Monday, February 5, 2018

Tacky Art vs. True Art - Critical Snobbery at Its Finest

Home of "tacky" art?
"I find people who do "crafts"so annoying . Either make art or just chew your fingernails. Kingsville is opening a Hobby Lobby store and I cringe to think of all the dreadful fake flower arrangements and crocheted doilies and other undreamed of wretched things that will come out of that place that I will have to pretend to admire. "
- Liberal post-modernist Facebook pundit
(who shall remain nameless in order to protect her from her own jackassery.)

Doily "art"
Let me say this up front. I AM OFFENDED! To dismiss the handicrafts that ordinary people make, whether they meet your criteria of ART or not, as "undreamed of wretched things" is impossibly arrogant and I was thoroughly disappointed in the person who posted this. It still is a free country, for the time being. We are not required to approve of anyone else's work, even to be polite. Politeness is a choice (at least until political correctness becomes enforceable law with penalties). Not everyone is a @#$% artist! Some just want to put together a puzzle or make a simple craft to sit on a shelf to decorate their house. Hobby Lobby offers supplies to would-be artists without requiring them to present their degree in impressionist painting or neo-modern sculpture to some bureaucrat, art critic or other arbiter of what is tasteful first. 

Choo-choo "Art"
Hobby Lobby sells art supplies for the people. Remember the people, dude?  That vast unwashed proletariat you progressives are supposed to be saving from themselves and their own ignorance. My building a train set in my den using Hobby Lobby's collection of tiny trees, little people, track, trains, and buildings is a labor of love on my part and as worthy to be called "art" as anyone else's. You may not like my "art", but then I don't have to like yours. Myself, I'd rather look over someone's model car collection or their crocheted doilies than wander through a gallery of paintings where someone artistically threw a mixture of paint, blood and feces at a canvas or some twisted jumble of artistic welded metal oddments. You have your "art" and I have mine. I like folk art and I think that ordinary people should be encouraged to do crafts. It's a whole lot more uplifting to the soul than listening to a lot of high-tone, hoity-toity self-appointed arbiter of what is and what is not good taste and worthy of doing.

Hobby Lobby provides a lot of people with at least some kind of creative outlet for the "workers" that progressives are so found of saying that they are "for". And by the way, in the interest, not of political correctness, but politeness, I don't use the word "tacky". I think it's a trigger word that denigrates the artistic taste of someone who may not have the advantage of another's education and high culture.

Don't mean to go off on snooty self-appointed art critics, but I used to help our art therapist at the residential treatment center where I was rec therapist. I watched kids abused, mentally ill and physically and mentally disabled, work their little hearts out on those "tacky" crafts that Hobby Lobby donated to us and I saw the kids self-esteem lifted up as they mastered macrame, paint by numbers, cross-stitch and other "crafts". Some went on to produce independent art, drawings, sculpture and modeling as their skills improved. I had my own corner of art in my office filled with things the kids did. Those were better than some of the crap I've seen in art museums and of far more intrinsic value to me and to the artists.  The Facebook art critic responded:

  • That is awesome. But does that mean that I am required to think there is no difference in quality between Danielle Steele and Milton, and if I do I am a snob?
So-called "real" art by Jackson Pollock
(You don't want to know what he "painted" with)
I responded:  Does that mean that Danielle Steel is of less value with respect to her contributions to human life, given that she has given pleasure to arguably a lot more humans than Milton ever did. Though I value Milton a lot. Snooty English writer, Samuel Johnson hated that Milton championed freedom of speech and freedom of the press and called Milton's politics those of an "acrimonious and surly republican". I really like that about Milton. In the same way and for equally personal reasons, thought I find Danielle Steele's prose effective and engaging, I also find her stories disagreeable to my own particular sensibilities. That said, I would not raise a hue and cry against bookstores being built in my town, simply because they sell Ms. Steele's works. Just because Steele doesn't suit my tastes, doesn't mean I'm going to complain because the lowbrows like her. I grew up among those who were educated, uneducated and in-between. I learned to appreciate people for who they are and for the stories their lives tell. I have yet to find a human being too tacky for me to befriend.

 I'd prefer not to call anyone a snob, but much of what my Facebook friend wrote in her original post is indistinguishable from the same thing if it had been written by an actual snob. It's one of those "if the shoe fits wear it" kinds of things. That's why it surprised me, given this friend's liberal "power to the people" rhetoric. It didn't fit the narrative of her life as she would have had me to believe it to be. I found it disconcerting that one who travels the world to ostensibly steep herself in the culture of all nations, including some quite impoverished ones it appears, would adopt a negative stance toward the arts and crafts of ordinary folk (obviously those in the mid and lower strata of the intelligence quotient bell curve). 

Why is it that self-identified (usually white) people of culture can go to Mexico and remark on how wonderful are the vivid colors favored by Mexican artists, but if a regular American person, particularly a white person, decorated his house in the same vivid colors, those same cultured neighbors would have the homeowner's association on him in a heartbeat demanding he repaint his house in something more like the rest of the neighbors.  I, myself find a kind of beauty in so-called tacky human expression. I've sat in on many a bluegrass or country music jam sessions that would have been appalling to the ears of many a trained musician, surrounded by  talking mounted fish and Budweiser lampshdes. I've been to one man's home whose backyard was built like a Western town, complete with a lifesize cutout of John Wayne standing in front of the town jailhouse. That was really fun. Fascinating guy with a collection of really cool antiques. Tacky to some maybe, but art to him.

Davinci's masterpiece might have continued
to look like this without restoration, if he'd
been able to go down to Hobby Lobby
and get some Liquin, gel medium and a
nice oil clear coat for the finish work.
I don't have to go to a concert hall or art museum (been there and done that) in order to find value in the artistic expression of another. Their choice of "tacky" crafts helps me understand and appreciate them for who they are. And no, I do not find them inferior to the work of artists who are sacred cows to the elite of society. I find Jackson Pollock's art, for instance, to be ugly and would have to sell it or fumigate it, not necessarily in that order. Someone may find value it it, I do not. That said, I don't feel that Mr. Pollock was a person of less value because his art work doesn't suit me. I just wouldn't pay 3 million bucks for it. 

I know liberals say they believe in constantly challenging their perceptions and beliefs. If they did, they'd probably not get off on putting down Hobby Lobby just because fellow feminists are mad because Hobby Lobby won't fund employee abortions. Challenging your beliefs inevitably involves a little walking in others' shoes for a bit.

I just thought I'd toss out a little challenge to my friend's way of thinking, here. I'm not calling for any sort of political correctness initiative where we rename what she calls "tacky crafts" and call them  "commercial folk art" in order not to offend the rubes. I think it's just wrong to use language to try and identify the work of others as less than worthy to be called "real" art in ways that let you off the hook for being arrogant and mean-spirited toward your perceived inferiors. Just a little less judgment is all I ask, please. I think it would be in order to assign some value to anyone's art who takes the time to produce it. And how about a little more tolerance of Hobby Lobby and other businesses that provide these ordinary artisans the tools they need to express themselves artistically.

After all, Leonardo da Vinci could have obtained everything he needed at Hobby Lobby to produce the Mona Lisa. And he could have picked up a few art supplies that would have preserved his work and kept the painting from fading and needing to be restored every century or so.

Just sayin'.

© 2017 by Tom King

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