‘You wouldn’t know art if you saw it.’ This was the opening statement from 1David my art theory prof, hired I suspect because he was fashionably a token 2Métis with a degree who made pop art, cartoon copies on cheap warped canvas supports, you know the type, a stylized woman with a giant tear proclaiming in her speech bubble her lost love. Thinly painted flat graphics dead dried-down lifeless. Horribly insecure and hostile little man dressed in fashionable artists black.
Abusive crits were his specialty, especially to me, a white man adult student older and taller than him who formerly slept with Sylvia3, his now wife, where we had explored our love of bisexual women together at the local gay club until she embarrassedly said she suspected giving me an indiscrete Saturday night social disease (my personal relationship deal breaker), now upgrading my credential. I suspect a penis sized insecurity as well.
I know art when I feel it, was my perfectly valid non intellectual, non art theory response. I often leak tears in front of art. I cry at movies and weddings as well.
Tell me, he scoffed, what is your ‘work’ about. ‘It is about paint, the beauty of paint, the sensuousness of the medium. I have studied 4Picasso’s paintings, still looking as fresh and wet as the day they were painted and none of the supports were warped at all. I was totally seduced and became a painter’
’Where is your artists statement!’, he rightfully demanded almost screaming.
’Picasso didn’t have one so I don’t have to have one either.’ Perfectly valid response, quoting an influence who thereby bestows permissions. My big brothers and sisters of the art world protecting me in perpetuity.
He turned 50 shades of grey. I feared apoplexy.
Picasso was/is out of favour with the aspiring intellectual postmodern theorists at my 5art school, Alberta University of the Arts. They used the cognitive distortion (lie) that he caused the suicide of 2 of his lovers, as if anyone can cause their abuse by others. Suicide is complicated but it is often an abuse towards the universe/others that ‘did them wrong’. I felt that Picasso had poor taste in partners and shitty luck with women, was easily flattered and love bombed by narcissist muses, much like 6Salvador Dalí and his horrible wife 7Gala who made him book an appointment to visit. In 1968, Dalí bought Gala the Castle of Púbol, Girona, where she would spend time every summer from 1971 to 1980. He also agreed not to visit there without getting advance permission from her in writing.
’Hang on a sec I have to turn the tape over’, I said.
’You are recording this?’
’We record all our crits in studio in the painting department. We even record our self talk as we paint, an exercise in awareness of what we are about. An aid to memory.’
Of course this wasn’t true that we did this or that the tape was set to record, but adult students in a one on one crit with a prof who is known for his brutal abusiveness who had slept with the insecure creatures’ now formerly sketchy wife needed some protection.
Bullies are cowards and standing up to them is always in my best interests.
The creature summarily left, I received a A for the crit, thus pushing me onto the honour roll.
David went on to publish papers, I heard, on how a painting couldn’t be ‘about paint’. I guess he showed me…
My advisor, 8Alan Dunning, a genuine intellectual from Britain who can switch effortlessly from the language of thinking to the language of feeling, suggested I read 9Rosalind E. Krauss, a postmodernist theorist at Columbia University in New York City who said “... photography is an imprint or transfer off the real; it is a photochemically processed trace causally connected to the thing in the world to which it refers in a manner parallel to fingerprints or footprints or the rings of water that cold glasses leave on tables. The photograph is thus generically distinct from painting or sculpture or drawing. On the family tree of images it is closer to palm prints, death masks, the Shroud of Turin, or the tracks of gulls on beaches10.” I was smitten.
Charmed, I finished my degree in painting, bought a digital camera and a photoshop computer, updated again to a degree in digital goings ons, gathered up my painter brothers and sisters and never looked back, the sum of my influences even the shitty abusive ones.