“It’s The Shinning, Boy!”

While digging through a pile of canvases and old paintings of mine, I found this one. I had a period in my early 20’s where I explored different forms of expression. The canvas already had some paint on it when I got it as a twenty-something year old. I added my own ideas to it, and this is where it ended up. You can see I was already commenting on media and society even back then.

Take guess where the quote comes from.

The image seems to be forming a symbolic tension between the noisy background and the framed foreground/top layer. The gray frame, figure, and red gradient are applied thinly on top of the textured background, and really play off of the surface quality of the existing painted canvas. The central gray figure sticks its tongue out, tonally in line with the quote that is stenciled at the bottom. It’s snarky and sharp, but applied like graffiti on top of what was already there. Yet, stylistically the background is the part that is chaotic like graffiti, not the top layer of imagery. I was playing with how media fills the role of both a frame and a commentary, but only in a superficial way. Even in its commentary the mediastic content can’t get too far out of the noise from witch it comes.

Finding this old painting, and looking at it critically has reminded me of something a colleague of mine, DC Spensley, said once in a conversation a couple of years ago. He was explaining how he went into the home of a photographer friend that had passed away, and realized that all his friend’s work had instantly become junk. It was all left behind with little value, and was headed for the dump. DC proclaimed that as artists, all the material work we do just becomes junk at some point. That is unless we become wildly famous, which is as likely as winning the lottery. DC’s solution was to restart his art career as a digital/new media artist. I give him credit for coming to terms with that sifted paradigm.

DC had a compelling point, as smug and stinging as it was. In the post-medium, post-studio, post-modern(?) world where we live, the practice of making art is removed from a sense of categorical belonging. There is no way to tell where an art practice fits in the world just by viewing/participating/feeling it. As the Modern movement of last century made art autonomous from ideas like craft, kitsch and “life,” again there is a notion that art is apart and above traditional places of origin and display. All work becomes site specific with context providing the complete frame for a practice, not just a superfluous curiosity. Craft activities like knitting and paper folding, and digital creations like games and VR’s are political and meaningful in that within an art setting, they comment on the social institutions of art. It is a return to the belief that art transcends the world from which it comes, even as it is existentially tied to it for meaning. I’ve heard this shift called Alter-Modernism. DC’s proclamation has a sense of that to be sure.

In this discussion, I wonder how shifting valuation systems will play out in the art world. What happens to art in a world with a perplexing duality between scarcity of resources and an over-abundance of creative acts. How will the paradigm shift to accommodate resource heavy, material-based arts, and those who simply just create more bits in the digital abyss. Even as context is key, and our post-isms allow for it all, it still seems like the schisms between the veins of the art world are too large to allow for any sort of coherent discourse.

I, for one, always feel as though I am missing something in art conversations. (I haven’t flexed my art critical muscles for a while, so I am sure I am right now.) My underlying feeling that I never will be able to follow contemporary discourse is daunting. As an artist it becomes difficult to talk to other artists except in an oversimplified way, providing artists’ names to somehow provide examples of any point made (something I am extraordinarily bad at). Without a common history or common language, we all remain foreign to each other. Imposing any such history or language, though, just ends up stinking to Modernism.

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