Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Speaking of all boats ...

Late start tonight. I'd apologize, but I was out watching an artist at work.

What? Last I checked, Bob Walkenhorst, in addition to being the best lyricist in rock 'n' roll, is also a painter.

So, anyway ... catch-up time.

Yesterday's post was intended to stir a pot. Once I put up a link on Facebook, it started stirring another one as well. The conversation took a turn -- whether left or right, I'm still not sure -- into who controls the Crossroads scene and whether or not abstract art has an undeserved stranglehold not only on the Kansas City scene but on the national culture as well.

That moved on into a back-and-forth -- sometimes heated, but that happens and no blood got drawn -- over whether representational or abstract work has greater value.

(Disclosure time: I'm an abstracter. Can't render to save my life. I'm okay with this, even though I have friends who insist I can learn to draw more than inferences, conclusions and a paycheck.)

Here's my take, in three parts.

1. Not all art is created equal. Within every style, every medium, there is work ranging from the exceptional the the instantly forgettable. That's a function of gift, skill, education (which can include self-teaching) and experience, and no one is saying those things don't matter.

2. There's no cabal keeping down representational artists in Kansas City. The Kemper and the Nerman both feature representational work, both in permanent collections and rotating exhibits, as do the major galleries across the area. "Contemporary" and "abstract" are not synonymous.

3. While not all art is created equal, there is no room for "us" and "them" in this or any arts community. There is too much at stake. Funding sources, both public and private, are dwindling. Established collectors can't always afford to buy on their previous scales, and potential new ones are skittish in this economy. That presents artists with two choices: to turn on each other as the water hole of available resources shrinks to a puddle, or to work together and support each other through the rough patch.

By and large, I believe people have chosen, are choosing and will continue to choose the latter path. That's something I've noticed pretty much across the board: There's a willingness to bring new artists along, even though that increases "competition," and to celebrate the successes of others.

I don't have a snappy closer to this one ... just a hope and a belief that things will continue to be that way -- that even if we can't agree on what style is best, we can appreciate the value of creativity and do our best to nurture it wherever it might be found.

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