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Jun 27 2010

Art Week at last: read it and weep

Jill Is Great

Faster Family Art Factory, Jill Is Great, Collection of Spinster HQ, Gift of the Faster Nieces, 2010. The idea is legitimized by the frame!

When rape apologists and misogynist pervs defend their crap-ass pornography as art, I say let’em. Well, first I say fuck’em, because they’re sociopaths. But then I say let’em. Let’em have that splintery old bone of contention. So what if Paddy the Pornographer calls his deviantART voyeurfest “art”? What’s the big whoop? Fine, it’s art already. You’re still a fucking perv exploiter motherfucker.

That’s right, I’m saying pornography is art. Take a Xanax. It’s not like art is God or something. The way I see it, art has no problem sinking to the level of pornography.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can get down to the business of radical feminist critique of that shit. We can get on with the case against art of violence, art of oppression, art of human suffering, art of titillation. If pornographers don’t have to defend pornography as art, we can force’em to defend it as good art. Which is of course impossible! Good art is informed by Truth ‘n’ Beauty, not by violence, oppression, human suffering, and titillation.

A feminist critique of art calls for a demystification of the academic canon of Great Dude Masters Through the Ages anyway, and of the creative process in general. Get Art down off its high horse. Give women and people of color their due. Legitimize once and for all those traditionally undervalued, non-white-dude art forms: pottery, tapestry, embroidery, quilting, illuminated manuscripts, potholders made out of poodle hair on Etsy.

Art, art, art. Art isn’t holy. It doesn’t float on gossamer truth-wings in a rarefied aether of absolute beauty. Art is merely the graphic representation of ideas, presented from a point of view. Good ideas, bad ideas, medium ideas, ideas that other people have had already, ideas that initially seem clever but get kind of old once the novelty wears off, startling ideas, political ideas, glorious ideas, ideas that fucking stink.

A few ideas typical of those that find their way into art:

Symmetry
Horse
Angst
Orange
Square
Rectangle
Hopelessness
Buy This
God Can Kick Your Ass
War Is Bad
Flowers Are Pretty
Less Is More
Women Are Whores
The State Is Glorious
Dudes Are Great!
Whoring Is Great, Too!
Look At These Fucking Naked Chicks Taking A Bath In The Woods!

Like I said, not all ideas are good ideas, and not all representations are philosophically legitimate representations. Artifying an idea doesn’t automatically legitimize it. Some ideas, such as “the male gaze reigns supreme” and “women enjoy oppression,” not only suck, they are so violent and antisocial that it is impossible to represent them without harming innocents.

Some art — this is the rarest kind — enbiggens its audience. I allude to the sort of crap that, when you look at it, seamlessly transmits to you its philosophic value. Suddenly you yearn to get off your ass and foment unrest, or wish to do good works in the community, or vow to start eating better, or sign up for a class, or experience something grave, excellent and out of the ordinary, or go “ha!”, or regard the status quo with renewed suspicion.

Certainly lots of art, such as advertising graphics, or Koons’ “Michael Jackson and Bubbles”, which is the graphic representation of vacuous excess, ensmallens its audience. Some art merely has a null value, like the framed poster of Monet’s water lilies hanging in your dentist’s office. Most public art is created for money and/or propaganda; both money and propaganda, it is widely agreed, ensmallen those caught in their respective vorteces of evil.

Pornography does not merely ensmallen, however; it actively devours Truth ‘n’ Beauty. Pornography is the graphic representation of rape, presented from the point of view that rape is awesome.

Like everything else, all art proceeds from the auspices of patriarchy, and the vast majority of it replicates patriarchal mores. “Pure” art, that is, art that is unsullied by commerce, oppression, or patriarchal hegemony, may exist, but I doubt it. For that to happen, post-patriarchal conditions would have to obtain, at which point art itself would, paradoxically, be irrelevant and meaningless.

Cheerio!

80 comments

4 pings

  1. Jon

    Back in the ’80′s some friends and I did a thing called “concerned citizens against art”. We never quite made our point because we never quite agreed as to what our point might be. What we were trying to say is what you just said. Thanks so much. Really. I feel better for having read this post.

  2. sargassosea

    No weeping, only swooning.

  3. Cara

    “Pure” art, that is, art that is unsullied by commerce, oppression, or patriarchal hegemony, may exist, but I doubt it. For that to happen, post-patriarchal conditions would have to obtain, at which point art itself would, paradoxically, be irrelevant and meaningless.

    Thank you.

  4. janna

    So was Art Week delayed while you completed that very excellent painting?

  5. Mary Tracy9

    I respectfully disagree. I think Art only enbiggens its audience. And if something ensmallens or destroys the audience, then it’s not art.

  6. Comrade PhysioProf

    Finally!

    Fuck art.

  7. Fede

    Yes! To define something as art is not tantamount to endorsing it. The fact that people don’t agree on this can just derail any art discussion. Especially if the work of art being discussed is vile. But how is vile art not art?

    Along the same lines, the distinction between art and entertainment is pretty dubious. Maybe art has loftier goals than entertainment; it often purports to, anyway, but what kind of distinction is that? The difference is one of degree, perhaps, not of class. And even then, what we are really comparing is not art to entertainment, but specifically Truth ‘n’ Beauty art versus callous commercialism.

    Ergh, and how it tires me when porn enthusiasts think they made some kind of point by arguing succesfully that the favorable representation of rape is to be considered art. So the fuck what, fuckwad? When I pitch a fork in your eyeball and spray paint your head golden, I am saying something profound about comedy and the goddamn male gaze, and that, too, is art. Apart from both being art, one is a crime against humanity and the other is illegal.

  8. gabby

    reading this is the first time i’ve actually felt like i understood Art, and i’ve been trying to make it for 20 years! thank you.

  9. Jill

    I respectfully disagree. I think Art only enbiggens its audience. And if something ensmallens or destroys the audience, then it’s not art.

    I was once like you, MaryTracy9. But then I got to thinkin that the only way to destroy the academy — and destroy it we must — is to let anyone into the club who wants in. Strip art of its mystique. Reveal it for what it is: a by-product of oppression.

  10. Comrade PhysioProf

    All art is propaganda. The only question is what interest it serves.

    Fuck art.

  11. Carpenter

    I mostly agree with your analysis about art and ensmallening art. However I am not quite as negative about how much art is value positive or neutral. I don’t know if I agree that ‘all art proceeds from the auspices of patriarchy,’. That is kind of like saying all thought proceeds from the auspices of patriarchy. I am more inclined to believe that the patriarchy informs a bunch of ideas expressed in art, and that the patriarchy legitimizes art that agrees with current patriarchal mores. But I wouldn’t say this pertains to all art, especially if we are counting small scale personal project crafts, music and dance. Unless we are talking about the difference between ‘Art’ and ‘art’.

  12. humanbein

    I agree completely. Who the fuck put art up on that stupid pedestal, anyway? It’s like music. Everyone makes art all the time, if they think of it. The mere fact that we don’t think of makes our lives smaller. Every time you slap together anything you have a chance to do it with art or without. It might only take the merest nanosecond of appreciation. That sandwich? Art. That post on the blog? Art. How good is it? Good enough to love for a moment and move on.

    Art is reality, and the pedestal is the artifice.

  13. humanbein

    The Faster Nieces rule!

  14. Bushfire

    What about your list of “lady-art” (“pottery, tapestry, embroidery, quilting, illuminated manuscripts, potholders made out of poodle hair on Etsy”). Are these items by-products of oppression? Would they be irrelevent and meaningless after the revolution? Or are you just referrring to the Patriarchal Dude Canon as irrelevent and oppressive?

  15. yttik

    This post is a thing of truth and beauty.

    Porn is a hate crime. Art with a capital A is just another system of arrogance that enforces oppression.

    Twisty said it much more elegantly then I attempted too during science week, but interestingly, this was exactly what I was trying to say regarding Science:

    “A feminist critique of art calls for a demystification of the academic canon of Great Dude Masters Through the Ages anyway, and of the creative process in general. Get Art down off its high horse. Give women and people of color their due. Legitimize once and for all those traditionally undervalued, non-white-dude art forms..”

  16. Rachel

    “Pornography is the graphic representation of rape, presented from the point of view that rape is awesome.”

    True and beautifully stated. This is art.

  17. Carrie H

    “The Scream” is insanely appropriate right now. Looks like the fucking Gulf of Mexico. IBTP.

    I agree that your approach, to call any dreck art, will take the debate off of “is it art or not?” and focus instead on “is it any good?”.

    My mind and heart has been embiggened by the Faster Niece Masterpiece “Jill is Great.” That is truly great art. Especially the bingo-dauber outline.

  18. Jezebella

    Bushfire, I believe the point is that it’s ALL art, the “lady-stuff” and the Dude Stuff. And, I know I’m picking a nit here, but illuminated manuscripts are not historically “lady art”. Historically they were made by monks in Catholic monasteries, major bastions of godbag dudeliness. A few nuns here and there may have been involved, but mostly they were made by men.

  19. Frumious B

    “Good art is informed by Truth ‘n’ Beauty, not by violence, oppression, human suffering, and titillation.”

    Art which is informed by violence, etc, from the viewpoint of the oppressed is good art.

    Pr0n, whether art or not, ensmallens me but also foments me to unrest.

  20. Frumious B

    “That is kind of like saying all thought proceeds from the auspices of patriarchy.”

    Pretty much. That includes feminism, too.

  21. Jill

    A few nuns here and there may have been involved, but mostly [illuminated MS] were made by men.

    According to the Guerrilla Girls, “by the 15th century in Bruges, for example, 25 percent of the members of the illuminators’ guild were female.”

  22. Imaginary

    Wow. First off, you are a GODDESS!

    I was under the impression that art was just self-expression, and it seems a lot of people agree with me. If that’s the case, then wouldn’t every single action be “art”. If I’m eating a sandwich, I’m expressing that I want to eat the sandwich. But I think the only art that should have any value when the revolution comes is that which is useful (like quilting and extreme mopping).

  23. Jill

    “Art which is informed by violence, etc, from the viewpoint of the oppressed is good art.

    Hey FrumiousB, can you enlarge on this statement?

  24. Jill

    I was under the impression that art was just self-expression, and it seems a lot of people agree with me. If that’s the case, then wouldn’t every single action be “art”. If I’m eating a sandwich, I’m expressing that I want to eat the sandwich.

    Expression of desire. Acting on desire. The same thing? I think not.

  25. Jezebella

    I stand corrected. However, by the 15th century, the printing press had been invented. European illuminated manuscripts are primarily an art of the medieval period.

  26. Jill

    However, by the 15th century, the printing press had been invented. European illuminated manuscripts are primarily an art of the medieval period.

    Good point. Poodle hair pot holders, on the other hand, are another matter.

  27. tinfoil hattie

    Fine, it’s art already. You’re still a fucking perv exploiter motherfucker.

    Yes. Fuck art.

    Can we do “fuck ‘classic’ literature” next?

  28. Bushfire

    “Art which is informed by violence, etc, from the viewpoint of the oppressed is good art.”

    I’m not FrumiousB, but I do have example of the art of the oppressed. One time in a Canadian city I saw guerrila art on the side walk that I fell instantly in love with. It was spray painted stencil messages containing a Canadian flag with the maple leaf upside down and read: “Oh Canada, Our Home On Native Land”. (For those who are not Canadian, which I assume is most of you, the first line of our national anthem is “Oh Canada, Our Home and Native Land”, so this is a play on words turning a racist statement into a true statement by changing ‘and’ to ‘on’. To find this enlightening message illegally painted on the pavement was AWESOME. I believe this could be considered “Art which is informed by violence, etc, from the viewpoint of the oppressed”. I also think it is excellent art which does not perpetuate the system, it challenges it.

    In general, I’m a bit surprised that people on here consider ALL art to be for the establishment. There’s lots of anti-establisment art out there.

  29. Jill

    Obviously I was not clear when I used the term “informed by violence.” What I meant was “expression that actually takes the form of actual violence against oppressed classes.” Such as pornography. Anti-establishment, up-yours, screw-the-Man art generally opposes violence against oppressed classes, and therefore has the potential to not suck.

  30. Ma'Whis'Ki

    A couple of notes on the Lascaux Horse (the picture linked to by the idea of ‘horse’ in art)…

    1) Notice the horse is a *mare*, and a very pregnant-looking mare at that.

    2) A recent study of hand-prints in the Pech Merle cave in France (which also features lots of horse paintings) turned up the interesting fact that they are in fact *female* hand-prints, not male ones. The article about it last year at National Geographic (which is ‘let’s just gloss over this embarrassment and erase it from our minds’ short) is below. Also please bear in mind that the word ‘many’ used in the article is dick-speak for ‘most’ and/or ‘all’…
    ______________________________

    June 16, 2009–Inside France’s 25,000-year-old Pech Merle cave, hand stencils surround the famed “Spotted Horses” mural.

    For about as long as humans have created works of art, they’ve also left behind hand-prints. People began stenciling, painting, or chipping imprints of their hands onto rock walls at least 30,000 years ago.

    Until recently, most scientists assumed these prehistoric hand-prints were male. But “even a superficial examination of published photos suggested to me that there were lots of female hands there,” Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Dean Snow said of European cave art.

    By measuring and analyzing the Pech Merle hand stencils, Snow found that many were indeed female–including those pictured here.

    [Note: the photo is of a cave-painting of a spotted horse that looks rather like a cross between the Lascaux Horse and an appaloosa. It is also another pregnant-mare horse picture.]
    ______________________________

    When feminists like Mary Daly talk about the erasure of women from the historical record, this is what they mean. Both the assumption that all the hand-prints were male, and the short, throw-away pseudo-consideration from National Geographic are BOTH erasures. The discovery that the artists who produced most of the cave art at Lascaux and Pech Merle were in fact female is HUGE, with regard to both art history and archaeology, and should have received wide press. Instead, we have a third erasure going on– women are being dragged into discussing/debating whether or not male depictions of men raping women/children/animals/the planet is art. (I take the position that isn’t– what it *is* is *propaganda-pictures*, and it is also evidence of– and a confession of–CRIMINAL ACTIVITY!)

    As a shaman, looking at the art of my Fore-Mothers at Lascaux and Pech Merle, it is very easy for me to know what art is– it is Sacredness made manifest. The women who painted the murals of Lascaux and Pech Merle were displaying the numinous, the alchemy of Spirit into Form, with their round-bellied mares. They were also saying, ‘That round-bellied mare and I are Sister-Creators’. They went into wombs of the Earth to make their art because they were expressing their own inherent creativity in harmony with the greater Sentient Cosmos. This is art at its most profound– it is what Nature does when She makes seashells, owl feathers and agave blossoms, among other things. What I would term ‘little-a-art’ is both Sentient and magickal.

    Big-A-art, on the other hand, is at best self-aggrandizement and at worst, criminal. It is technique and branding without content (or with toxic content), and carries no usable, life-enhancing energy. It is therefore no accident that it winds up not in every-day life (which the makers of big-A-art despise and look down on), but is sequestered in museums, executive boardrooms and private collections– subconsciously, we know it is *toxic*, so we en-cyst it in the same way that a living body produces an abscess.

    I think what is really needed is a change what we ourselves honor. I do not waste my money on ceaseless trips to toxic waste sites (a.k.a. art museums) only to bemoan what I see there and feel sick over it, but instead, I use that money to commission a quilt from a local seamstress, and I buy beautiful stoneware plates to eat my meals off of at the pottery co-op.

    That being said, I also think that it behooves one to confront rapist criminality, and Name it for what it is: violence against women/children/animals/the planet, that has no ‘socially redeemable’ content/context. I hold that rape is *not* sex– it is a VIOLENT CRIME, acted out in a sexual context (as opposed to the ‘social context’ of a street-mugging). People who make pictures of rape are *not* artists (or even Artists), and what they make is not art/Art– they are CRIMINALS who are blatantly admitting/confessing to criminal activity, and they are sharing it with their fellow gang-bangers TO INCITE FURTHER CRIME. The idea that a violent crime can also be art is patriarchal double-speak at its most blatant and vampiric.

  31. humanbein

    Oh, Ma’Whis’Ki! How quickly you cut across the the divide between creativity and assemblage, by evoking the most creative act of all, the actual creation of a human being from little more than a few tiny wisps of tissue.

    You make me think that all Art is either mindless reproduction of already created visual scenarios or else the assemblage of parts into interesting sequences. But creativity – often mistaken as this same activity, rebranded – is instead the quotidian and exclusive realm of the female. I have often silently screamed when ad guys call their tiny twists and variations on lame jokes “creative”. Any stroll through an art museum will see either the reproduction of reality or else assemblage of disparate objects trumpeted as creative work, too. But actual creation of consciousness from nothing but juice and physical stamina, that is the kind of magic only the female can perform without the aids of scientific and artificial imitations.

    THe bitter irony is that this same easy exalted magic, which any schoolgirl can accomplish with only the tiniest squirt from a heedless male, is the very same path by which our entire culture has been able to oppress all women.

  32. octopod

    Thank you so much for saying this. This is the way the point should be argued — all those discussions of “But is it art?” are just blowing smoke up one another’s asses, because the answer as far as any useful definition is concerned is always “Yes”, and if there’s no effort to make the definition meaningful there’s no reason to be talking about it in the first place. (I think semantics are vital. I understand, though, that this is not a universally held position.)

    But your last paragraph is the one that really intrigues me. Why would art be irrelevant and meaningless in a post-patriarchal society? Surely the idea of “Horse”, or “What If Everything Was Made Of Cubes”, or “Man, I Feel Hella Sick Today”, would still exist in such a world, and the person feeling it would still feel the need to express it?

    (And if anyone wants the link for the cave-painters story in Ma’Whis’Ki’s post right above, it’s here. Cool beans, that.)

  33. buttercup

    My daughter is an artist, and is coming up hard against the patriarchal power structure in “art”. She’s already been denied an internship because she filed sexual harassment charges against her ceramics professor, who not only managed to insult and traumatize her, but he also destroyed her love for ceramics, for which she has a great talent.

    She’s a good human being. She’s gotten into screen printing now and is doing some painting again which I love. We have a lot of discussions about the intersections of art and craft (poodle-hair potholders!) and feminism.

    Here’s a piece she did last year based on a somewhat well-known piece done some time ago.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mensabuttercup/3522224461/in/dateposted/

    She took Luncheon on the Grass and turned it on its head in a very creepy fashion, I thought. The girl has great potential for subversion.

  34. buttercup

    Also, the Faster nieces show great talent there. Love the bingo daubers. And great use of color for shadow effect on the face and arms.

  35. shopstewardess

    A quote from Jill’s post: “Some art — this is the rarest kind — enbiggens its audience. Suddenly you [...] go “ha!”, or regard the status quo with renewed suspicion.”

    The Faster Family Masterpiece certainly makes it into the embiggening category, as I notice that it has a certain pink quality to it and I am now questioning whether the this is -

    - a choice made by the artists which demonstrates the influence of the prevailing colour paradigm for young females in certain cultures,
    - a consequence of the artists running short of other colours in the paintbox, or
    - an accurate representation of the wardrobe and hair dying choices of the subject.

  36. Alexa

    Yes tinfoil hattie. If you try your hardest to define what makes a ‘classic’, there’s no defining characteristic at all. Not all old books that were popular are classics. It’s hard except to say there’s an element of snobbery. Same goes with art, except that’s even worse.

  37. speedbudget

    Art legitimizes porn.

  38. Jill

    Art legitimizes porn

    I see what you’re saying, SB, but it’s the dominant culture that legitimizes porn; “art” is merely a henchman (one of many).

    Pornography has never really been illegitimate, though, if you think about it. Yeah, people pretend it’s evil and unacceptable, but that’s just to create the ghetto where they can cordon off the hardcore behind pay-per-view lines of demarcation. This allows them to be sanctimonious yet continue to participate in and consume the everyday porn that remains on TV, mainstream movies, video games, magazines, billboards, shop windows, cellphones, etc.

    To those who say pornography can’t be art because it’s a hate crime, I would reiterate that art-as-expression-of-idea doesn’t preclude criminality. To those who view my inclusive definition as an endorsement of pornography, I invite you to demonstrate this with an excellent argument.

  39. Kayleigh

    I had a breakdown when my awesome History of Art tutor gave a lecture on this very subject, (Art Isn’t Holy, It Is Merely A Reflection Of ‘Civilization’) in the first year of my art degree. I KNEW it all to be true as I’d noticed it all, but didn’t have the vocabulary to ever try to discuss it with anyone. She eloquently and unashamedly smashed up the whole of Dudely Art in front of our eyes (WITH SLIDES!). I was overwhelmed with a mixture of joy and disgust when I was informed that women had been fighting against this shit for a very, very long time.
    Afterwards, I went to her office where she made me a cup of tea. She let me cry for a while before she told me that it’s okay, ‘cos I’m not alone any more, and there are HUNDREDS OF BOOKS WRITTEN ON THE ISSUE, and there IS a way to fight against it.

    She was, and still is, a very important figure in my life.

  40. Cimorene

    I, too, am curious about the idea that after the downfall of the patriarchy, art will be irrelevant and meaningless.

    My sister is an artist–a modern dancer and choreographer. She came to feminism via art. When she was a teenager, she was mostly interested in becoming a backup dancer for MTV pop stars, but as she got deeper into the creation of dance she began to abandon and eventually detest the use of dance to perpetuate patriarchal ideology. Now she exclusively uses women dancers, creates work that frequently examines the state of women in our culture, and relationships with women, and rails against the patriarchy via movement on stage. It’s pretty fucking badass. She often has trouble communicating with words–many a time has she called me up to get the verbal version of “why abortion has to be legal” and “why the phrase late-term abortion is sketchy” in order to explain it to her conservative housemates, who also eventually joined out side in the fight against patriarchy, thanks to her ministrations–but when she uses dance, she gets her ideas across perfectly. Kind of like the exact opposite of me.

    I think that her art, as it is now, would lose some of it’s power in a post-patriarchal environment. Because her art now is protest, call-to-arms, activist art. But post-revolution, she won’t have to use her abilities to rally, she’ll be able to simply celebrate. And so rather than specifically looking at, say, the way gendered, raced bodies relate to each other across space in this world, she’d simply be able to celebrate the joy of bodies and space and music and movement. When she does this now–because even in her activist art, there are moments or sequences that are simply about the joy of movement/bodies/existence–it’s moving and beautiful and expressive and Good. It’s Truth and Beauty. I don’t think it would be less about Truth and Beauty if there was no patriarchy, and as much as my desire to make and eat a sandwich may be a type of art (because it’s expression), I think that perhaps I’d still qualify the expression of “The Joy of Existence” as a more transcendent, moving expression than the art of sandwich making (unless it’s a really good sandwich, with lemon-juiced carrot pulp and stuff).

    PS. If anyone in Chicago wants to go see some awesome dance by my sister, let me know and I’ll post a link to her site, where she posts info about her shows. Is it uncouth to make such announcements on others’ blogs? My apologies if promoting her work is inappropriate.

  41. Calistoga

    The MaestraPeace mural on the Women’s Building in San Francisco is a great example of embiggening art.

  42. Koré

    @Kayleigh
    I want to be like your teacher someday.

    Can somebody cite books on the “art isn’t holy” theme? I’d like very much to read them. (Thanks).

  43. Jezebella

    I am completely depressed at how many blamers really seem to hate art and art museums. If you hate art, do you love ugly? Can you really live a satisfying life in a visual world so completely made of boring that it’s ugly? I can’t, for sure.

    I imagine these art-hating blamers wishing for a world without art, which I envision as a world full of Soviet-era Russian apartment blocks, filled with gray utilitarian stuff, all deadly dull and lacking in color, everything from cars to socks. There can be no embiggening in a world without color, without attention to design (of fabrics, furniture, dishware), without something to enliven your eyeballs and stimulate your brain towards Truth-n-Beauty.

  44. KH

    Buttercup, ceramics can have as foul, grody and pernicious a dudely culture as painting does (see: Robert Arneson), and it segments work types into craft-vs-sculpture categories in a way which is troubling, so I think it’s maybe good that your daughter got out of that.

    Printmaking is a wonderful area to be in–it does have it’s share of dude chumps, but I have found it to be much more egalitarian than any of the other fields of art I studied. Additionally, many of the well known print shops were founded by women, and many contemporary Master Printers are/were women. Crown Point Press, United Limited Artist Editions, Tamarind Institute–Kathan Brown, Tatiana Grosman, and June Wayne, respectively–all made (and continue to make) a significant and lasting impression (ha, ‘lil printmaker’s pun there) on the art world.

  45. Barbara P

    A lot of the stuff here http://epicwinftw.com/ is “art” by my definition, though I won’t vouch for everything on that site.

  46. hero

    Anecdote (but is it also art? well I believe it to be relevant, insofar as it introduces my point): when I was a teenager I asked my mother why she preferred classical music to pop and rock (tangent stridently resisted here). Her response was that she did not entirely disparage the popular stuff, but that it seemed to her that too-much-to-all of it was based more on the cult of personality than on the music itself. Whereas she, being in the cello section of a community orchestra, had played a lot of music that was still reasonably close to what MISTER Composer Dude had in mind, too much of the Beatles phenom was not what the music did but the combo of JohnPaulGeorge’n'Ringo. She seemed to be of the mind that the “test of time” test worked, without considering much whether privilege just perpetuates itself to create the various patriarchal canons out there in the various realms of Humanitas (which I always like to think of as human-itis, or the inflammation of the human).

    My point? It is this: reproducible results. Science demands ‘em, Art refuses them utterly. Therefore, in the interest of art (no capital) I give you something you can reproduce for true ‘n’ beautiful results:

    1 cup brown sugar
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup veg. shortening
    Combine. Add
    2 eggs 2 teaspoons vanilla
    Combine again. Add
    1 1/2 cup flour
    1 generous teaspoon soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    Combine; add
    3 cups coarse rolled oats
    1 or 2 cups mixed dried fruit and/or nuts and/or chocolate chips

    350 for eight to ten minutes, depending on how big you make the cookies and how chewy/crunchy you like them.

  47. Kayleigh

    Koré
    Check out some stuff by Griselda Pollock. This one is good:
    Old Mistresses; Women, Art and Ideology, London Routledge & Kegan (Griselda Pollock with Rozsika Parker), 1981. (It is a little heavy, but worth the effort.)

    Feminist art historians have taken away the ‘art is holy’ thang by pointing out that men are not holy, but they make art – and then other men write about it as though it is holy. Pollock made a point of finding woman artists who had been lost to Art History, as they’d been forgotten/erased by (male) art historians.
    Anyway, most feminist art writers smash the Holy Art thing. Bad art is all hype.

  48. Comrade Svilova

    Will “Art” be irrelevant after the revolution because it will then be a part of life, not needing to be segmented out into a special (and dude-ly managed) category of things Special People Do?

    So dance (for example) wouldn’t disappear, but it wouldn’t need to be guarded and policed by experts who declare what is and is not Real Dance (same for all arts). Instead, like so man “crafts” today, it would be simply Stuff People Do. All art would be expression of ideas but it wouldn’t need to be categorized, labeled, and subject to rigid hierarchies. It would be pursued for its embiggening or enjoyable qualities, not as a way to find fame or to elevate oneself above others.

    That’s my stab at an explanation.

  49. Comrade Svilova

    That should say “so manY crafts today.” Sorry!

  50. Imaginary

    “Expression of desire. Acting on desire. The same thing? I think not.”

    Well, why not? Acting on desire would be expressing that you had a desire in the first place. Acting on desire would be expressing that desire, but not all expressions of desire would involve acting on it.

  51. Level Best

    Ma’Whis’Ki, I am with you.

  52. Emily H.

    “Good art is informed by Truth ‘n’ Beauty.” This is an appealing concept, but it doesn’t do much to demystify art. Its original version — “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all/ Ye know on Earth and all ye need to know” — is about the most mystifying formulation I can think of. It’s from a poem by an eighteenth century English aristocrat, and eulogises a piece of ancient Greek (from his viewpoint, elite and ultra-white) art. The poem also refers to an ideally beautiful virginal female whose fate it is to be eternally “pursu[ed]” around the urn by by a randy youth:

    Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
    Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
    She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
    For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

    This glorification of male pursuit and virginal womanhood is in fact a fine example of the way the Western “truth/beauty” artistic ideal secretly smuggles in a lot of ugly patriarchal ideology. I take it this sort of thing is why so many art scholars and philosophers these days have rejected the simplistic notion that bad art is propaganda, while good art escapes into a timeless, ideology-free realm of “truth.”

    “Get Art down off its high horse. Give women and people of color their due. Legitimize once and for all those traditionally undervalued, non-white-dude art forms: pottery, tapestry, embroidery, quilting, illuminated manuscripts, potholders made out of poodle hair.” If I were an under-recognized great female artist, I would hardly care for this. In fact, it would suck if the moment we finally gave women and minorities long-overdue admission to the elite realm of Art was — by some horrible coincidence — the exact same moment we decided art wasn’t such a big deal and artists should come off their high horse. Letting subaltern groups into the club the exact second the club ceases to be exclusive would be a deplorable substitute for “progress.”

    If the result of demystifying art is that great woman and minority artists are considered equivalent to quilters and potholder-makers, they will be about as well off as as when they started.

  53. yttik

    Well said, Ma’Whis’Ki.

    “I am completely depressed at how many blamers really seem to hate art and art museums.”

    I love crafts, creativity, the clever use of materials. I love the Twisty portrait. I am fascinated with secret gardens, giant trolls sculpted out of greenery. I love the art in nature, the way vines will reclaim an old barn and moss will move in.

    Art with a capital A and the museums that house it, often depresses the hell out of me. Twisty has gone and named it so now I understand why.

  54. ivyleaves


    “Get Art down off its high horse. Give women and people of color their due. Legitimize once and for all those traditionally undervalued, non-white-dude art forms: pottery, tapestry, embroidery, quilting, illuminated manuscripts, potholders made out of poodle hair.” If I were an under-recognized great female artist, I would hardly care for this. In fact, it would suck if the moment we finally gave women and minorities long-overdue admission to the elite realm of Art was — by some horrible coincidence — the exact same moment we decided art wasn’t such a big deal and artists should come off their high horse. Letting subaltern groups into the club the exact second the club ceases to be exclusive would be a deplorable substitute for “progress.”

    If the result of demystifying art is that great woman and minority artists are considered equivalent to quilters and potholder-makers, they will be about as well off as as when they started.

    Sounds to me like you want to preserve the elitist status quo and devalue some works for mystical reasons.

  55. Aaron Boyden

    Nearly all art contains some pretty awful messages, yttik. Those who enjoy art either agree with some of those pretty awful messages, or (like me) think that if you can recognize the awful messages, you can at least partially inoculate yourself from them, and extract what value remains in the art. And perhaps even the awful messages can give some kind of insight if you react in a way other than agreeing with them. But those like me might all be deluded; certainly it’s not as if defenders of art have commonly been challenged, so there’s not much evidence that the challenges could actually be met. Kudos to Twisty for raising the question, and let the results be what they may.

  56. Comrade Svilova

    If the result of demystifying art is that great woman and minority artists are considered equivalent to quilters and potholder-makers, they will be about as well off as as when they started.

    As ivyleaves says, I’m concerned about the preservation of elitism that you seem to support. What are the qualities that you believe separate Great women and minority artists from quilters?

    Letting subaltern groups into the club the exact second the club ceases to be exclusive would be a deplorable substitute for “progress.”

    It’s the fact that the club is exclusive that is the problem.

  57. alan

    I rememeber awhile ago when you casually mentioned art being useless in a non-oppressive society, and as an aspiring artist it crunched right into my own wrapped up notions and refused to budge, because it immediately made sense. But it nagged the same as the sanctification of art nags. It seems that we’ll be extinct before we see any appreciable dent in the morass of goofballs “inciting debate” and “social experimenting” to advance violence against women, but should such a thing happen, could it ever stop being relevant to see rather than look? Would the expression of that need to vault from oppression/oppressing to be relevant?

  58. Ma'Whis'Ki

    Buttercup–

    I hope at some point, your daughter will be able to reclaim her ceramics-love. Her story really resonates with me, because I had a male English prof at college seduce me into a sexual relationship with him. When I became pregnant, he basically dumped me. I elected to have the child, and I did not drop out of college, but I did decide it was probably best if I placed the child for adoption, which I did. I mention this experience of mine because I just recently figured out *why* the patriarchal assassin maneuvered me into a sexual relationship with him– it was because at age 18, I was writing much better poetry than he could at age 33. Since he couldn’t ‘look down’ on me sufficiently in the classroom, he turned me into a sex-object outside of it so as to save his fragile ego. For a long time, I couldn’t bring myself to write any poetry at all; because of his machinations, my poetic voice was bound up by his betrayal of it and me. Once I fully realized what had happened, I was furious, and I have since started ‘rehab-ing’ my ‘bird’s-tongue’, which is what I think of my poetry as– when I make poems, I am a wild bird singing.

    I tell this story because I am wondering if your daughter’s ceramics teacher did the sexual harassment thing because he was trying to ‘shut up the competition’ from someone inherently more talented than he. Since you say she had a real love for touching clay, I am thinking from a shamanic perspective that she’s got a down-Deep gift for it, and I hope for her that she does not let his evil-intentioned intrusions split her off from something she really loves.

    Level Best–

    Thanks! I don’t think that crime should be allowed to hide behind an Art/free speech label in order to commit rape and murder.

  59. MPMR

    Imaginary: “If I’m eating a sandwich, I’m expressing that I want to eat the sandwich.”

    Not all actions express desire. I’m trying to run with the sandwich example here, which might not be the best example for my point, but there are people who never desire a sandwich but eat them anyway, for fuel. They are eating, but not expressing desire.

    Maybe a better example is porn. I have been in arguments with pro-porn dudes defending its existence by mansplaining how the women in porn like making porn. When I ask how they know, they say “Well, they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to do it.” Which of course reeks of a life of privilege where one never has to do anything one doesn’t want to. But I digress.

    An action is not necessarily an expression of desire to do that action. An expression of desire does not necessarily require acting on the desire. Therefore, they’re not the same thing.

    Which Jill already said, but more concisely.

  60. Laughingrat

    Buttercup–that’s really sad about your daughter. The art world is pretty sexist as it is, but schools especially so and (it’s often seemed) the ceramics part of it even more than the rest. It’s very macho there, as if the dudely dudes in charge (and they’re always in charge, it seems) are trying to make up for the traditional “craft” designation of ceramics by waving their penii around as much as possible. If a woman doesn’t get beat down by the relentless but insidious message that “men ceramicists make Art, but women ceramicists make teapots (and teapots are less important than Art),” then she then has to fight a bunch of more overt, personalized sexist BS, from unwanted advances to denial of studio and kiln space.

    Is there a women’s art collective near where she lives? That might go some way to helping her recover–having a space she shares with other women, with a minimum of free-floating misogyny.

    I know some women make it in the art world, and some women have a positive experience in art school, but god knows that for a lot of women it’s an exercise in misery.

  61. yttik

    “Why would art be irrelevant and meaningless in a post-patriarchal society?”

    Twisty will need to elaborate on that, but one problem is that art is based on a system that deifies it and assigns it value. You would think this had something to do with the quality of the piece or how pleasing it is to the eye, but that does not appear to be true. The orange square on canvas for example or the Koon’s balloon animal, ugly, not even clever, and yet valued as if they were worth as much as Tom Cruise’s half eaten cheese sandwiches on ebay.

    When Twisty used the words “irrelevant and meaningless”, I don’t believe she meant meaningless to the person lying under the quilt or irrelevant to the person who delights in painting something. What would be gone in the absence of patriarchy would be the hierarchy, the elite structure that proclaims some art valuable and some art worthless.

    Those quilters and makers of pot holders whom we frown upon are engaging in what many would call “irrelevant and meaningless” art. If patriarchy were to go away, all art would become like that. That’s not a bad thing, that doesn’t mean everybody would be treated like a lowly quilter, because there wouldn’t be any hierarchy that compares, judges, and looks down on them.

  62. Jezebella

    I have a little grad school story about quilts vis-a-vis art. One of my professors, a former director of one of the Smithsonian museums, once said that the three things that get people in the doors of a museum are Impressionism, gold, and, you guessed it: QUILTS. He figured if anybody could figure out how to make a show with all three, blockbuster attendance records the world over would be shattered. There seems to be a feeling around here that quilts are considered lowly and irrelevant, but they’re really not. When we host a national juried quilt show at my museum, we get huuuuuge numbers. It doesn’t have to be contemporary art quilts, though. Gee’s Bend quilts, traditional honky quilts, you name it, people are crazy for ‘em. There are no Lowly Quilters in the Artocracy.

  63. Andrea

    A bar just opened here, and they painted the side of the brick building with this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Course-Love-Beer-Poster-Print/dp/B000SDT2LM

    It’s an ART POSTER!

    “Of course I love you, now get me a beer.”

    I even saw the variant “Of course I love you, now please get me a beer, bitch.” Ah, art. It’s even better when painted seven feet tall in a college town. Public art!

  64. agasaya

    Great post but the “Jill Principle”, that everything is permeated by patriarchy, would automatically lead many to hate ‘art’. I think the pairing of truth with beauty confuses the issue as beauty is defined according to patriarchal standards.

    Anything that represents truth can be viewed as beauty. Art represents truth above and beyond the taint of patriarchy and that shallow definition of beauty. Therefore, much of it will be ‘ugly’ because reality is so often ugly. That doesn’t reduce its artistic value for its ability to represent these aspects of truth. Achieving the aesthetic pleasures of visual beauty and while elevating one’s consciousness of such things is a real plus!

    Tapestries are among the great art works I loved to see in the NYC museums – females representing their patriarchal educations in those cloth paintings. They were practical of course since tapestries were actual furnishings meant to warm a room as well as beautify it.

    Porn would be for purposes of titillation and a sharing of the supremely male joke that is commonly referred to as sex. Yet the Hogarth cited in the post shows how empty the leisure hours of those wealthy men were – morons to be ridiculed, not pictured as anything less than wasteful, decadents using women without other options for survival. In the Rape of the Sabine Women – Rubens didn’t seem to be glorifying rape in that painting.

    These are not beautiful due to their subject matter but they do touch on truth – so I call it art. Execution in terms of expertise with the artistic medium of paint or cloth is another aspect to it but still can’t turn porn into anything other than what it is.

    http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/peter-paul-rubens-the-rape-of-the-sabine-women

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:William_Hogarth_027.jpg

  65. alan

    Thanks for that yttik. The essential link of capital-A art and it’s judgmental aspects drove right by me as i was spiraling into if making the art at all was worthwhile, and what it implied to do so.
    Which i can see now is beside the point, at least of this post.
    whoops.

  66. Laughingrat

    Jezebella–I hear what you say about quilts, as someone who has been to a lot of museum exhibits of old traditional quilts, and as someone who’s both visited and submitted works to Quilt National. Nevertheless, I bet you cold cash money that the average middle-aged lady quilter’s work is not considered art by the vast majority of the Artocracy, even though their work may be fully as creative as the work of so-called “art quilters,” or the work of traditional quilters from 100 years ago may have been fully as derivative as what the average home quilter produces now. For quilts to be considered museum-worthy, they have to be designated as Special: they have to be made by dudes, made by self-conscious artists, made by ordinary people a long time ago, or made by someone in a marginalized ethnic or social group (so that upper-class white people get a feel-good sensation when we acknowledge their work as Art). I love that museums and galleries will show textiles, but the art which the average woman makes at home is just as dismissed and devalued as everything else she does.

  67. buttercup

    Thanks, Ma’Whis’Ki and LaughingRat. She’s a tough kid and I doubt she’s given up on ceramics all together. (Also, she tells me teapots are actually very tough to make.) She’s so at home on the wheel, it looks like she was born to throw clay so I hope at some point she gets back into it. As to dudely intrusion, she told me many funny stories about dudes coming into class and swinging their wangs around trying to throw a five pound piece of clay and having it nearly break their fingers. Pure comedy gold, according to her.

    What do y’all think about the difference between art and craft? When does craft become art? Does art become craft? And is it definable? As someone who is fairly immersed in fiber arts most of the time (figuratively if not literally in this weather), this interests me a great deal.

  68. nina

    yttk, it breaks my heart to see you compare Rothko to Koons. (Rothko painted the orange rectangle painting Jill linked to, aka Orange and Tan.) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all of that, but I have been much embiggened by the viewing of various Rothko works. Just because a work of art or an artist has been rewarded by the patriarchal culture of capital-A Art, doesn’t mean it can’t be a worthwhile and meaningful pathway to Truth ‘n’ Beauty.

    Jezebella, thank you for pointing out how depressing life would be (at least for some of us) without art museums. Maybe it’s one of my concessions to the patriarchy, but I dig me some art museums.

  69. Someone Else

    Minor Proto-Blamer, with no Recognized Instition of Larnin’ instruction of Art beyond “Here you have to take at least one for an elective”, shall weigh in with what is clearly going to be a great insight.
    Most modern (p-based) art is El Crappo and rightly derided, but is often caught up in silly political turf wars that give it notarity. The silly bit about the elephant poop painting that no one cared about until the “artist” said, “Oh, did I mention…IT’S THE VIRGIN MARY MADE OF POOP?!”, for example.
    That sort of thing. That’s what Modern Art is today, poop and pee and rosaries, and a bunch of artists who apparently think it is still 1600s England and they’re Really Showing The System. When in fact they’re about as radical as the Awesomely Radical “Hey Here Is A Soup Can” Art Idea.

    I am thinking Our Hostess has really Done Something heah with the whole, “Stop arguing over Art and start makin’ ‘em defend their Crappy McCrappington pieces of Crap” position”.

    Poop Mary, for example, pretty much falls apart as the silly scatalogitical piece of woman-hating it is (“HA HA I MADE A WOMAN OF POOOOOOOOOP!”) when examined full on, and unable to hide behind, “ooooh, you just don’t understand me because I am ART!”

  70. Ani

    @Kore …

    I recommend ‘Feminism & art history: questioning the litany’, edited by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard – in particular Carol Duncan’s brilliant essay ‘Virility and domination in early twentieth-century vanguard painting’ which is the most clearly articulated take-down of the ‘male genius’ and his privileged, indulgent world-view that I’ve come across.

    Cheers.

  71. JenniferRuth

    As a graphic designer I am well aware of the fact that most art is created for money and/or propaganda. I’m not gonna argue that fact because it is 100% true and I’m just a cog in the machine (no matter how much I might like my job!).

    I do wonder about this though:

    For that to happen, post-patriarchal conditions would have to obtain, at which point art itself would, paradoxically, be irrelevant and meaningless.

    Why would this be the case? Would people not want to express ideas in a post-patriarchal world?

    Would some kind blamer explain for me, please?

  72. kdd230

    “The nature of a work of art is not to be a part, nor yet a copy of the real world (as we commonly understand that phrase), but a world in itself, independent, complete, autonomous; and to possess it fully you must enter that world, conform to its laws, and ignore for the time the beliefs, aims, and particular conditions which belong to you in the world of reality.” (Oxford Lectures – Professor Bradley 1901).

    So, to call pornography art you would have to conform to its laws and ignore your own beliefs, an action which many would be unwilling to undertake.

    Incidentally the caption “Whoring is great too” would more accurately be headed “Whoring is not great too” as the painting is one of eight from Hogarth’s The Rakes Progress series depicting the follies of drink and whoring. Indeed if you look at the high-res version of this you can see that the ladies faces are covered in sores. The chap shown here, Tom Rakewell ends up in Bedlam for his follies.

  73. Comrade Svilova

    Anecdata, somewhat related to the situation with ceramics: my Nigel is in lampworking and observes how there are more women than men in the field, but the women tend to make beads and jewelry and are often ghettoized as “crafters” while the men tend to make giant sculptures — or simply large marbles (big balls of glass, geddit?) — and are considered “artists.”

    The category of “Art” as something better than other forms of expression must go. Once every tactile, graphic, mediated expression of ideas is considered art we can actually discuss what makes certain kinds of art better than others and by what criteria art can be judged. Otherwise people can veil their racism, classism, and misogyny under excuses for why certain forms of expression are “not art” just because they tend to be more associated with marginalized groups.

  74. Saphire

    Haha what the hell is a quilt? I like art museums, but just like with any form of escapism, you get slapped round the face by the patriarchy; women can’t escape! The P is in art especially as a good medium able to ascribe value.

    As to its relevancy in a post- patriarchal society, I agree with someone else upthread (yttik?). Not attacking posh people, but everything about Art is hierarchical. I like the admiration of truth n’ beauty itself, but elitism is always present and I’m too scarred by the patriarchy to search for any of that. I’m tentative about going to the art museum. Maybe I need to toughen up, or maybe I just don’t like being reminded how shit I am as a human being in most Art and literature. Going to an art museum is like most things in life – stick to looking at things with no women at all and no representation of us; or look at where women are represented exclusively as ‘things’.

  75. Jill

    there are people who never desire a sandwich but eat them anyway, for fuel

    Me! That’s me! I never desire a sandwich but eat them anyway, mostly when I drop by unannounced to mooch a free lunch off my sibling Tidy, which I should know better than to do, because she always gives me a goddam cheese sandwich, undoubtedly because she knows I don’t like sandwiches and wants me to stop mooching free lunches offa her.

    Although, the reason I eat the sandwich is that I do desire not to be hungry.

  76. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    The niecely portrait is quite fetching. The turquoise frame sets it off to perfection. And I smell a motif. Wasn’t the blametariat treated to a video of the portrait’s subject sporting a turquoise cowboy hat?

    Your sibling is far more hospitable than mine. Mine would passive-aggressively (and most pointedly) not proffer any sort of edible (or drinkable, for that matter) if I were to show up at mealtime without a specific invite.

  77. Jezebella

    You know, y’all, there ARE museums where there ain’t no pictures of naked ladies on the wall. I work in one of them. Hell, fully 40% of the works on display are non-representational (NA baskets & a decorative arts gallery). Museum workers spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make museums less intimidating and less elitist. I mean, a LOT. If you haven’t been to a museum since grammar school, try again. You’ll find attitudes have changed in most of them since you were a kid, partly because you’re an adult now and less likely to lick something if you’re not supervised, but also because most museums are trying really hard to be accessible to all.

  78. Ashley

    There’s more pornography on DA than there is art. I actually confronted one of these dudes before – it caused a whole convoy of them to attack my photography page with accusations of “trying to kill freedom of speech”

  79. RK

    That painting is quite marvelous. Looks just like you.

  80. Frumious B

    “Hey FrumiousB, can you enlarge on this statement?”

    Hey Jill: You did so yourself a few posts later! Cheers.

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