Saturday, February 1, 2014

Are Artist Feuds A Thing Of The Past?

When I was in art school there were feuds going on everywhere. This teacher said this, and then this teacher responded with that. While the students were running back to tell the other instructor what was said about them, and I do mean running, they seemed to have missed the point. The point of WHY something was said.

One instructor called the drawing program I was in "No Focus Drawing". (It was actually called High Focus Drawing). A teacher in that program responded by calling the other teacher's class "paint by number". But why did they feel the need to do this? Was it because they had small fragile egos and they needed to knock someone down to build themselves up? That might be the modern day interpretation, but I don't think so. I think that they were passionate about their belief systems, and when they felt that someone was teaching something that was contradictory, they said so. They were trying to convey to students how strongly they felt about what they were doing, and that is a wonderful thing. I had a teacher who was so passionate about drawing that he threw me out of his class in disgust. It worked out well for me because he suggested that I try the "High Focus" which wound up being exactly what I was looking for.

The problem is that I think the passion gets lost in the gossip. Students wind up just running back and forth saying this one said this, and this one said that.

Picasso and Matisse had a long standing feud which has been the topic of many articles and shows.
Could anyone say for sure which of the two paintings  is better or worse?

Bob Dylan is rumored to have despised Andy Warhol. The rumor is that part of the reason that Dylan hated him is because he blamed Warhol for getting  Edie Sedgwick addicted to drugs, and that it destroyed her life.

The man who gave us "Visions of Johanna" hates the guy who gave us silk screens of a soup can...shocking. For about a million reasons I side with Dylan...If someone took all of Warhol's work and burned it right now I'd be fine, but if they took Dylan away...  Of all of the feuds I have heard of, this one actually makes sense. I didn't like Warhol very much to begin with, but hearing that was the icing on the cake.

The only feud I was in personally that I don't regret was with another instructor who worked briefly at Scottsdale Artist's School in Arizona at the time I was teaching there. It started when he was acting extremely inappropriately with a model in his class. She was a friend of mine and came to me asking what to do. I decided to approach him in the parking lot, which was a rather bad call on my part. He ran and hid behind the front desk woman, I think he thought I was going to beat him up...All we did was exchange words but it traveled around the school so fast the next day! I had actually heard that we had gotten into a fist fight and all sorts of exaggerated tales of what had happened. Had I heard that I had challenged him to a ten pace duel I wouldn't have been surprised. The feud lasted a few weeks and then he was fired. He deserved all that he got, but I definitely should have handled it better. Hey, I was young.

A few art history jabs which are fun:

Manet told Monet to tell Renoir to give up painting because he had no talent.

Degas said of Toulouse-Lautrec that he was "merely a painter of the period who wouldn't last." and about Seurat"s work, "I wouldn't have noticed it except that it is so big." and famously said of Mary Cassatt "She paints too well to be a woman".

Marc Chagall said of Picasso: “What a genius, that Picasso… It’s a pity he doesn’t paint.”

Francis Bacon said of  Pollock: "they’re just decoration. I always think they look like old lace.”

Salvador Dalí said of Picasso:  “He finished modern art at one blow by outuglying, alone, in a single day, the ugly that all others combined turned out in several years.”

The New York Times Magazine called Norman Rockwell "bad art". I didn't throw out my Rockwell books. I chuckled and went back to drawing. The problem is that someone might believe that Rockwell's work is bad because of the article and that would be a shame. It was an opinion that should have been left unsaid.

The unfortunate truth is, that no one hears the passion, no one really cares about what you think, they just like spreading the gossip...

The good news is that I really haven't heard anything about anyone lately. Hopefully, artist feuds are becoming a thing of the past.