Your Art is Shit

Posted by johnkobeck on July 13, 2014as , , , , ,

One of the many things that irk me is that almost anyone can call themselves an artist. Many without qualification or education in the arts. The profession (yes it is indeed a profession) has become a sanctuary to the misfits of the world. Just imagine if people started to declare themselves to be lawyers and doctors. One does not become an artist by proclamation!

Some self proclaimed artists indeed create beautiful objects with great technical ability. This is apparent in all genres; painting, photography, sculpture, the so called digital arts, drawing, interior design, floral designers, print makers, fashion designers (fartsters) etc. However much of this work is repetitive garbage. I like to call this kind of art “dead art” or “hollow art” – Its the kind of shit you see at neighborhood art fairs or on social media. I like to fuck with these people and ask them questions like” Can I see the artist statement that accompanies the work”? With that, I usually get a blank stare. Art making is probably 25% craft, and 75% intellectual. In todays digital age, there is a proliferation of shit that constantly bombards us non-stop. Just look at Flickr or Tumblr. 99% of it looks the same. It’s all so fucking boring.

Photography is rife with this shit. Everyone is a street photographer. Please, show me something different or interesting. I’m tired of looking at selfies in public toilets, or naked young women with tattoos and piercings in dimly lit bedrooms. While the latter is fun to look at (as a male), there’s really not much to see. It’s all so boring and everyone is doing it or has done it. I call it the Todd Hido syndrome. While Hido produced similar work, his was actually intelligent and said something. He is also a master printer which is a lost art these days.

The artist statement is critical for any serious artist. If you dont have one, you need to create one. If you cant create one, then you need to rethink your chosen career path. What are you trying to communicate with your art? There are plenty that will read this and say “thats bullshit, many great artists never had an artist statement”. My response to that would be yes. Its true many did not publish an artist statement, however I can assure you they had one; if not on paper then they had a solid mental understanding of their work which they could clearly articulate. You see, it’s okay not to publish a statement, but you still need one. This is why most successful artist maintain a journal. Nothing was haphazard or up to chance.

Making art, with no education in the arts, is not impossible, but it is often difficult.The uneducated think one goes to art shool to learn craft; they perceive art school to be a “how -to” endeavour. How to paint, how to draw, how to use a camera, etc. In reality, art school should be a place where one matures as an artist and develops concepts and ideas regarding purpose, meaning and identity. The BFA – MFA graduate should leave the program with an in depth knowledge of art history, theory and criticism. In that, the student should come to an understanding as to why he/she makes art and what they are trying to say with their art. Art school is all about personal growth. If we send students out into the world with pure technical ability and no substance beyond that, we are merely producing technicians of craft who will go on to make meaningless hollow pieces of shit that have no lasting value or purpose other then to hang over grandmas couch or clutter Facebook and Instagram. I think most MFA and BFA educated artists do have a firm understanding of their concepts and visions and are “intellectually qualified” to make art. The 2 year community college, with its vast limitations, should at the very least inspire students to go on to a 4 year degree. Is an art degree necessary to be an artist? No. But it sure does help.

If this article pisses you off, then good. Go do something about it. Start a journal, create an artist statement, go back to school if that is an option. Just do something, and stop making shit.


  • Seth Garner says:

    I applaud you for writting what most people wouldn’t have the balls to say. You are 100% spot on with this.

  • Angela says:

    Bravo! It needed to be said. There is just so much visual garbage on Flickr , tumblr and Facebook. I have an MFA and am competing a PhD in fine arts. In Europe I believe artist are treated with more respect then the US. Keep up the good work.

  • alain briot says:

    ‘Real’ fine art photographers also have a career, have completed personal projects, have created masterpieces, assembled a body of work, and achieved an oeuvre in short. They don’t have just ‘work’ and they didn’t start yesterday.
    Above all they have a story, one that makes sense in the context of creating art, and one that goes beyond buying a camera a printer and a computer.

    While writing and artist statement helps separate artists from wannabes to some extent, completing projects, creating an oeuvre, writing one’s story and assembling a body of work helps even more. In the end while one may fool the inadvertent public for a time, the total output of an artist over a lifetime does not lie.

    Alain Briot

  • Ashley says:

    Here here! I’m a photography curator and I cannot to see people that have no artist statement, and this happens with BA graduates. It makes me wonder if they learned anything in school or if they are just being lazy. I also once met someone who worked in events who said she wanted to ‘do curating’ after taking a 4 week short course. I banged my head repeatedly on my desk and told her she should curate a salad instead.

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