An Interesting Week for Exhibitions at City

21 Oct

San Diego — I really am bored with some of my idiot “friends” on Facebook supporting and parroting the inanities spewing from the mouths of so many of the “Occupiers” who are completely unburdened by any sense of need to really understand the world around them and innocent of concepts of “unintended consequences” and with an even more tenuous grasp of fairly simple mathematics.

Some of their assemblage managed to actually come up with a multi-point “agenda” that was stunning in tis lack of understanding about how the world works or how things are funded and paid for.  They truly seemed to believe that all of our problems would go away and we would all live happily ever after in a communal paradise of free housing, free education, free medical care, and everybody working on government projects for union wages for life if we simply taxed the rich down to their toes, ended all war and defense spending, opened the borders to all who wanted to come in, and, if their own persons were the model, stopped wasting money on soap and water and books on such silly points as economics, history, sociology, and human psychology.

It instantly brought to mind the old adage that “ignorance is Bliss!”  If this is our future, then Buchanan is correct and the America that made us the beacon of the world but whose Kevorkian process started in the early 20th century will have completely ceased all brain activity before this century is half done.

I needed a brain break from all that moronic self defeatism.  And, with incredibly good timing, two exhibitions, one intended the other not, at City have come along to provide more diverse, and, to me more enjoyable fodder for discussions.


The official one is the Fine Art Faculty Annual Show.  They have access to a truly pitiful little “gallery” over in the old “T” building so asked if they could do their show in our gallery.  They then invited Dave and I to show some work to help get us to agree.  Then, I assume to avoid stepping on toes, also asked the full time Graphic Arts instructors.  We were all given 10-15 feet and, of course, an expected one of the Fine Art Faculty, to no one’s surprise, took over twice the space alloted.  The surprise was that whoever was supposedly curating the show simply let it go by.  Remember though, it is not really “our” show and we are simply add-ons, so they can do as they please to facilitate that type of behavior.

I decided, since it was initially a fine art show I would take the opportunity to do something I rarely get a chance to do: show some of my non-photo art; a bronze sculpture (The Minotaur shown to the right, and a photo etching of Medusa shown below), in addition to two photographs.  All of my entries are “portraits.”  The response at the opening was really very gratifying.  A lot of people who knew me as a photo instructor were surprised and said they had no idea I could also do that kind of work.  They obviously had not been listening…

The real point of the post though is the displayed work and my reaction to it.  Fine Art, as a specially defined area of the general visual arts world, is expected by the serious art world to exhibit two major characteristics:  it should engender BOTH a visceral and s cerebral response in the viewer.  That means, a work of Fine Art should lead to both an emotional reaction and reflective thinking by the viewer who becomes a participant in the “art process.”

By contrast, “Decorative” Art need only engender one or the other and “Functional” art (or “Commercial” art) need do neither but is created meet some other criteria coming not from the artist but from the client or customer or patron.

OK, please understand, the following is entirely my own opinion and deserves no more credibility than that.  I throw this out solely to elicit discussion.  But to me, what I saw is a lot of decorative art and very little fine art  Now, most of it was quite well done; some it extremely well crafted  and some of it enormously clever.  But not much of it was fine art as defined above; at least in terms of my own responses to it.

“So what?” you say.  And besides that, who gets to define art anyway?

Well, real artists and aestheticians (as carefully distinguished from critics and curators) who, over time have analyzed the work that has lasted and been accepted over broad periods of time and cultures are who.  We photographers want to be able to define art by our own rules and we are free to do that but then need to quit whining when we are not accepted by the broader art community.  It is their game and their court and if we wish to play in it we have to accept their authority and their rules.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I made my living off of doing primarily functional and decorative art so do not for an instant look down on the categories. Commercial photography, my work and primary teaching topic, is largely “Functional” art as defined above though it needs the same creative underpinnings as any type of art to be competitive.   Personally, I do not impose any value judgements on my terms or definitions; they are merely labels.   But it seems like a disconnect to me to see decorative art in such profusion in a show put on primarily by the Fine Art Department.

Did that observation detract from the show? Not for me.  I enjoyed it and was fascinated by many of the pieces in it.  But then I do not put value judgements on my labels so it was all good for me.


This week we also had the portfolio critiques of the 8-week macro photography class.  One of the students who prefers to take pictures of humans not flowers or rust spots produced a series of shots in which, according to her own narrative, she sought to convince viewers that they were too uptight about body parts.  After all, she said, parts are just parts and should be seen as no different whether it is an elbow or finger or toe or, oh, say, for example, a clitorus… which, along with its general location, happened to be the subject of her collection of macro shots.

If she had not then proceeded to provide a narrative to explain her work and rationalize it, the whole collection might have gone semi-unnoticed since most of the males had no idea what they were looking at or where it was located anatomically speaking; and most of the females were stunned into silence.  But she went on… and on… and on… about it to the point where even the guys started to realize that this body part she was insisting should not be taken in a sexual connotation was exactly the opposite and, in fact, according to pysiologists and anatomists, has no apparent other function.

But then it got better.  Along with the other portfolio submissions, this little body of work also got hung in the hallway of the 4th floor where, especially for the non-photo students who have invaded our building during all of the construction going on across campus, it was like a huge magnet.  I love listening to the comments.  As with our own students, especially without the narrative but with some literal titles, the guys were largely clueless and the girls were a little unsure of how to react.

And now, thinking back over all of the displayed work I’ve now seen this week.  If real art elicits both a visceral and cerebral response, then I am forced to admit based on viewer comments and observed reactions, this macro body of work certainly qualifies even if not in the precise way most would anticipate.


Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “An Interesting Week for Exhibitions at City

  1. Student

    October 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    You opening comment on Oct21 posting.
    I’m sorry you feel that way, or maybe it was just a bad day for you.

    Don’t you think it’s a bit disrespecful and rude to call your friends “Idiots” because you do not have the same beliefs as they do in these difficult times.
    You have to remember alot of people look up to you, as do I.
    But this too can be tarnished with improper words.
    There is a way to turn off posts of facebook friends you do not agree with, try that instead of calling your friends idiots.

    The Old polictics and religion thing raring it’s ugly head in convertation again can get a bit nasty.

    I consider you a friend as well as a teacher, so I hope this doesn’t offend you.

    Thank you for your time

  2. ndking

    October 27, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Dear Student,

    i think yours was a serious and thoughtful response and it deserves an equally serious and thoughtful answer, not a short set of one-liners that i could do here. So bear with me, since I am finishing out the week of classes, and I’ll try to address your issues and concerns in the next post.

    i can’t promise that all I will say will be to your liking, but hopefully whatever credibility I may have with you will at least get you to give some equally serious thought to what I say. I have never required anyone to agree with me. In fact the limp you may have noticed in me was attained fighting to maintain the freedoms for people to gather and dissent no matter how much i disagree with them or think them idiotic. But i have an equal right to call them into question when i feel it appropriate.

    So please allow me a day or two to finish the week and i promise I will get back to all with a post to hopefully address the expressed and implied questions in your comment. But for now let me thank you for sending it. It is only when people from different perspectives are willing to engage in a peaceful if spirited dialogue searching for common ground that we can truly move forward.



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