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From David Dennis

Published before 2005


An amusing experience Brian. This makes me recall a statement by Will Rogers, "... they don't build statues to critics." Art criticism has become a joke anyway, often written by people who merely regurgitate what they were taught in school and are trying to sound like their favorite professor, feigning avant garde ennui or worse written by journalism majors who took one course on writing critical essays and got stuck with the task of reviewing shows. I actually knew a student in that position, she thought that she knew everything there was to know about art after her course, during which they took her class to museums and art shows and had them write about the work and compare their writings to of all people, Clement Greenberg (Yeeesh!) and her critique was published in a local paper. She was convinced that she was going to follow art criticism as a career path. I asked her the same question I ask every critic, amateur or professional, "Have you ever made a painting? A painter or sculptor sees things very differently than an outsider because they are in the thick of it, immersed in the smell of paint and linseed oil and turpentine and the dust of stones and clay and wax and fires and metal and filled with frustration and anquish, no matter how competent, at making a work of consequence. We can appreciate what it takes to make something wonderful happen and often know very quickly why something fails. You can't possibly know that." She was very upset with my statement and hopefully I kept her out of a profession for which she was not at all suited.

An amusing incident happened to a painter friend at one of her shows and some art critic/gallery gadfly went up to her and asked, "that red you chose, it's so powerful, it makes such a strong statement, what made you choose the particular red?" Susan responded truthfully and laughing, "I ran out of Alizarin Crimson and I didn't feel like driving down to the art store, so I mixed some other reds and a touch of burnt umber and other colors I don't recall and it worked!"

I guess my point is that I don't take what museum curators, critics and writers put into print very seriously. They don't know, they can't know exactly what was happening in the mind of a painter or caricaturist, maybe the rent was due and they had to take on a project for a patron, had to come up with an idea by deadline or make an editor happy, maybe they just ran out of red.