Sunday, February 21, 2010

Back from Montana.  Operating on two levels, artist and scholar.  Scholar first.  I think I'm supposed to be connecting the dots--reading, looking at the work of Eugene Richards, about whom I am doing my first paper, reading (and did I mention reading)--but I'm not sure where the dots all are.  Postmodern commentary and the kind of very direct work Richards does don't seem to be part of the same picture (even though Richards' book, "Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue," was mentioned in a New Museum survey of work young artists have found influential).  So I feel like I'm trying to impose the ideas of modern art practice on someone whose work doesn't really resemble the type of work amenable to that kind of imposition.  I was looking at the wonderful little clip from Gillian of Janine Antoni's tightrope piece and thinking how that's the kind of work that latterday art criticism is meant for.  How to do all this is making my head spin, especially if I then add the second level, which is my own work.  How does it fit into the contemporary art scene?  Well, on the East Coast, it doesn't.  When my book came out I was often asked who my audience was, and I said anyone interested in the American West.  But now I think that my audience is anyone with the cultural context to appreciate the ordinary lives of rural American Westerners.  It's a slight shift, but I think that I understand it better now than I did even a few weeks ago.  Still, it's a stretch to try to critique Eugene Richard's vision (as well as I can understand it at this point), when everything that he is doing is an attempt to let his subjects tell the story.  Yes, he is visible through his choice of subjects and his camera angles, but he takes hard subjects and presents them dispassionately enough for viewers to still be able to form their own opinions even as they enter the dark worlds of his work.  This is completely contrary to the personal story style of artists like Antoni who are creating their reality from whole cloth.  To turn the old hymn on its head, I once was found, but now I'm lost.  Luckily there are a few guideposts, but I'm feeling more like Hansel and Gretel, or perhaps Dorothy, following an uncertain road.

Sunday Morning: Worshipping At The Shrine of the Inland Nereus

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