Local Artists

Tired of Van Gogh? Bored with Monet’s lilies and Degas’s dancers? Unmoved by Picasso? Yawning at yet another Renaissance Madonna and Child? I certainly am. I’ve seen a lot of each of these, and many more artists, at various museums here and abroad, but that’s not why I’m bored with them. The problem is not in the individual works of art themselves, but in the ubiquitous reproductions of them: posters and prints, notecards and calendars, books and PBS documentaries, even ceramics and napkins, to the point that seeing the originals doesn’t move me, not like it should anyway. It’s no wonder that so many museum goers stroll through galleries, barely stopping long enough to take a snap on their smart phones—perhaps for some of them, the photographs they take and store on their computers or cloud files have come to mean more to them than the actual painting or sculpture, for we do now live more in a mediated world than in the real one.

The cure for me is to buy the work of local artists. Not only are they affordable, as opposed to the multimillion-dollar works of the great geniuses, but they are not infinitely reproduced—they have and retain their uniqueness, their one-of-a-kindness, which is to my mind so central to the value of a genuine work of art. And the genuine is to be found among the locals. To buy local is not to buy the amateur or mediocre. There are thousands of well-trained, talented artists across America who have a genuine personal vision that translates into a distinctive style, who have a way of looking that can enhance the viewer’s looking as well.

And they are our contemporaries. We perhaps sometimes forget that the great Renaissance or Impressionist masters were once, in their own lifetimes, contemporary. Their shock (when it was shock) was then, among their own living—that was when they were disturbing or a revelation. For us today, the old (and not so old) masters no longer have quite the same impact, which is perhaps why they have become over-estheticized. For us today, Impressionist paintings are merely very beautiful; but in their own day, they were for many monstrous and incomprehensible. Consider this contemporary assessment of an early exhibition of artists who have since become iconic: “it is enough to give an impression with no definite line, no colour, light or shadow; in the implementation of so extravagant a theory, artists fall into hopeless, grotesque confusion, happily without precedent in art, for it is quite simply the negation of the most elementary rules of drawing and painting. The scribblings of a child have a naivety, a sincerity which make one smile, but the excesses of this school sicken or disgust.” Does this sound like Degas, Cezanne, Monet, Sisley, Pisarro, Morisot, etc., to you?

Now, I’m not saying that you should patronize what you do not like, so if you don’t like assemblages of screws, bolts, and branding irons, you can leave them alone, but I am saying that there is much that is fresh, interesting, beautiful, and expert in the work of our local artists—and something unique and of vision.
And finally: The great masters of the past are all dead and do not need to eat. Our local artists do need to eat. Support them.

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