Wednesday, June 29, 2005

References? Pooh.

“References are unavoidable, whatever kind of painter you are. That is, at once, painting's strength and a frightening limitation; it is, in a nutshell, painting's difficulty.” -The Guardian, June 28, 2005

I think this is true, and I do not think it is specific to painting, or even art.

Having been painting in my apartment for years and not really showing my work, I have had some difficulty hearing other people describe my art in terms of who it reminds them of, or other artists they think I should like. While the latter can be fantastic, the former can be fatal. For example, today I started on a new direction in a new piece. While I was absorbed in my painting and my new CD, the custodian came in, and couldn’t resist interrupting. “Is that Winnie-the Pooh, or something?” he said, totally innocent of the fact that I absolutely loathe Disney (I doubt he meant Milne’s drawings) to the point where I believe that said corporation is the Anti-Christ of the animation world. Now I am left with the dilemma: do I leave the offending bear (which really, if you know cartoons, looks nothing like Disney’s perversion of Pooh, except in the fact that it is a cartoon bear), or do I try and modify or remove it to erase the memory of its perceived (by some) similarity to something I hate? I mean, if I really wanted to paint Winnie-the-Fucking-Pooh, you’d know it without having to ask what it was!

Sorry, it was just an innocent comment, but I really hate Disney.

The problem is, it won’t stop with cartoon bears. It’s all been done, so they say. There’s nothing new left in visual art, short of creating new media. (I’m sure the same things are said to writers, musicians, and others.) The references to other works of art will come, no matter who you are or how you paint. But what do they know? Who died and made them Elvis? Do we tell scientists to stop their work because it’s all been done? Duh! Why is it assumed that art is different- somehow limited by human imagination where other endeavors are not? Is it possible that something so personal and universal, and inherently creative, could run out of ideas?

Anyway, my point is, of course everything will remind some people of something else. It’s partly the way our brains work, making associations to help our decision-making survival skills. Artists should, for the most part, ignore these observations and continue with their own discoveries, or even better: if possible, artists should turn such comments on their heads and use them to their own advantage. Unless they actually like Disney.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

well-put. your unveiled convictions are refreshing.

1:20 PM  

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