Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Taxonomy of ArtPrize Entries

I've devised a crude taxonomy of #ArtPrize entries.
(If you don't know what ArtPrize is, come to Grand Rapids, MI and find out!)

1) The unkind title of the first category is Refrigerator Art. Some people took Garrison Keillor seriously when he said all the children are above average. And the unhappy truth is that some people have no business entering their work in ArtPrize. Though everyone is God's special unique snowflake, not everyone is able to produce something worthy of display. I'm not saying anybody should be excluded, but maybe loved ones could stage an intervention.

2) The second category is the Monumental. Some artists have genuine talent and they deploy this talent in the service of The Cause. In Soviet Russia, these would be larger than life depictions of the New Soviet Man, working in a factory or driving a tractor. In China, you'd see a five-story Mao leading the Long March. But in Grand Rapids, MI we've got a number of competing religions, like Sorting Recyclables, Empowering Disadvantaged Youths, and Restoring The Ten Commandments. Each of these partisan interests inspire larger-than-life submissions.

3) The Propaganda category combines the worse elements of the first two. It beats the Propaganda drum so furiously that it never gets around to executing any good-looking art. It's just there, declaring some message in the most heavy-handed way imaginable without the slightest breath of humanity or humor. It can be produced by a crowd of 6-year-old draftees or by some too-earnest "artist" toiling away in his garret. Is it Art? I dare not deny that, but you can't deny it's propaganda.

4) My favorite category is the Science Demonstration entry. The Good Lord put some really beautiful phenomena in the laws of Mathematics and Physics, and some boffin will find a way to render that tangibly in an ArtPrize entry. Bravo to you. You've got my vote, because I'm a boffin wannabe myself. Same goes for the engineer who lashes together software and hardware to make some pleasant interactive blinking lights and sound effects. These guys are like the Wizard of Oz, tweaking their balky devices to make them work while saying, "Pay not attention to the man behind the curtain." I salute the man behind the curtain.

5) Then there's the Crafty Art category. What can you make with an unlimited number of toothpicks, ten-penny nails, coins, legos, cigarette butts, win corks or push-pins? Anything! And they usually look wonderful. They're a gimmick and I love gimmicks.

So far, I've described categories of ArtPrize entries that have varying chances of winning. Now I'll describe the one category that is a Sure Fire Loser

6) The Sure Fire Loser category is different from all the other categories. Entries in this category reflect something appealing in nature or humanity. And they do so beautifully. But what makes them a Sure Fire Loser is that they could easily fit on a wall of my house. Nobody is going to vote for this over a 10-ton flying pig, or a 50-foot woman. I could never put a Public Service Announcement over my couch and entries in this category won't attract the partisans' votes. I don't want to dust a million toothpicks formed into the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog no matter how cool that would be. But that painting of a bucolic pasture or that stained glass rendering of dogs playing poker would be welcome additions to my home.

That's where I think #ArtPrize is the best. It takes guys like me who would never consider buying anything from an artist, and it puts the notion of Buying Art into the realm of the possible. The artist who executes a Sure Fire Loser will give his or her card to someone like me. I'll never be able to buy a Rembrandt, but Rembrandt is dead and there are starving artists who'll benefit if their universe of customers expands to include fellows of questionable artistic pedigree such as myself. These artists should be numbered among the winners of ArtPrize.

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I like posts better when I can't tell if they're being ironic or not.


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