Crashing Matters??



“Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” Coco Chanel (from The Painter’s Keys)

One writer sees the culture of creative people as “crashing” leading him to lament about the state of the current art world. He believes artists are seen as “cultural elites” “idle dreamers” or “self-indulgent parasites.” Perhaps he should get out more and take a look at where the productive artists are. His descriptions may fit artists in the places that think of themselves as centers of the art world among people who decide what is and isn’t art. Most of today’s working artists are outside of that world and too busy making art to care.

Scott Timberg has written two articles, one for Salon and one for Arts Journal Blogs, and now a book on the demise of the creative class. He mourns the downfall of the “creatives” and discusses possible causes of what he sees as the current creative crisis. While Timberg may have valid points, he is, quite possibly, missing the bigger picture. In my opinion, only one area of the creative class is dropping. And that area may be one of “idle dreamers,” “cultural elites” and “self-indulgent parasites.” It seems likely, the art world Timberg writes of has created this gang of dreamers, elites and parasites and is now reaping the consequences.

If there truly is a “crashing” of the creative culture, is it not the natural order of things? When a group no longer serves a purpose, it ceases to exist. Many of today’s working artists are entrepreneurs. They don’t have time or inclination to engage in elitism or idle dreaming. And they wouldn’t survive long as parasites. Timberg’s creative culture may be crashing but the rest of the creative world has too much to do to pay attention. They are focused on making art and that’s all that matters.


Cooking With Art


“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Harriet Van Horne (from Brainyquote)

An art theft in the 1970’s has finally been solved. The story is told by the Los Angeles Times of the recent discovery of two paintings stolen from a private residence in London. The thieves disguising themselves as a policeman and an alarm engineer made off with the paintings. However, these wily thieves apparently did not think through the rest of their plan. Once in possession of the priceless paintings, one Gauguin and one Bonnard, they couldn’t figure out what to do with them. Eventually, the paintings were abandoned on a train. That alone should deserve a huge jail sentence! No word in the story on if the thieves were ever caught.

Enter an unsuspecting Italian autoworker looking to add a bit of artistic flare to his home décor, picks up the two paintings at auction for little more than a song. The two paintings hang in his kitchen for years until a relative comments on the resemblance of one painting to another Gauguin painting. That must have been one snazzy kitchen! Anyhow the autoworker does the right thing and reports the paintings.

Several questions come to mind from this story. How did the thieves get away? Who found the paintings on the train? How did they make it to the auction? What kind of auction lets two paintings of this value slip through for about 30 dollars? The whole story sounds pretty fishy. If one were a conspiracy type, it wouldn’t take much to wonder if perhaps this whole thing was staged for insurance money or something similar. No word on whether the original owners (now dead) made a claim. Or this story could be simply two more cunningly stupid art thieves.

Never the less the story is quite intriguing. A savvy kitchen decorator with an eye for art picks up two priceless paintings for a pittance. With that kind of art in the kitchen, no telling what gastronomical delights were being cooked up. Perhaps the now retired autoworker will publish a book of recipes from his kitchen art gallery. Cooking with Art by the retired autoworker would likely sell infinitely better than How to Profit from Stealing Priceless Art by the two hapless thieves

Hatching Art Eggs


“Hibernation is a covert preparation for a more overt action.” Ralph Ellison (from The Painter’s Keys)

It’s easy to think art just happens. An artist sits down at the easel and paint flows into something beautiful or meaningful or whatever. This hand, holding a brush, flows across the canvas and a painting appears. Presto! Maybe for some, that is what happens. For others, there may be a down time, a time to incubate ideas. What happens if that down time becomes a protracted period of hibernation? Is it time to panic and give up? Maybe go hang out on the beach for a while? What if inspiration never comes back again?

According to, downtime for inspiration incubation was necessary for poets, T.S. Eliot and Keats. The website quotes Eliot as saying, “We do not know until the shell breaks, what king of egg we have been sitting on.”  It’s the sitting on the egg part that is so difficult. It could take months to develop that particular egg. Most eggs take their sweet time hatching. They won’t be hurried. They’ll hatch when they are good and ready. What can be done while the incubation is in process?

One can give in to panic or take a cue from Horton, the elephant. Give in to panic and fly off to Palm Beach to lie around on the beach like Mayzie, the lazy bird from the Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hatches the Egg. Mayzie dumped her egg onto someone else to hatch while she played in the sun.   The heck with this sitting on the egg thing! The beach is way more fun. Or follow Horton’s plan and reap the surprise of what can happen when the egg hatches. Make a choice: Mayzie or Horton? What’s it gonna be? You never know what might fly out of that egg.

Here’s Horton and his infamous egg:







Who’s an Artist?


“I never said I was a genius.”  Orson Welles  (from Brainyquote)

Is there a set of characteristics that must be possessed in order to be worthy of being called an artist?  Many people are hesitant to call themselves artists even though they are actively engaged in creating some form of art.  When asked, a person might say, “I’m a painter,” but not say, “I am an artist.”  Or there are writers who claim to be writers but not artists.  And how about the photographers?  When was the last time one of them said, “I am an artist?”  It may all be tied into the actual definition of the word, “artist.”

New research suggests a large number of people engaged in artistic endeavors as a career do not call themselves artists.  Tom Jacobs, writing for the Pacific Standard, examines the subject.  Jacobs outlines recent research done by Columbia and Rutgers University researchers revealing how many people doing artistic work don’t associate themselves with being an artist.  Jacobs concludes with a quote from the movie Bullets Over Broadway, in a statement from the actor, confusing being an artist with being a genius.  Is it possible this confusion is at home in the minds of people in general?

The confusion may originate in the actual dictionary definition of an artist. defines an artist as: (a) a person who produces works in any of the arts that are subject to aesthetic criteria and (b) as a person of exceptional skill.  Its no wonder people are confused. It could be that many artists don’t wish to appear to be claiming to be a genius.  The title of “artist” may be reserved for when the nebulous pinnacle is reached, whenever that may be.  Or to many, being called an “artist” may not be important, at all.

Perhaps the geniuses can sort this one out.  The rest are too busy making art

Vexing Vexations

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“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.”  Antonio Banderas (from Brainyquote)

All artists experience frustration at some time or other.  It is a fact of life.  How one chooses to handle the frustration can make a huge difference.  Or not.  Fantasizing about destruction of another’s artwork may have occurred in the thought processes of some artists at one time or other.  Most people will grumble a bit.  Others will, perhaps, voice a few well-chosen descriptive words.  Some may even take to a blog to spout some derogatory witticisms.  Few will act out of violence toward another artist.

One artist recently vented his frustrations by very publically destroying the one million dollar work of another artist, (see note below).  His frustration was supposedly due to the gallery in question’s statement of intent to support local artists.  The destroyed artwork was by an artist who was not local. While the frustration is understandable, what purpose does violence toward another artist serve?  Or is this a case of civil disobedience?

In Max Ehrman’s famous Desiderata is the quote, “Avoid loud and aggressive people as they are vexatious to the spirit.”  While the frustration is understandable the reaction is quite vexing.  Where does smashing artwork get anybody beyond the “15 minutes of fame” spotlight?  It did call attention to the galleries statement.  That could result in possibly a few more pieces by somebody local.  But long-term change seems doubtful from this bit of destructive violence.

Insight from the blog, Johan Turdenmeier’s Miscellany pinpoints the innate problem with this behavior.  “I wonder when if ever the vexatious person will notice they are the cause of other’s retreat.  If they have any idea that they’re behavior is literally sucking the spirit out of their companions.”  Violence does suck the spirit out of those around it.  The art- smashing artist is probably wondering where his friends are about now.

Had this artist taken the time to examine his frustration a bit he might have come up with a less vexing response.  Organizing a protest would have been a good start.  His friends may have joined him for that.  The publicity would undoubtedly have been more favorable, not to mention the optics.  When expressing vexations it is always better to avoid vexing potential supporters.  Vexing the target problem would have garnered significantly less vexation and possibly led to future reductions in vexatious-ness.  We could all get behind that.

(This account is purposely not reporting the artist’s name or the gallery in order to not assist in perpetuating more of this behavior.   We observe the 15 minutes of fame rule whenever possible. We hope the smasher’s 15 minutes are now over.)


If you would like to read more there are accounts at these links:


More from Johan Turdenmeier can be found at the blog:

300,000 Clues for the Clueless

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“Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it.”  David Hockney (from Brainyquote)

Why does anyone have a “summit” on a topic?  Usually it is because they have discovered they are clueless and hoping a summit will give them a clue.  It happens in all fields.  When something has gone stagnant or worse, the powers that be convene a summit.  For the summit, they invite all the players who contributed to the current state of stagnation and ask them to come up with:Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 10.56.10 AM

  1. Why they are stagnant?
  2. Who has not gone stagnant and why?
  3. What ideas do they have to stop or reverse the stagnation?

What is the innate problem with a summit of this type?  Namely, it is basically asking the clueless why they don’t have a clue and how can they get one.  They brainstorm together over all the different ways they are currently stagnant.  They talk about who isn’t stagnant.  Then they discuss ways to become even more stagnant.  The clueless never think to go to those who are not clueless and ask them how to get a clue.  The reason is that the clueless:

  1. Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 10.57.28 AM   Don’t realize they are clueless
  2.    Can’t imagine themselves to be clueless
  3.    Think it is everybody else who is clueless.

However clueless a summit might be, it is good first step to understanding there is a problem.  Such is the case for last fall’s A National Summit on Arts Journalism.  In the brainstorming sessions the following points were put forth:

  • “We’re here to imagine a new arts press”
  • “We’ve lost the vocabulary with which to talk about it”
  • “We no longer have a community of practice that can incubate and power innovation”

(In other words, we no longer control what is or isn’t art.  We don’t know what to say anymore.  How can we get our power and control back?)

Probably the most important point discussed in this “summit” was that there are now roughly 300,000 or more art blogs.  The response from the summit attendees was, “Thoughtful and deeply-informed critical voices have a tough time getting support for their work.”  And therein lies the crux of the problem.  Perhaps their voices are not being heard because they are not saying anything anyone wants to hear. A truly “thoughtful and deeply-informed” voice might turn to a few of those 300,000 art blogs and try listening to someone else’s voice for a change.  Somewhere within those 300,000 art blogs may be the seeds to provide a clue for the clueless.  But first they will have to get their heads out of the water, stop spinning around, face forward, and listen for the clues.Screen shot 2014-02-05 at 11.00.56 AM

Outside Inside

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“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling (from Skinnyartist)

What happens when the Insiders become stale and must seek new inspiration?  The only option is to look outside.  It has always been so and now more than ever.  Insiders jump from fad to fad, novelty to novelty, always searching for the next greatest thing in art.  There is no backbone or grounding to those who are constantly seeking the new and different.  There are no depths to plunder.  Lacking that core of inner strength for guidance, the inside must find other sources.  As the traditional centers of art no longer hold the power and the purse strings they once did, art is thriving on the outside.

In an article for The Atlantic, Sarah Boxer has written about the wave of artists who do not come from the Insider Art Schools or the Insider Art World.  Boxer states, “Art fairs, biographies, retrospectives and collections are springing up in the name of outsider art.”  Boxer goes on to talk about the difficulty this presents for the insiders and states “There is something about outsider art that still eludes the insiders.”  Insiders apparently just don’t get outsiders.

Outsiders, by the very fact that they are outsiders, choose to seek their own counsel.  Not being privy to what is going on “inside” gives outsiders the freedom to work without the constraints of trying to fit in with the current fashion.  Most outsiders likely don’t care what is or isn’t “in” at the moment.  Outsiders follow what is in their own heart, their own vision.  Outsiders are not concerned with the hearts and visions of the insiders or anybody else.  Outsiders are true to themselves.  While insiders don’t understand, they do their level best to bring the outsiders inside for the next latest fad.  For the outsiders, the dilemma is to remain outside while going inside.

Selfie Saturation

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“I love how the most insecure people on Facebook are the ones who post a new self-portrait every 6 hours.” Unknown (from

Who hasn’t been bombarded with selfies lately?  Everywhere you turn someone somewhere is posting a ridiculous image of him or herself doing something amazingly unentertaining.  Selfies are the visual counterpart on social media of the numerous people who write every detail of their personal day, as they go about it.  “I had toast for breakfast.”   The selfie posters show pictures of themselves eating the toast instead of writing about it.  Occasionally, someone happens to post a selfie that is actually very entertaining but they are the exception.

Journalist, Jerry Saltz, has an article titled, “Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie,” for, stating the selfie phenomena is, “a very big deal for the art world.”  Saltz says the selfie is “a new visual genre.”  Can he be serious?  Maybe the selfie has social or anthropological significance, but to the art world?  Will we soon be attending gallery openings of selfie exhibits?  Possibly.  But does this not appear to be another fad?  Another novelty that will soon wear off as we get tired of people’s obsession with taking pictures of themselves?

The article makes comparisons with Van Gogh’s self portraits and other masters to today’s selfie pics.  Some selfie’s are witty but compared to Van Gogh?  That’s seems a bit like comparing The Real Housewives to Shakespeare.   Rembrandt’s self portraits are nothing short of amazing.  Bonnard’s self portrait brought tears to my eyes at the depth of emotion evident.  So far, not one selfie has produced even a hint of a tear.  That could change as the stage of total selfie overload is reached bringing on tears of sheer frustration.  Anybody else have selfie saturation?

Matters of the Artful Heart

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“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.”  ~Schumann (from

As research continues into how the brain responds to art, one journalist is questioning whether art is being reduced to a basic scientific formula.  Why do we need to know how the brain responds to different types or styles of art?  Does this matter to artists or art lovers?

Tiffany Jenkins of The Scotsman, has an article titled, “Art is more than brain deep.”  Jenkins cites research being carried out at University College London by Professor Semir Zeki on neuroaesthetics.  According to Jenkins, Professor Zeki is working to define how and what in the brain determines beauty.  Apparently defining beauty by the brain’s reaction will assist artists, galleries and assorted “others” interested in making, marketing or presenting art in the decision process of what is defined as “beautiful.”

Jenkins is right in her argument that art should not be reduced to a scientific formula but does that really matter?  A scientific formula based on brain reaction does not necessarily follow that the heart will also react.  A work can create a brain response that may or may not be reciprocated by the heart.  Scientific formula based art will still lack heart.  Any art without heart will likely not speak to another heart.  Art decisions made by true artists and art lovers will be made from the heart, not the brain.  It is great to understand brain responses to art, but the most important response is and has always been the response of the heart.  Is anyone studying that response?  It’s the only one that matters.

The Artfully Unique Brain

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“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament.” Oscar Wilde (from Brainyquote)

Does art have the power to reach the brain in unique ways?  Do certain artworks directly connect with the deep inner recesses of the brain?  Does art have a brain pathway to who we are as unique individuals?  These are the questions asked by a team of neuroscientists in a recent research project.  The findings suggest a brain connection to how people respond to different types of art that is as unique as the individual.

The Arts Journal has posted an article appearing in the Pacific Standard by Tom Jacobs titled, “Mapping the Brain’s Response to Art.”  Jacobs sums up the latest research at New York University’s Center for Brain Imaging by a team headed by Edward Vessel and first appearing in Frontiers of Neuroscience.  Vessel’s team mapped brain responses to the viewing of art in individuals.  The findings show the brain has a distinct reaction to certain works of art.  Each person’s reaction is directly related to the unique identity of the individual.

It would appear from this research that a universal style or type of art may not be possible as the reactions to different works of art were as different as the people themselves.  The researchers were able to show the exact activation of certain parts of the brain to the art.  They found the reaction to be unpredictable in which work of art would set it off in each person.

Art unequivocally produces a brain connection creating the response of a moving experience.  The reactions, according to the research, suggest why some art appeals to some and not to others.  This confirms art as vital to human life, to who we are as people.  It also explains why some people have the ability to connect with an eggbeater as art, while others do not.  Therefore, unique artists can uniquely continue creating unique art.  It is likely there are unique people whose unique brains uniquely respond to the unique work of a unique artist with a unique temperament.

*photo is a unique strand of Spanish moss