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Scheherazade

Post #788 • May 15, 2006, 8:54 AM • 65 Comments

Regarding to KH's Mother's Day post, I agree that the dewey-eyed, gooey-headed pablum about moms in the newspapers is going to be about as insightful as any other kind of cultural criticism on offer there. I'd like to recommend instead an anthology of women comics artists, Scheherazade: Comics about Love, Treachery, Mothers, and Monsters. It came out in late 2004 on Soft Skull Press, but I only found out about it last week, as I now have access to good comic book stores since the move.

Megan Kelso edited the volume, and its best stories describe mother-daughter interactions in a realistic and touching way. It features a story by J. Manix about a trip that she (presumably) and her mother made to the store to buy underwear, drawn with exceptionally charming sparingness. (It is difficult to find information on Manix, a French artist who seems to have died terribly young.) In Robyn Chapman's "Turtle Pancakes," a gentle mother and her surly teenage daughter go on a trip to a Thai festival at a senior center. The event is, as the daughter puts it, "painfully lame," but after bonding with her mom over a memory of her making turtle-shaped pancakes for her as a little girl, she finds ironic delight in the festival and they leave smiling. Chapman has a bold graphic style reminiscent of Jaime Hernandez at his most spiky, and it suits the main character well. In "Fanya Needs to Know" by Leela Corman, a preadolescent girl in a shtetl witnesses a neighbor collapse and die from a self-administered abortion, and suddently everyone around her, most of all her mother, has a lot of explaining to do.

The book has other fare as well, notably "Bitchfest" by Ariel Bordeaux, which has girlfriends getting dressed up, going to a party, and getting drunk. No plot, but the sheer sexiness of the drawings, rendering the women as Betty-Boop-cute anthropomorphic dogs, precludes the need for one. "Wednesday Morning Yoga" by Ellen Forney wordlessly tells the story of the emotional struggle and the indignity of looking at the butt of the person in front of you during a yoga class. Other stories are more serious, notably Ellen Lindner's "Undertow," in which the sudden loss of a woman into the sea, right in front of her friend on the beach, echoes the sad trajectory of her life as she was describing it to her beforehand. Lindner's stylish illustrations show a practiced understanding of storytelling and the printing process.

All comics anthologies have entries that feel like they shouldn't be there, that push naive drawing too far, or combine words and images with no finesse at all. This one has them too, but not enough to matter. Make sure you get the second edition of the book, which solved some printing mishaps in the first that caused a few passages to come out roughly or disappear outright.

The introduction by Kelso makes a case for yet another women's comics anthology:

I would add that just as women speak differently than men, move differently, play basketball, sing, write, and relate to others differently, it stands to reason that we make marks differently - and make different marks. I also posit that women construct narratives in fundamentally different ways than men and that the stories in this book contain some specific examples of those ways.

Inarguable, but make a list of how, and I think you'll be asking for it - barring the limits of biology, of which there are none in art, no technique exists that couldn't be performed expertly by either gender. It reminds me of KH's demonizing of "objectification" at the link above - there's a problem, but try to pin down a specific iteration of it, and it becomes difficult to characterize its nature. Basing your perceptions on a hackneyed set of stereotypes is going to prevent you from seeing reality, but conventions make images of things possible. Rather than KH's exhortation, "Objectification is dehumanizing, reject it," I think it would be more enjoyable and world-changing to turn objectification over to everyone and see what can be done with it. All kinds of stylizations and object-making become possible, the stereotypes transform beyond all recognition, and people are able to tell their stories in a manner that brings you out of your world and into theirs. That's what I see happening in Scheherazade, not to mention some good, straight-ahead comics work.

Comment

1.

KH

May 16, 2006, 8:48 AM

Though I'm not sure how I feel about your take on my take on objectification, I am strongly in favor of women comic artists!!

I don't know how I ever lived my life without Julie Doucet or Dame Darcy; before I discovered them, it was as if I were living in a room with Clement Greenberg prattling endlessly about how comfy his chair was, and how it was just good, and how I must not have a butt if I didn't agree with him, because all you had to do was just sit in the chair to know that it worked and was good.

2.

Denise

May 16, 2006, 9:47 AM

I loved Dame Darcy! Phoebe Glockner rocked my world when I found out about her, too.

3.

Marc Country

May 16, 2006, 11:47 AM

Franklin, doesn't comment #1 violate your "Make Sense" guideline?

4.

oldpro

May 16, 2006, 12:45 PM

I think so, Marc. Especially the "non-sequitur" part. But even the homey amateurs have to get in their swipes at Greenberg. It is de rigueur for the fashionistas.

5.

KH

May 16, 2006, 12:48 PM

This post sat around un-commented upon for 24 hours; I threw the CG in there as stinky bait, yet again.

6.

Marc Country

May 16, 2006, 1:04 PM

No shit, stinky-baiter, but thanks for the explanation... the comment still doesn't make any sense though.

7.

noah

May 16, 2006, 1:26 PM

Franklin, Define your use of the word objectification.

8.

oldpro

May 16, 2006, 1:46 PM

And perhaps KH can make sense of "objectification is dehumanizing", which I suspect was not thought through. If it is "stinky bait", well, can we do away with this hollow rationalization for half-baked thinking?

"Objectification" is literally "making an object", externalizing, presenting as a thing rather than a concept. Making art is a good example of objectification.

9.

KH

May 16, 2006, 5:01 PM

OP, that is the stinkiest bait ever! Sheesh! As if I need to explain to anyone that objectifying people is bad!

In any case, I am quite enamoured of the Brazilian non-objects of the neo-concrete; making art doesn't always have to be object-making.

10.

KH

May 16, 2006, 5:07 PM

And OP, what's a "homey amateur"? It's certainly an interesting construction, but I don't know exactly what (or who) you mean by it.

11.

oldpro

May 16, 2006, 5:35 PM

Well, you will have to explain it to me. How does one go about "objectifying people" and why is it so bad?

I guess "homey amateurs" are people who like everything to be cozy and nice and mutually backscratching, and don't like things that seem to come with the realities of art-making and the art world, such as competition, criticism, high standards, hard judgement, the uncomfortable reality that art is really really hard, the nasty fact that most art sucks and the transporting miracle of the art that doesn't. Greenberg, for better or worse, was part of all that.

I think it is against the guidelines to characterize specific individuals.

12.

academic #1

May 16, 2006, 8:30 PM

"realities of art-making" , how do you know the realities of someone else's art making? really?

"people who like everything to be cozy and nice and mutually backscratching, and don't like things that seem to come with the realities of art-making and the art world, such as competition, criticism, high standards, hard judgement," sounds like you are describing academics like yourself, comfortably insulated from those realities you describe in the hallowed halls of safe institutions.

"the uncomfortable reality that art is really really hard" duh anything worthwhile is really hard, people who underscore this continually are not working enough themselves


I think you should take a look at yourself with the same standards you seem to impose on those people you think are so different from the OLD PRO that likes things nasty and uncomfortable (like the god of the old testament: harsh and unforgiving and angry)

13.

Noah

May 16, 2006, 10:10 PM

There are two definitions of 'objectify' being used here. One is -to make into an object - and the other is - to treat as an object. . One deals with art making , the other with life . It seemed that Franklin was suggesting the Lenny Bruce approach to image making where one doesn't censor the use of stereotypes or even the use of something that may be repugnant instead all images would be fair game and by their repeated use their meaning is transformed . I'm not convinced but it's interesting speculation.

14.

oldpro

May 16, 2006, 11:00 PM

Forgive me for upsetting you, academic. I spent 30 years making it in New York as an independent artist before assuming this "safe" academic job and I know what I am talking about. It is not a matter of "harsh, unforgiving and angry". It is a matter of high standards, hard work and little compromise.

15.

oldpro

May 16, 2006, 11:17 PM

I don't have my good dictionary at hand, Noah, but I think "objectification" is an awkward word to describe mistreatment of other people. People are already "objectified", strictly speaking, just by being people. I think other terms would be more specific and more appropriate. And there are some who treat objects better than they treat people anyway.

16.

Wiki

May 16, 2006, 11:37 PM

"objectification"

17.

Franklin

May 17, 2006, 12:23 AM

I realize that the definition at Wikipedia is the standard usage from the standpoint of feminist thinking, but as OP put it, it's a strange way of labeling the mistreatment of someone. Again, imagine a specific instance of the problem and try to characterize it. Hardly any women resemble the idealistic women presented in the media, and anyone who finds real women lacking based on those ideals is a fool. I don't resemble the men. My cats don't resemble the cats in the cat food commercials. My furniture doesn't resemble the furniture in the catalogues. We call those women in the media "models" because they're like airplane models: fake, simplified, nonfunctional, and purely representative. They also work on our consciousness in interesting ways for exactly the same reasons. They play into conventions.

The process by which you refigure an intangible experience, like seeing, into a concrete form requires that you use conventions. Those conventions can be used beautifully or idiotically or any number of other ways. The main point is that the map is not the territory, and people who don't get this are going to persist in making errors of judgment. The problem with "Objectification is dehumanizing, reject it" is that it amounts to "don't have a map," and I don't think that's possible. But it's definitely possible to say, "here are some maps, now go draw your own." Lenny Bruce is a great example. It's why I think that censorship is worse than any problem it's trying to solve.

Stereotyping is an interesting phenomenon. Your brain continually makes predictions about the immediate future so that you don't have to reconstruct reality every time you open your eyes. But that same process, working long-term in the social sphere, forms ideas about classes of people that may or may not be accurate for the class and can't be accurate for every member. You can no more turn off this process than you can stop breathing, and you don't want to, because it's your intelligence. But you can pay a lot of attention, and the information you get from doing so is almost always going to violate your expectations if you gather it assiduously enough. Andrew Sullivan has been using a beautiful Orwell quote on his site lately: "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." That's much harder than saying that such and such ought to just go out of existence, and will ultimately be more effective.

18.

alesh

May 17, 2006, 12:49 AM

That's all well and good, Franklin. And, especially your 3rd graph is logical and sense-making. The first two, for me, violate your very own "make sense" guideline.

Everybody knows what is meant by "objectification" in our society. It may not be a prime example of the most elegant use of the language, but it refers to a very real phenomena. Anyone troubled by the usage is probably a chauvinist (and probably well over half a century old).

IMHO, one credible on a critique of the word "objectification" if (s)he is on record as spending approximately one order of magnitude more energy fighting the problem itself.

19.

alesh

May 17, 2006, 12:52 AM

allow me to ammend my remarks:

"Anyone troubled by the usage" above should read "Anyone who makes a big stink of being troubled by the usage"

"one credible" should read "one is credible"

I guess that's what the "preview" button's for . . .

20.

ahab

May 17, 2006, 1:14 AM

I can't help saying "Scheherazade" to myself, over and over again, trying to get the pronunciation right. All the way through Art School Confidential this evening.

Personally, I tend to 'subjectify' everything. It's a real problem, I know.

21.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 8:13 AM

"Anyone troubled by the usage is probably a chauvinist (and probably well over half a century old)."

Well, it is always nice to to see the old specter of ageism come up again, especially when embedded in an accusation of "chauvinism" within a context of righteous Politifcal Correctness. I take exception to a great many misuses of language, but this is the first time I have been accused of (I assume "male") chauvinism and charactized as being old for doing so. We certainly weave some perplexing inconistencies when we get on the soapbox!

22.

Franklin

May 17, 2006, 8:18 AM

Alesh's last comments were disqualified for drunkenness.

23.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 8:22 AM

And, I should add, Franklin's comment above, whether you agree with it or not, is an excellent example of an intelligent and thoughtful treatment of an interesting question. It would be nice, but probably to much to hope for, to see exceptions taken to it that operate on the same level.

I did not know the Orwell quote but I got one very similar when I asked an FBI agent what was their biggest problem when investigating. He said "overlooking the obvious".

24.

KH

May 17, 2006, 9:03 AM

Franklin, I'm sure you're aware that the world does not follow from Franklin.

Despite your protestations that you are not like those men, the women you know are not like those women, your cats are not like the cats on TV, etc., I regret to tell you that you ARE like those men. Men on TV treat women as sex-objects. It s not acceptable.

Recall your recent efforts at parody? That was a good example of the objectification of a woman (I know you already know this). Certainly parody can be done without dehumanizing someone, but your parody turned real musings by a woman into a degrading sexual narrative. You cannot deny that it was degrading, nor can you deny that your "parody" (in quotes because I think it failed) flattened her real experience into a sexual act and its related social currency.

It is no surprise that you have trouble with the word objectification. If you truly believe that rejecting objectification is like working without a map, then I suggest that you take a good look at the territory of your life.

The usage is larger than a feminist context. Nevertheless, a feminist context has at least as much validity as an artistic context.

25.

Franklin

May 17, 2006, 10:25 AM

KH, the prospect of being thought a chauvinist bothers me less than it used to. In the course of writing the above post, occurred to me that I was going to pay for questioning the term objectification by someone calling me sexist, even though I had spent an entire entry praising the merits of a women's comics anthology. I wondered, should I just not go there? And I decided, yes, I should go there because that very impulse to avoid it in the first place means that it needs to get hauled into the bright sunlight and looked at. If you think that questioning one of the terms of feminism is sexist, then I respectfully refuse to subscribe to your pieties.

Which brings me to the parody (which, for those of you just joining in, is this one, not the more recent sendup of ArtForum Diary). There were actually two degrading sexual narratives - you're only choosing to remember the one that offended you. All five narratives took the musings of real people and caricatured them as viciously as I could, because those musings were trite, fluffy, and being presented on a background of exploitation by a hypocritical, broken organization that claims to uphold standards for art in academia and makes an annual ritual of failing to do so, at great fiscal and emotional cost to its least privileged members. That's far more offensive to me than degrading sexual narratives, but you make your own choices.

I examine my existential territory to a degree that you can't even imagine. Go have a look at your own.

26.

craigfrancis

May 17, 2006, 10:57 AM

Not that I care all that much, and with all due respect, writing positively about a women's anthology of comics doesn't render you immune from being a male chauvinist, nor does having "coffee coloured girlfriends" at one point in your life free you from "ethno-centricism". This is the only art blog I've read wherein very polite and well written defenses of hate speech and the objectification of women have appeared. And I thought politics didn't have anything to do with art.

Oh yeah, and Alesh, I've found that men of any age make for really great woman-haters. Not just the ones over fifty.

I'm beginning to think that the term Political Correctness was invented by some whacko racist neo Nazi who wanted people to feel bad for treating each other with respect.

27.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 11:27 AM

There's the word "nazi", Franklin. It got here sooner than I thought.

I wonder, are the thought police just a wee bit like the SS?

28.

Noah

May 17, 2006, 11:29 AM

To see what is in front of ones nose needs constant stuggle. I try to take what's being said at face value and respond to it ,questioning when I need to but avoiding accusation when I can . Seeing this discussion unfold is like watching a bull fight -red cape -charge. The issue originally raised seems lost in a series of charges.In life or in art I'm hesitant to assign motivation i.e. "you're doing this because....' So enough .Is it worth discussing whether or not one should respond to dehumanizing images in the media by rejecting ,embracing ,questioning or ignoring them.
btw-Franklin ,Regarding the map analogy,having spent years working with maps I always have a compass at hand if the co-ordinates are wrong I still acknowledge it as a map but I reject it and try to see what is in front of my nose.

29.

Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 11:30 AM

How can people read so poorly, and miss the point of written words so badly? I am sincerely baffled.
I supose its the old case of struggling to see whats in front of ones nose, but being blinded by incontrolable subjectification...

30.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 11:35 AM

Noah, you write

"In life or in art I'm hesitant to assign motivation"

It's to your credit. Too bad everyone does not ermbrace this rule.

31.

Franklin

May 17, 2006, 11:35 AM

I never said it did render me immune, CF. I'm content to let the content of that essay speak for itself. I defend hate speech, its existence if not its content. There's no point in pretending that you're on the side of freedom of speech if you don't. That bit about the girlfriends - that was a failed attempt to demonstrate that people will happily ignore all kinds of counterevidence in an attempt to characterize negative things about your person from your writing. It nevertheless remains quite true.

I looked for the origins of PC on its Wikipedia entry and didn't find anything conclusive, but they had this great quote from Ben Franklin: "If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed." I would refer anyone interested to this marvelous book. The description does it no justice. Hughes goes after the politically correct on the left, the patriotically correct on the right (he calls it "the other PC"), and blows pieties on both sides out of the water. Quite delightful.

32.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 11:38 AM

Marc, it is a matter not of what you see but what you make of it, and what you make of it is a matter not of perception but one of character.

33.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 11:42 AM

In other words, what you see is what you are.

34.

Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 11:43 AM

Thanks for the heads up on the Hughes book Franklion... I'll have to pick it up.

In Canada (where I and I'm pretty sure CF are from), hate speech is criminalized, I think. But I'm with you Franklin, free speech is free speech.

... somebody should count all the ad hominem attacks on this thread...

35.

Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 11:44 AM

p.s. change your name to 'FrankLion"... it'd be way cool...

36.

craigfrancis

May 17, 2006, 12:09 PM

I apologise if I've misunderstood something, I'll have to read more closely in future.

I don't think anyone on this blog, not even you, Old Pro, is a Nazi. Sorry if that offended you. Indeed, it seems everyone here is a lover of freedom: free art, free markets, free speech. My point was just that when you call someone PC it implies that they're being insincere and stupid for speaking in a manner that's respectful to minorities and the marginalized.

Oh and Marc, I appreciate your measured response. You would have torn my head off not so long ago. Whew!

37.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 12:40 PM

The word did not offend me, Craig. I only mentioned it because there is a "somebody's law" (I keep forgetting the name) which states something to the effect that as soon as the word "nazi" is used the discussion is over. Franklin can clarify this and this time I will file it.

People should be treated with respect, at least if they merit being treated with respect. "Political correctness" is not a matter of individual decency but a rather inflexible and poorly understood across-the-board attitude that one must observe a set of ill-defined rules of behavior which amount to not thinking or saying certain proscribed things. When it is put into public policy it is often irrational and stultifying; as Franklin has tried to point out, it often comes squarely up against other rules we cherish, such as free speech. It also becomes a platform for indulging in the gratifying feeling of moral superiority afforded by righteous chastisement of one's peers, as we have often seen on this blog. Being wary of PC is not a rejection of common decency, it is a condition for it.

38.

Franklin

May 17, 2006, 2:12 PM

Godwin's Law.

Being wary of PC is not a rejection of common decency, it is a condition for it.

That's good.

39.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 3:23 PM

Thanks, Franklin.

I will bookmark Godwin for when I forget it again.

40.

Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 3:42 PM

That Wiki entry for "objectification" is quite interesting. It gives as a synonym the term "reification". Perhaps since 'objectification' is obviously such a loaded term , we should use this word instead... it'd be harder to make emotional appeals with the more neutral term.
The wiki also brings up the idea of the 'objectification' (reification) of people by hospitals... taken more broadly, one sees that science in general 'objectifies', well, basically everything, and in countless instances, this has been to humankind's great advantage.

41.

KH

May 17, 2006, 4:20 PM

Franklin, I'm not calling you a chauvenist. Like when my kid does a bad thing, I say "you did a bad thing, but that doesn't make you a bad person". I think that pointing out your/mine/his/her instance of BS/stupid/sexist/hateful/dumb/whatever behaviour is something you can accept without us having to delve into the stupid concept of PC. Tolerance is tolerance, bub. If you're down with calling out poor thinking, you best be ready to have the same done unto you (poor thinking can also be sexist thinking!).

I appreciated your post very much. My only criticism was a question of your perspective of objectivity. I hearkened back to the parody because it we had previously discussed it in person, and I thought it would be an easy step to make. You're right that I ignored the rest of it; I really don't want to revisit the parody.

About your existential territory--I'm not talking about that, the existential. I'm talking about the actual, and the actual is comprised of many things, the praise of the comics anthology and the parody among them.

A body is an object; a person is not. I think that's a succinct demonstration of how the objectification of people is bad. It doesn't matter what freaking ism uses the term--it boils down to that. The attempt to conflate art objects and people is poor thinking.

42.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 4:27 PM

In real life even the most ardent practitioners of PC objectify all the time. it is a natural process of everyday life. You can't help it. Franklin outlined this somewhat in #17. "Objectified" and "reified" both pertain to various conditions of objective observation. The better term, if you need one, is "dehumanizing", which carries a stronger negative connotation and is more specific.

My own feeling is that words which are not value terms in themselves should not carry value connotations; these should be brought out only by the context, whenever possible. A perfect example is that of KH above saying that "people are not objects", forcing, by implication, an illegitimate negative value on the neutral term "objects". Of course people are objects. Anything perceptible is.

All in all, it is not worth the time we are giving it.

43.

catfish

May 17, 2006, 4:35 PM

A body is an object; a person is not.. OK KH, I'll rise to the bait.

Why is it that many women work so hard to make themselves more appealing "as objects". From makeup to wonder bras to plastic surgery to nice clothing... surely you get the picture.

Men want to be hot too.

Most people would rather be appealing "as an object" than unappealing "as an object". What's wrong with being hot? To want that is part of our nature. Nothing intrinsically wrong with it that I can tell, even though it can lead to problems (as can just about everything else in our nature).

Shit storm, coming up ...

44.

mek

May 17, 2006, 8:18 PM

Talk about bait, catfish, you might as well just dangle your left testicle at the end of that line.

45.

Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 9:39 PM

Geez Franklin, don't you understand? KH isn't talking about the existential, she's talking about the actual!
... uh, sorry KH, what's the difference between the two?

46.

Marc Country

May 17, 2006, 9:41 PM

poor thinking can also be sexist thinking!

Sure, but is "sexist" thinking automatically "poor" thinking? Perhaps, if one objectifies morality, I suppose...

47.

Noah

May 17, 2006, 11:17 PM

Someone can choose to reject or protest images that one considers dehumanizing. In fact they may view this as their responsibility as a fellow human . Someone else might -as I said before -can take the Lenny Bruce approach. Both positions are defensible. A discussion can proceed . I 'm not willing to dismiss or trivialize someone's opinion . Not because they are all equal but because it does nothing to carry the conversation forward . It's the tone of this thread the apparent not the ideas that I've had enough of.

48.

Noah

May 17, 2006, 11:20 PM

'the apparent 'should be deleted from the last line of#47

49.

oldpro

May 17, 2006, 11:25 PM

You seem to be a smart guy, Noah. How would you advise steering the blog in such a way that the tone would be more acceptable to you?

50.

Marc Country

May 18, 2006, 10:51 AM

Here's an example of objectification...

For, or against?

51.

oldpro

May 18, 2006, 11:47 AM

I am for it about 75%. it is a little chilly and the color is not great.

Uglow is good but not quite up to the level of Freud and Auerbach, who are about 85% for me, not quite tops.

52.

catfish

May 18, 2006, 11:59 AM

AGAINST. The model has a nicely shaped breast, but that is not enough to save the picture from all the unused "background".

53.

Marc Country

May 18, 2006, 12:31 PM

Well, it seems like 'chilly' is part of the point, part of the 'objectification'. I suppose the spare colours and 'unused' background are part of that too. But, if they don't work well enough for you, then that's it.

So, one thumb up, one thumb down.
Ok Catfiskl and Oldprobert, how about this for 'chilly', 'unused backgrounds', etc... Thumb up or down?

54.

catfish

May 18, 2006, 12:45 PM

AGAINST on #2 too. A well shaped breast is a much more appealing object than a circle. #2 had something going, though, if Cantine had only come in on it. Cropped down to focus just on the circles could have made it into something, putting pressure on the edge, instead of letting it wallow in yellow.

However, the gaps in the frame suggest it is a rather small pciture, as it is, wallowing in yellow and all. The crop in does not look like it would work as tiny as I think the result would be. The art herd likes tiny pictures often as an axiom of insiderness. But few bother to look hard at what making a tiny picture entails.

55.

Marc Country

May 18, 2006, 1:05 PM

Cantine does focus on those circles, alright, but not in the way that you'd like him to, catfish. And you're right about the pictures being fairly small.

Here's an image that illustrates both points.

56.

catfish

May 18, 2006, 1:33 PM

AGAINST #3 et. al. Wow. The art crowd ought to love all 6. The circles are isolated from the rest of the picture in each case. But if the colors match the rest of your decor, what the hell. The only thing worse than a bad little picture is a bad large one. These are at least little.

Having said all this, I do not know the rest of this artist's work at all. All too often the "tiny" aesthetic strangles the soul out of an otherwise good artist. Cantine may well be a lot better than this.

57.

oldpro

May 18, 2006, 2:49 PM

I like #2, but unfortunately I did something almost identical over 40 years ago (now in the Oberlin Art Museum) and it was, if I do say so myself, much, much better. So I am predisposed to like the picture and find that it suffers under my evaluation at the same time.

I don't really agree with catfish about the spacing, but that is not really firm - I haven't seen enough.

However, #3 is disheartening. Those frames are deadly, big time!

58.

Jack

May 18, 2006, 5:51 PM

The picture Marc links to in #55 is not at all promising, let alone flattering. Even apart from the deadly (indeed) framing, the works themselves seem pointless, lame and precious to boot. I'm reminded of Hirst's dot paintings--not a good association. Absolutely does not work for me.

59.

oldpro

May 18, 2006, 6:20 PM

i think you guys are too hard on those pictures. I agree that they are precious and not great, but I find them likeable. He has worked the idea out pretty thoroughly, and the light area between the circles and the "shadow" underneath them have a nice interplay with the background. Also there is one on a site I looked up that has a strong orange circle which is better than the others. But I'm not going to go to the wall defending them.

60.

Franklin

May 18, 2006, 6:40 PM

I have never seen an Uglow in person. I keep thinking that I like them, but want to see how they hold up in the flesh, and how they look in aggregate - the technique is handsome but so predictable that I would expect to be disappointed by a bunch of them. The Cantines do that. One of them looked like a decent idea. Several do not. I've been thinking about flat, simple paintings lately because I have no talent for making them - recent experiments to that effect before I left Miami were highly discouraging.

61.

oldpro

May 18, 2006, 6:49 PM

Yeah, sometimes I suspect myself of being too accomodating to anything that looks like a thoughtfully worked-out painting just because it is at least that.

Too bad Dan Flavin was not named Uglow.

62.

Jack

May 19, 2006, 11:00 AM

I agree that the image in 53 makes a significantly better impression than the one in 55, even though it's still an anemic, fussy, prissy little painting. The 55 image probably gives a better sense of the actual scale, and seeing more paintings inclines me to think less of the whole business. It's better than the Hirst dot rubbish, but that's hardly saying much.

63.

oldpro

May 19, 2006, 11:14 AM

Yes, I know. I don't disagree. I rate everything on an intuitive "sliding scale" and if anything gets above about 50% I at least will grant that there is something there. the problem is that so much out there is so awful that anemic but respectable things start looking better than they should.

64.

Jack

May 19, 2006, 3:15 PM

I know, OP. It's one of the dangers of seeing too much mediocre stuff too often. In order not to feel foolish for wasting all that time and energy, the brain tries to talk itself into seeing the best of the lot as better than it is. In other words, there's a danger of adopting lower standards to feel more comfortable or less frustrated.

65.

oldpro

May 19, 2006, 3:43 PM

It's a habit I got into when I used to do jurying of local shows all over the US. I got so accustomed to the process that I could cast a glance over the room and instantly tell the gerneral level, and that became a kind of benchmark do do the quick "triage" before getting down to the hard decisions, which were always at the lower level of the better stuff and depended on factors like skill and the degree of working-out and the like.

Now that visual values have been pretty much jettisoned everywhere I get hungry enough to go for almost anything that makes a stab at esthetic excellence. Not a good circumstance, for sure.

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