Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Six artists walk into a bar

Over the course of an afternoon and evening of conversations, the subject returned to an earlier story of a run-in with a very young artist with an attitude that overshadowed his readily apparent promise. The chat had been quick and overlapping, and heavily lubricated with cocktails, making brevity and hyperbole choice tools for impact. Not surprising, then, when that all but forgotten tale was recalled with a query: “Why so harsh? so angry?” There had been no space prior to insert that the moment had contained some attempt at helpful reading suggestions and the like, for that would require a rapt audience, something not so easily found in such a group; in fact, when elucidation was attempted over the din of the bar, it was interrupted by the questioner: “That woman sitting over there is so ugly! Like a horse!”

It is a complex world of complicated creatures, and a call to higher standards cannot arrest all of our admitted imperfections. Sometimes, the best we can hope for is that no blood is spilled; yet it is best to remember that even those who are thought to have eyes only for beauty and light can not only be disagreeable but petty little things as well — all of us — and this leveling is a reminder that populist notions within the art world have some merit, as does humility in general, and criticism should thereby be measured and considered with equanimity.

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