Posted by: JDM..... | July 4, 2014

Portrait versus baloney sandwich

at least the sandwich merits some bread….

The new portrait of Prince William was unveiled the other day to the sound of one hand clapping, and that was the hand of the artist himself. His other hand was busy alternately patting himself on the back and thumbing his nose at critics. This is the same artist who had excreted the 2013 canvas of Queen Elizabeth as well, with a similar response. Having seen photos of the items in question, I have to concur with those who thought them to be uncomplimentary and amateurish.

The portrait itself was a minor yawn, but the artist seems to be that and more. Art is many things, including an ability to see the universe in ways the rest of the world can’t imagine, and the willingness to actually create representations of those visions in their chosen media. To be an “artist” also requires ego strength and perseverance, and a certain amount of technical skill, whether self taught or acquired through formal instruction. In most cases, even when all or many of those qualities are present, the one thing that can mean the difference between making a mess and making a living is salesmanship. A touch of insanity never hurts, but substituting sophomoric arrogance for shortcomings elsewhere may.

When the vision, the skill, and presentation are universally appreciated, little salesmanship is needed. Who could find fault with the work of Andrew Wyeth and others that have survived the erratic changes in society and culture through the years? Art appreciation is highly subjective, however, and if I turn my nose up at something that has been presented as “art”, I have to realize that in order for it to have drawn enough attention to reach the public eye, it must have a reasonable number of people who actually liked it. Although Picasso was a highly skilled artist in the “traditional” sense, it was his “cubism” that engraved his name in history. I don’t like it. It looks to me like something my daughter etched on the living room wall with aerosol cheese as a toddler.

And then there are those of marginal talent who, unable to attract applause silently, resort to salesmanship and theater. The artist who unveiled his rendering of Prince William took matters a step further, however, and crassly dismissed those who did not like his work, boldly announcing that he really doesn’t give a toot if the people like it or not.

He flipped off criticisms by saying “When a work is complete I discard it like a used condom,” which most likely gives a rather telling caricature of both the artist and his product.

It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that is quite true in my opinion. However, before declaring oneself above vulnerability to public opinion, the artist might benefit from asking exactly what it might be that he expects to pay him, and from learning the difference between cheers and Bronx cheers.

So, I see the artist as a marginal portraitist who offsets that deficit by being successful as an egotistical bull shit artist instead. I’m not very good at salesmanship myself, an assessment to which my few sojourns into that field of endeavor have attested. However, I do think my cartoons are significantly better than his portraits, although I’m certain he would neither agree nor care. Similarly, of course, I wouldn’t really give a northbound rat’s south end about his opinion of my work, either, assuming he would stop making love to himself long enough to offer one. Which reminds me, I wonder if he uses a condom?


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