of the burden of needing to be marketable that many full-time artists have. Downside to that is it’s also a hard sell over the guy who spends all his time tapping into zeitgeists for works people want to hang over the couch. So, I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and ahead of my show at New Day Meadery I would like to announce my new pricing policy. My prices will now support my assertion that art should be attainable for the masses, and unless my financial situation destabilizes and I need to lean more on the value of my paintings I will price them to be reachable, and not what they’re worth in time and work.

equation

For paintings, I’m going to go ahead and admit the direct relationship between my ability to afford beer and my love of painting. So, I’ll charge one good six pack (currently $12… I’m much closer to a yuppie than a hipster, and besides, I was a snob about beer before it was cool to be snobby about beer ;) per square foot of painting, plus materials and, in some cases, a charge to accommodate for the fact that the work is in some way irreplaceable. Like Naught But An Odd Tree, which is made on the remnants of a flat-screen projection TV, and would be really hard or costly to do again. But most paintings won’t need that, and you’ll find that it yields some pretty darn affordable totals, I feel. A typical 4×2′ painting, for example, will only be $130 under the new pricing. The massive 6×4′ 54-33 would be $330.

photo-equation

For photos, the equation will be what it costs me to print and frame it, plus $20. For a 16×20″ print, this puts the final price at around $60 in a poster frame. Again, I feel that helps make things very affordable for the average joe, and maybe it’ll help people understand that the barriers to collecting and appreciating art are all artificial, they’re their to keep prices high for people who can afford it and who can benefit from it. But art’s more than that. It’s expression. it’s me seeking to connect with you, and I can’t do that if I charge more for my work than you paid for your first car. So, unless I fall on hard times, I’m not going to. I’m putting my art where my mouth is.

At least until it’s on your wall. You probably don’t want my mouth on your wall, come to think of it.

On Paint

I have a studio full of paint. Paint never sells. That’s the truth. But, it was never about the money. Paint is always for its own sake. I do design for money, and photo, and that lets me keep the paint for me.

Art Needs Explanation

The single most poisonous idea that ever happened to art is that “art should speak for itself.” That pretty much went out the window the same time art stopped just being a way for rich people to have portraits of their loved ones.

 

Galleries Revamped, “Download” Option Added

Back when I built this fourth generation of my site, I made a rather large, and somewhat unusual decision, which has sat fairly quietly in my footer, largely unnoticed. When I launched this site, I decided to own up to my own advocacy of art for the masses, and I released all images of my own creation on this site under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license.

In a time when creative professionals are all cracking down on copyright, and protecting their works, choosing to release all my own art under such a license might seem like a very odd move. But the truth is, unlike a lot of working professionals, I don’t rely on the work on this site to make my living. Design is what pays my bills, buys me beer, buys me food, buys me camera, buys me paint. And, that leaves me in a rare spot for an artist: I’m completely un-reliant on the marketability of my pieces to make a living, allowing me to focus on exploring ideas, questions, and manifestos out of pure interest and passion.

It also gives me a bit more freedom in how I can distribute myself. I can focus on making sure the most number of people possible have access to my art, and that they feel they too can have it around. Because, let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot of point in exploring ideas and messages and creating works of art if we’re not going to let people see them, experience them, live with them, and the like.

So, a mere couple of months before my upcoming show at Oranje, I’m making what I feel is a pretty bold statement about how I stand behind those philosophies by making all my works available to download in large form for printing. This is the second bit of this decision that will seem odd to some, so, I’d like to explain a few things I had in mind when I decided to do this, and to explain to you what’s up:

  1. All these files are still licensed under that CC-BY-NC-SA license. This is to encourage individual and private use, as well as to encourage people to use my ideas as launching points, or to remix my pieces into new works. I’m a big proponent of the idea that strict copyright law when it is not necessary (such as to protect a livelihood) is detrimental to the creative flow of a society. So long as I’m attributed, the works aren’t sold, and anyone using elements of my piece in future pieces accepts these same terms, I feel I’ll have contributed more to the art world than by locking my stuff down.
  2. Paintings aren’t the same printed. Period end. A photo of my painting will at best look like it, and at worst fail to capture most of what makes seeing one of my pieces in person the experience that it is. A painting is a physical object, and is inherently unique. By releasing images of my paintings, I don’t feel I’m in any way undercutting my own market for selling them should I wish. I am, however, allowing people who would never buy a painting otherwise a chance to at least experience my work, to display it, and to maybe introduce me to even more people. My paintings, as such, are available to download at the same size as I shot them, usually around 5-8 megapixels.
  3. Photography is trickier. It’s also much easier and cheaper to make than it ever was in the film day. So, to that end, I’m releasing the photos at 8×10″ @200 dpi. More than large enough to make personal prints for yourself. I will never sign a print I have not made myself, however. My photographs will still be produced in small, limited editions, and those will be signed and hand-numbered. I will also make every attempt to sell these actual prints at a low enough price to be affordable to anyone wanting to own a work of art, no matter your line of work.
  4. I do not accept commercial photographic work often, unless it lines up solidly with my own artistic goals. At rhe least, these terms do not apply to anything I do on a commercial or contract basis. My free-to-the-world model is for my own art, where I can afford it. I do not want to take food out of the mouths of any professional who relies on selling and licensing their work to live. That would be amazingly unethical of me, and would do more damage than good. My personal fine art works qualify for this open policy, but I encourage anyone wanting commercial work done to seek out an experienced professional in their area, and to be aware that there is a cost and value to the services these people offer. Even in a world racing to find the bottom of the price market.

And that’s that. Make sense to everyone? My goal here is to make it possible for people to consume art, because I think we need to break down this artificial barrier erected by elitism and cost that prevents people from being able to address art the same way they do literature, or any other work rooted in idea and attempting to convey that outwards.

If you would like to make use of my new policy, just click the “i” button below any gallery viewer. In the information overlay, you’ll see a download link for any piece with an available large download. What you do from there, well, I leave that to you.

 

Art, Sex, and Society: Part 3 – Sex and Gender

This is part 3 of a 4 part series, see the previous two parts below.

This is part 3 of my series of posts discussing art and sexuality. The first part is mostly a prologue, or a preamble, explaining why these came about and how they’ll break down. Last time I laid out the way I view art and the terminology I’ll use to discuss that world. This time I’m going to talk about the sex side of things, and likewise establish some vocabulary so we can have a concise post after this free of the muddiness that usually darkens posts trying to talk about this stuff.

So let’s get going here.

The first thing I think is important to discuss when talking sex and sexuality is the difference between sex and gender. Both get used pretty sloppily in society as a whole, and as such it’s hard to use them in a way where the meaning you meant is the one people assume you did. Part of the confusion is that gender and sex are often treated as interchangeable, an unfortunate side-effect of a very narrow-minded history of usage. Sex is pretty straight forward, and refers to one’s primary genetic sex– traditionally male or female, although there’s also intersex and a few other rarer genetic expressions that muddy up that particular pool. Gender means “kind,” and so gets applied to sex as different genders, but the most common way it’s used in language is literally in language, to refer to the “masculinity” or “femininity” of a word, an idea tracing all the way back to Aristotle. Gender is then, actually, the way we talk about the differences between the sexes.

So, for the next article, and in my own use, this is how it breaks down:

  • Sex: Is the primary genetic expression of a person. Either that, or the interaction between them, when used as a verb.
  • Gender: Is the way a person identifies themselves. This is an important distinction to be able to make once issues like transgender and transvestite enter into things. Just because you’re swinging dick doesn’t mean you identify as “masculine.” Nor does it mean you should have to, because gender is, put softly, fucked up.

I’m going to make a pretty assertive set of statements now. One is that there is in fact a difference between males and females. or rather, several. And they all come down to genetic expression and hormones. If you don’t believe men and women are different, all you need to do is take off their pants.

That’s where differences should stop. It’s unfortunate that they don’t, and that’s where our use of gender steps in. Between historical, anthropological, and societal differences and expectations of people based on what sexual phenotype they exhibit, we have a set of preconceptions about what makes a person “a man” or a “woman.” But, within every society, these gender roles and expectations will exist to varying degrees, and will frequently impact any discussion about sex and its application and purpose. Sexism is the big term bandied about, but I’d say genderism is a term we should also be aware of, as the pressure to conform to narrow gender roles is probably damaging our society more than sexism itself. Speaking of sexism, though, let’s move on to the next part of this discussion.

Talking about sex in our society even beyond sex versus gender has some problems, because we use one term indiscriminately for three separate ideas. Namely, who we address our own desires and impulses regarding sexual intercourse and our comfort with those, how we are treated based on our apparent sex type, and how we as a society treat the idea of sexual attraction. For convenience, let’s break these ideas down like into these three terms:

  • Sexuality is how we identify our urges, how we act upon them, and how comfortable we are acknowledging them and accepting them.
  • Sexism is a type of discrimination based on preconceptions about what people with different sexual attributes roles are in society.
  • Sexualism is how society pushes for and address sexual attraction as a necessary, or at least important, force.

“Untitled #38″ by Bill Hendersen

So, for example, if you’re complain about sex in relation to the work of Australian photographer Bill Hensen, you’re probably talking about sexualism. Because he’s shooting nude photographs of pubescent individuals. If you’ve read much about Hensen, how he gets permission from the custodians as well as the models, how they’re all on set together, and how what he’s exploring is that awkward transition from a non-sexual person into sexual beings, you’d know that the truth is his work speaks out about sexuality, not sexualism. I’ll go into more next post when we talk about how all three aspects of sex and their bastard cousin gender affect art, and how we should address them, but this is a pretty notorious example of where the language to adequately discuss these thoughts is typically broken down.

 

Before we wrap up this segment, though, I need to get a few things out of the way. Sex and gender are complicated issues, and they overlap and feed into each other a lot. And worst still, we’ve arrived where we have for a variety of reasons. Some you can almost wrap your head around (the statistical likelihood of a man being larger or stronger making them more historically preferred for combat, for example), some much less so (religiously established patriarchies come to mind). It’s not a subject you can be impartial on. I’ll try to give things a fair shake when I can, but I’m going to declare my biases here and now so you can expect them:

I think gender roles suck. I’m generally considered an effeminate guy for a variety of reasons, including my penchant for suits, how I wear rings, that I don’t trim my nails short, etc… Even intellectuals who should really know better will sometimes joke about me being “a girl,” which really helps show that the notion of gender is so ingrained in us we’re often unaware of it. That’s dangerous. And, it’s increasingly affecting both genders as more and more men want to break away from this backwards notion of being emotionally distant, liking cars and contact sports, and all the other baggage that makes a person “a man.”

I think the Women’s Flat Track Association has currently proposed the most fair definition of sex and gender I’ve heard yet when they defined what counts as a “woman” for the ladies’ roller derby. The breakdown? If you identify and live as a woman, and have hormone levels a medical provider is willing to say fall within medically acceptable for that identification, you’re a woman. Same if you’re a man. I’m going to go one step further: if you’re intersex or otherwise compelled to not identify with other, preferring to be neuter, go for it. Gender identification is a big ball of complication that just gets in the way of us all just being folk and having to decide what we think of each other based on who we actually are.

Such things are apparently dangerous.

If the only reason you think genders need to be treated differently is because a holy book told you so, I will despise you. If you claim to be Christian and still believe that, I’ll despise you twice for mixing up Old Testament ideaologies with the much more progressive teachings of the New Testament just because they serve your confirmation bias.

Also, be aware I do identify as a feminist. I also identify with and advocate men’s rights. I do this because the goal of both are to make sure that regardless of your genetic junk, everyone gets treated the same. They both have their failings. It’s not hard to find examples of hard feminism where to restore power to women men become victimized (my mom cheers for the protagonist in Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” I side with Glenn Sacks’ assessment that if you can flip the genders and become outraged, it’s not feminism.) That said, men’s rights aren’t princes either, and if I see one more poorly argued stance against raped laws because of the possibility the girl might be lying (something which should never be assumed, given the nature of that form of crime and how it affects the victims and their psyche), I’m going to scream. But, in theory, both want to create a truly level playing field, so I believe in both. Women have a worst time with sexism, but I’d both sexes are now truly under attack by genderism, especially as its wielded in commercial material.

And that’s exactly what next post is about. See you then.