I submitted a painting to the MN State Fair fine arts competition and it was rejected. 3rd year in a row. When I get rejected from showing my work, it doesn’t devalue or invalidate my work or skill. I understand that some people have a different aesthetic, and that’s fine. I’m comfortable with what I do. But it does make me curious as to what DOES get accepted, so I tend to go to those shows and see. The State Fair is quite a mix of work- both subject, medium, technique and (IMO) quality. There’s a lot there that’s not what I personally like but that is clearly well-done art. Then there’s other stuff.
I’ve been thinking a lot about past and current art lately. Historically art has been used for many things, such as recording history (national, local and personal). Art is special though- it can at once record a portrait of someone and inspire it’s audience with its beauty and the skill of the artist. This can be accomplished in most any style and medium that I’ve seen. I believe art reaches it’s highest purpose when it creates in a person a realization that our lives are significant and important. That people are indeed specially and wonderfully made. That there is Someone who is infinitely more special and wonderful and that we are privileged to have a shadow of His ability to create.
More recently, it seems like art has been altered and redefined to such an extent that many people aren’t comfortable with it or able to understand it. Someone can take a urinal and affix it to the wall and call it art (as did Duchamp). When that happens, people detach from it and feel inadequate and uneasy, rather than uplifted and inspired. Art has lost part of its soul at this point. It’s become a propaganda tool. While I approve of using art for expression, there are two questions I would want others to ask. 1) Is what I’m expressing worth it? Am I experienced enough, smart enough, wise enough, and realistic enough to express this thought or purpose with authority? Would those who both know you well and who are honest agree? 2) Is the purpose of this expression good? Am I doing this to bring life or death? If your life is a mess and you’re miserable, don’t try to make a statement to society. That doesn’t mean stop making art or expressing yourself- just don’t try to persuade others to take your misery for their own.
Anyone can drag others down to new lows. As an artist privileged with skill, ability and vision, use that to create wonderful things. Not only on canvas, but in others.
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After a 2 1/2-year hiatus from painting I started again in earnest this past fall. One of the paintings I’ve finished is of the old part of the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. My wife and children have been there many times and always comment on how wonderful it is. I’ve never actually visited Mill City, although I’ve walked along the boardwalk where my reference picture was taken.
From the perspective of my artwork, painting buildings can be somewhat difficult. My paintings often straddle the line between representational images and organic cubism, meaning there can be elements of both what you see and geometric shapes. The “ruins” of Mill City Museum was particularly strange to paint in my style- few recognizable shapes, as well as lots of raw geometry and lines. I worked on the painting on and off for over 3 years, and never once liked what I’d painted on it until 10 minutes before I finished it. What can I say, I’m critical of my work 😀 It’s now one of my favorites.