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The Art Education Problem
ART Renewal Center ^ | FR Post 3-7-03 | Don Gray

Posted on 03/07/2003 7:23:46 AM PST by vannrox

If we are looking today for a general level of art of serious purpose, art with profound content supported by significant aesthetics, we will not find it. Contemporary art has failed.

If we are satisfied with superficial, artificial art that manipulates aesthetics for empty abstract, decorative effects, then we truly live in a "golden" artistic age ... for this kind of art is everywhere.

The degree of present-day artistic collapse, compared to the height of past artistic achievement, can be seen in the velocity and extent of precipitous decline during the 20th Century, increasing since World War II.

In our time, artists mechanically -- and temporarily -- scribe lines on museum walls, spread debris on museum floors (perhaps it is merciful that such works are not preserved for posterity), and make metal video robots that may wonderfully tell us how dehumanized we have become, but offer no suggestions on how to reverse the process.

We lost our connection with principle and enduring greatness in art (and life), when we lost connection with nature and with our own spiritual, poetic, artistic dimension. We lost connection with each other and with ourselves when we were overwhelmed by technology and the forces of societal and personal dehumanization. Our values -- artistic, spiritual, societal -- are in disarray. One aspect of this tragedy is that many don't even realize what happened to us and our art.

We hope for better things, more understanding, insight and integrity from future generations. But, unfortunately, the future continues to be corrupted by the present and recent past.

Young, would-be artists are subjected to the stale, dead, often perverse contemporary art ideas propagated by too many teachers of the day. Too many college and art school professors have lost their own way as artists, have little idea what genuine art is, and mindlessly espouse the distorted values, the fashionable cliches of contemporary art ...

... depersonalized design without character; theoretical, esoteric color and drawing; ritual gesture and mechanical relationships; meaningless formulas devoid of significant connection to the deepest thoughts and feelings of student-artists, unrelated to the meaning of life or to the visual and emotional reality of the world.

Too many art school graduates are ill-equipped to see the "art" in everyday life as did great artists of past centuries. They don't have the knowledge, insight or drawing and painting skills to create art from reality, to significantly translate their experience of life into art.

They have not been taught to dig deeply within themselves, to ask what they really need from art to fulfill themselves as artists and human beings, then use that awareness to excavate the raw material of the world. As far as they know, art is a closed narcissistic circle that does not include other human beings or the world. Art is aesthetic masturbation without communication. Tragically, most young artists don't realize they are clones of limited teaching unless they have an instinctive reaction, a sense that something isn't right even if they can't put it into words. How can most students tell a cliche from a timeless principle? It takes time and effort to earn that understanding. Or, if finally fed up with this educational process, they may react like the outraged college student who threw a wadded drawing in the face of the instructor who, when asked for help in drawing still-life ellipses, replied, "We don't worry about ellipses around here."

How many students give up in the face of non-information, disinformation and sometimes outright hostility from their teachers? A certain college art department could not understand why they had so few students, why their numbers were declining yearly. The answer was clear. The art professors were bitingly critical. Most of us would agree that such an attitude is not teaching, anymore than the passing on of degraded and degrading art fashions. To teach is to support the students, give them solid skills, do everything possible to awaken them to timeless art principles, the miracle of art, fill them with a passion for art they can build on for a lifetime.

There are obviously good art teachers. But the general impression of the college and university art educational system, based on the art produced by both students and faculty (like contemporary art itself) is decay.

Young artists need to be taught organic, vital, biting, powerful, personal drawing and painting. They need to draw and paint rutted cabbages, twisted tree roots, muscled forearms, aged heads, rocks, onions, rotten apples, cow pelvises and a hundred other things, and do it with character and strength. They need this more than they need the slick, clever, unfelt line and shape, the commercial swish and stain of brushwork unrelated to any reality, that are hallmarks of contemporary "draughtsmanship" and painting.

They need to be taught to see, to study an object so intensely they become one with it; the forms, color and character of reality and the world revealed to them. They must be given the aesthetic means to significantly express these timeless truths, each young artist responding in their unique way.

We will remain rootless as artists and art lovers if we thoughtlessly continue trying to build upon the insubstantial aesthetic mannerisms of contemporary art.

We need to rediscover the foundational principles of great art when it was still in touch with life, not to copy past styles, but to learn from genuine artists, be inspired by their example, commit ourselves to the search for styles, forms and subjects expressive of our own time and worthy of our humanity, now and for centuries to come. This is what the great artists of the past did.

The only way to build an artistic bridge to the future is to re-construct our link with the past that was destroyed by the pain, passions and corruptions of the 20th Century. Obviously, artists should do what they feel they must do, but almost anything else will result in a continuation of the present empty aesthetic floundering.

The rediscovery of the world and foundational principles in art involves as daring and revolutionary a search for the very nature of art and life as the Renaissance discovery of the world after a thousand years of medievalism. There is nothing more innovative and difficult that any of us have ever faced. But we need to do it ... for art, for ourselves, for our self-respect, and for future generations of mankind.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Canada; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Russia; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: art; classic; freedom; gallery; modern; new; real; realism; sciences; style; technique; trash
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Right on.
1 posted on 03/07/2003 7:23:46 AM PST by vannrox
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To: vannrox
There was a story in the Wall St Journal yesterday that made me think about this very topic. The story was about Samuel Waksal, founder of ImClone Systems (Martha Stewart financial scandal). But the angle was the selling of Art. The picture included a canvas by Mark Rothko known as "Untitled (Plum and Brown)"

What Rothko did, was paint an entire rectangular canvas Plum colored. Then, he painted a slightly smaller square which was Brown colored.

This was sold for $3.5M. I only which I had the skill to make art that was so fabulously beautiful (and profitable).

2 posted on 03/07/2003 7:45:27 AM PST by ClearCase_guy
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To: ClearCase_guy
which = wish
3 posted on 03/07/2003 7:46:22 AM PST by ClearCase_guy
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To: vannrox
I couldn't agree more. I strongly recommend that any young aspiring artist avoid the art schools. Go find a good teacher, an artist whose work you admire, someone who is willing to teach the craft. There are many ateliers - private studios - and you can learn so much more there. There are also workshops in most cities where you can learn from an accomplished artist. If you want a university degree get one in computer graphics or web design but if you want to learn how to paint, study with a master painter. Your money will be much better spent and you'll actually develop as an artist.
4 posted on 03/07/2003 8:01:34 AM PST by Sabatier
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To: Sabatier
My brother went to Cooper Union in NYC -- the school that if you're good enough to get in, your tuition is fully paid.

He says the same thing you do.
5 posted on 03/07/2003 8:04:25 AM PST by ladylib
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To: vannrox
Too many art school graduates are ill-equipped to see the "art" in everyday life

Seeing art in everyday life is still taught - see Marcel Dumcamp's fountain below. Everyday objects are too often overlooked for their aesthetic qualites by the general public and only when taken out of context can they been "seen". By the way this piece of "modern art" was done in 1917.

6 posted on 03/07/2003 8:12:40 AM PST by u-89
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To: ladylib
That's interesting to hear. I learned the hard way what a waste of time art school tends to be because the teachers have such a narrow agenda. A lot of artists make a decent living as painters but you would never know it when you go to art school, because they don't teach any real skills. It's the artists who know how to draw and paint who make a living doing portraits, landscapes, illustrations, etc., but don't assume art school will teach those skills!
7 posted on 03/07/2003 8:21:09 AM PST by Sabatier
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To: Sabatier
Do-it-yourself art education....I agree with the author of this article that art profs seldom bother to impart real techniques, but are famous for their nastiness and criticism. The implication is that your art should arise without any technical help from a master, that the master only dispenses contempt when you fail.

Private ateliers are the best answer, but anyone aspiring to create art can find a helpful master at a well-stocked book dealer/superstore like Barnes and Noble.

You would be AMAZED at the beauty and helpfulness of these art technique books! They are fabulous galleries of art even for those not exploring technique. For instance, the humble colored pencil is the best recipient of this blessing. Astonishing what can be done with this inexpensive media. I encourage any Freeper reading this who just loves to look at excellent, realistic, contemporary art to peruse what is offered on your nearby bookshelf.

8 posted on 03/07/2003 8:28:33 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: Sabatier
I also read somewhere that a lot of artists don't even know how to draw.
9 posted on 03/07/2003 8:30:41 AM PST by ladylib
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To: Mamzelle
You are so right. Also, more and more museums and galleries are on-line with parts of their collections and that's worth checking out, too.
10 posted on 03/07/2003 8:31:36 AM PST by Sabatier
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To: vannrox
The visual fine arts have become far less relevant after the invention of photography. Artists were no longer the primary recorders of history and culture. They are left only with aesthetic premutations to keep art interesting to themselves.
Others seek to regain relevance (and attention) by shock tactics, but it is all a farce - they're only preaching to the gallery-going choir. They will never approach the socio-political impact of a photo journalist, documentary producer, or even the most hack editorial cartoonist.
But, on a slightly different track, art education in the PRIMARY grades has been linked to better performance and visualization skills in "practical" disiplines, such as math. So, let the kiddies splash poster paints around and screen leaf outlines to take home. (or, as a comic once said, "I went to a Children's Art Museum, all the paintings were displayed on refrigerators!")
11 posted on 03/07/2003 8:33:50 AM PST by pollwatcher
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To: vannrox
Actually there is a big difference between non-representational painting i.e. abstract art and what is currently chic in high cultural circles. The abstract painters of old were trained in classical art and excelled at it but they learned from experience that there is beauty in simple color and shape relationships and beauty in the medium itself and in some cases applied paint to the canvas in a manner which allowed the qualities of the paint to be appreciated in their own right.

Today however there is a strong movement of anti-art. This grew from the communist/leftist desire to politicize every aspect of life in order to undermine the culture. Today the political statement is everything. In short there is a focus not on inspiration drawn from beauty but dwelling on the ugly for political purposes, the more outrageous the better as long as it undermines traditional values. Also egalitarianism run amuck has led to the relaxing of certain levels of standards to throwing them out all together.

12 posted on 03/07/2003 8:34:28 AM PST by u-89
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To: Sabatier
Off my own shelf: "Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques" and "Encyclopedia of Illustration Techniques." The Martin publisher has a series of straighforward but beautiful technique books...

These books are not the cheapest reading in the store, but compared to one worthless course at your local prestigious university...eighteen bucks isn't too bad. And I have sat down at B&N and done some studying at their expense...but I *did* buy lots of coffee.

13 posted on 03/07/2003 8:36:12 AM PST by Mamzelle
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To: ladylib
Drawing is one of those skills you can work at for a lifetime and always keep improving!
14 posted on 03/07/2003 8:39:42 AM PST by Sabatier
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To: Mamzelle
Way to go:)
15 posted on 03/07/2003 8:41:01 AM PST by Sabatier
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To: Sabatier; vannrox
ARC is an interesting and informative website.

I majored in art in college, with a specialty in painting, 35 years ago. However, it was just as you guys say, nothing was really taught, they looked for "cutting edge" originality, but did not give students the tools needed for even basic art. Not to mention that timelessness is what should be the goal, not some trendy "cutting edge" bs that will be gone tomorrow.

So, though I had meant to make it my career, I drifted into another field. 34 years later, though, I am back to painting, and finding by myself, in later life, the education that I missed the first time around. I am doing this through workshops, searching out the right profs at local colleges, and research through reading, and even the internet. I am learning to see, to draw, to understand the human figure, color palette, establishing value, traditional indirect glazing methods, all the things that nobody even mentioned much in college, back in the late 60's.

I am tremendously excited by all this, my wife of 29 years says she has never seem me happier in all our years together.

I am much interested in chatting about art with any freepers who are also interested.

BTW, good article.
16 posted on 03/07/2003 8:46:39 AM PST by Sam Cree
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To: u-89
I am always kind of amazed at the peristent leftism of the art community. For a segment of society that should prize free expression, they rarely fail to embrace a political philosophy that demands authoritarianism and regulation.

I much prefer representational stuff, but agree that all art, or all nature for that matter, can be broken down to abstract shapes and forms. So purely abstract art, IMO, cannot necessarily be dismissed out of hand, it is very capable of being beautiful in its own right.
17 posted on 03/07/2003 8:52:19 AM PST by Sam Cree
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To: u-89
see Marcel Dumcamp's fountain below...

That would be Marcel Duchamp, not Dumcamp

Duchamp was a member of the Dadaist movement, one of who's aims were to ridicule the snobbery of the art intelligensia. They were nihilists and anarchists.

That piece of work you highlighted was a "piss take" in more than one sense.

18 posted on 03/07/2003 8:56:53 AM PST by Wil H
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To: u-89
You can't blame the collapse of art on the commies. Their officially acceptable art was very traditional. Stale, lifeless but traditional. The great artists who lived under Soviet rule: Malevich, Kandinsky, and the Suprematists either wound up in the gulag, officially disappoved or fled. Proletarian Realism may be crappy but much better than Rothko, Pollack, or the other charletans we are cursed with.
The Nazis also hated modern art.

All modern art is not ridiculous even when abstract or non-objective.
19 posted on 03/07/2003 9:00:11 AM PST by justshutupandtakeit ( Its time to trap some RATS)
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To: justshutupandtakeit
I do believe the Nazis had quite an appreciation for Art Deco, which was pretty definitely modern(e).
20 posted on 03/07/2003 9:04:47 AM PST by Sam Cree
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