New York City and the Chickadees
Am I starting to have this reputation for being too critical about conventional subjects often depicted by bourgeoning artists?
If yes, please allow me to clarify. I have always said that art done by amateurs is as valid as the one done by professionals because it contributes to the health and happiness of our many diverse communities. All forms of art and creativity are respectable because they are the product of the artists’ exploration of their own self, a manifestation of their individuality. However, life is all about evolution; art as society has to progress too. Too many artists today are repeating and repeating the same old subjects in the same old ways. It seems that in 2016 many do not want to go beyond “modernism” which was reached around 1965 – half a century ago; or even Impressionism a century and a half ago. I have never asked my students to paint abstraction which by the way is unfairly associated with contemporary art; but to paint accordingly to their time, may it be a landscape, a portrait, an animal scene, or anything else. The only thing I repeat is… “not to repeat!”
Many of you know that I have been teaching art history and painting in a North American art school and Italy for more than two decades. As a professor, I always give the best of my intention to the best of my knowledge, just like any good parent would do with their children. I cannot teach only “simple” things in our highly complex world. I want to see an “evolution”, a transformation “of the self”. We (42 people) have just returned from New York city where, as always, saw great exhibits, great galleries, in brief great art. New York belongs, indeed to the great “artworld” as Arthur Danto defines it. For three full days in New York, while ambulating in the Met, the Guggenheim, the MoMA and the Chelsea galleries with my group of students, artists and art lovers, I passionately tried to convey the message that subjects such as “barns in the field, chickadees on pine branches with chunky snowflakes, swans in the sunset” (just google these topics) are simply over, unless they are painted differently or are accompanied by a strong concept. Even in the time of Baroque, “chickadees of all types” were relegated to porcelain painting, embroidery, marquetry, etc. But to great painting? So if in the great era of Baroque, they knew this already, why, do we still find paintings of “chickadees”?
My following posts will try to explain my understanding of art and its role in society. By doing so, it will also clarify the way we instruct during our painting workshops in Tuscany, the reason why we have, at Walk the Arts, so many returnees.