Category Archives: art, artists

Surprise Yourself

Herron-Seeley-Presentational Forms

Kathy described this mind map and I found it out in the wild. Collaborations can lead to interesting incidental paths. Kathy turned me on to Dr. Chris Seeley‘s view of the artful organization. She added her own very highest regard. The incidental informs the future process and relationship and collaboration and transforms into the coincidental. follow along

You can download The Artful Organization via the link for a pdf on this page.

Asian-Figure-on-Kathy-Skerritt's-Table

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Generativity, coda

Janet Echelman

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Generativitality

Some Thoughts On Generative Art by Anders Holt

Brisk Totem - 2015 - Stephen Calhoun

Brisk Totem – 2015 – Stephen Calhoun

Many who know something about my art practice know I loathe the terms “digital art” and “digital artist.” Both terms strike me as almost always leading right into various thickets of ignorance, bias, oversimplification, and, confusion about what the word “digital” means when applied to art-making. Yes, it is my personal hangup that I don’t want to be associated with inevitable misconceptions about where ‘the digits’ fall in my own process.

On the other hand I dig being someone who creates generative art because I’m always ready to explain how I deploy scripted generative routines to make images. If I encounter someone who knows about generative art processes, one of their first questions will be along the lines of, “what sequences what?”

An art acquaintance asked me on what kind of art I made. My initial response was about processes and processing, ‘After taking pictures of set-ups I cut them into symmetries, and, process these half pieces into full symmetries. I may process the art work further by adjusting pixels using software.’

“Mixed process photographs.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

I term the art work to be a: mixed process photographic image, or, mixed process photo-generative image. Sometimes the finished piece is a straight photograph–taken by a digital camera–cut and pasted into a mirror symmetry. It’s all about the process and the ‘processes of processes.’ This fact is, apparently, very hard to approach from the direction of ‘the digital.’

When I imagine possibilities in the realm of generativity, I am visualizing how different iterations of the processing of processes and first order processing work in concert. In this there are features of a peculiar cybernetics anchored to imagining.

Over the past two winters I have not been firing up the generative dashboard, yet I have been stockpiling various experiments, in my head. My goal would be to create a piece as overwhelming as the two here, Brisk Totem, and, Sonny Sharrock in Heaven, both 2015.

Sonny Sharrock In Heaven - 2015 - Stephen Calhoun artist

Sonny Sharrock In Heaven – 2015 – Stephen Calhoun

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Tripping the Light Fantastic

2047 APOLOGUE – a concept performance by Zhang Yimou featuring KINETIC LIGHTS from WHITEvoid on Vimeo.

Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.
? Anaïs Nin


Goggle, bring the goggles…

The world belongs to the energetic. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

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Collaboration & Serendipity

Cleveland Ohio artist Stephen Calhoun
I.

FORTUITY [f. L. fortu‹imacbreve›t-us, f. forte by chance, f. fors chance + -ous.]

That happens or is produced by fortune or chance; accidental, casual.
OED

Between 2005-2012, when I was researching serendipity as a decisive aspect of adult development, I brought together a simple insight with the older language of Albert Bandura to formulate a central concept, strategic fortuity.

This concept describes the accidental event that changes everything, and so generates ensuing connective reconfigurations far into the future. But this is not linear at all, so the actual cascade of fortuity acts as a multiplier–as the singular event broadcasts potential and actual instantiations causally related to, but not necessarily in the same order, of the originating serendipitous event. This applies also to the conditions at the time of the eventuated fortuity because those conditions are themselves brought about by prior fortuities.

Example. You met your partner through a marvelous happenstance and soon enough this happenstance sets you on the doorstep of a new house and as it turned out this new dwelling came to you by accident. A strategic fortuity concretely synergizes other fortuities, fortuity fueling fortuity, contingency chained to contingency.

Once you know how strategic fortuity works as a kind of gating and connective circuit completing factor in a social cybernetic routine, there can be very few truly innocent (and naked of contingency,) arrivals of novel data, and, at the second order, of transformative experience, and, at the third order, of novel opportunity or exceptional possibility.

Artist Stephen Calhoun's studio

Amina and grandfather Roger

II.
My studio in our house on a quiet inner ring suburban street on the east side of Cleveland is, during its summer season, split between the garage bay where an assembly line dedicated to sorting materials is located,  the front porch where most photographs are taken, an attic that houses the old recording studio and now is transformed into the computer-based image processing, printing, a framing center, and, the lower rear porch that is where materials are organized and stored and the still-lifes are set-up. This last location provides me with my own magical cabinet of curiosities. My art practice is centered in this room that overlooks the flower garden.

An inveterate collector of possibly useful materials and items, the set-up room inventories both the objects and the experience of obtaining each bit of stuff. Garage sales are prime sources. In 2015 I picked up a gaudy Chinese ceramic lamp and chatted up the owner, a new media curator at Oberlin. I told him how “you never know what you’ll find,” and he responded,

Of course all art is based in serendipity.

This surprised me. The normative supposition is that art reflects the masterful, thoroughgoing, control of the application of technique to materials, and these then are dynamically brought together to serve and realize an artistic vision. Because, at the time, I was clear about the odd element of serendipity, and, moreover, of underdetermination, in my own art practice, I was not prepared to embrace the man’s assertion, thinking I was a different kind of artist who was really using serendipity. Although it seemed to me that there might be a similar relation between fortuity and event in art-making as there is in scientific research, the confidently delivered ‘of course’ threw me; at the time.

III.

stephen calhoun, cleveland ohio artist
Last year the neighbor’s granddaughter expressed the single best thought yet said to me about my own art. In response to being asked what her experience of Four Observers was, Zoe, eleven years old at the time, told me,

“I had to re-adjust my brain to see farther into your picture.”

Zoe and her younger cousin Amina came to visit their grandparents a few weeks ago. When I learned the two girls were coming for a few weeks, I decided to hatch an experiment involving the two coming over to my studio to intuitively piece together set-up still-lifes. It seemed to me it was likely the girls would jump into playing around creatively in a medium not part of everyday artistic/kids’ routines. I thought I would then photograph what the two came up with and set the girls to discovering what manipulation of their own image each liked best. The bonus for me was an opportunity to do some informal, observational, qualitative research about how young people might approach a simple request to use stuff from the room full of dried plant material and objects to learn and build a, by definition, unique and personal still-life.

The experiment developed to the point I was able to capture photographs on my iPad and import the photos into iColorama, an application that provides an entire suite of manipulation routines. I showed the two how to create the mirror symmetries and other geometric recastings of the source image.

I asked the two to save favored images, as each took turns to use the iPad to manipulate the source images taken from their still life. Then each pointed out which manipulation was their single most favorite. (Those choices were later published to my timeline on Facebook.

IV.
A few days ago, while exporting photographs from my DSLR camera, I noted I had taken photographs of their set-up still-lifes! I had forgotten I had done this, and then recalled I took the raw set-ups outside to photograph right before I deconstructed the still-lifes.

The deconstruction process was one of the remarkable aspects of the experiment’s qualitative aspect. (I primed the girls’ agency right before setting each to the task by reviewing what it means to approach creativity and creating by using intuition, setting aside rules and ‘right ways,’ and, from their own sense, using the ability to ‘wing it,’ and ‘go for it.’) As I deconstructed each piece, I noted a whole slew of qualities, made especially clear by virtue of my understanding the difference between their fresh and inexperienced (with respect to my experience,) operation of the task, with how I tend to build a still-life.

Amina&Zoe_DSC0037

For example, I noted both gravitated to larger objects. Both also seemed to realize a set-up that could stand on its own. I noted there were some concealed yet clear positional coherencies. Amina’s still life is more densely packed than that of cousin Zoe.  Were either girl trying to tell a story?

Yet, it wasn’t until I saw the high resolution images pulled off the camera that I was struck–and I gasped–that I was looking at two completely novel images that could not be obtained except through the realized agency of the two cousins, and, crucially, the images could be entered into my own creative process.

Both creative products were obviously consequentially serendipitous. And, anything I might produce by subjecting the images to my own experienced, (and less fresh!) ability to manipulate the images would represent in a singular way my own result being entirely contingent upon, anchored to, the outside creative product of the two cousins.

Any art I might create from the source material provided by others would denote a collaboration forged by means of starting from novel, and, (in my terms,) a “non-reflexive” starting point. Looking at the opportunity with my own eyes I soon saw how I could leverage each of the image’s distinctive compositional and ‘field’ qualities. The images possessed strengths I could not have intentionally brought forth on my own. The strengths were of a different sort than the ones I tend to realize.

By doing a series of manipulations, I generalized and greatly abstracted the objects and object relations of the two still-lifes. The result was this art work.

artist stephen calhoun

I’ve worked in this vein several times in the past. This bundle of approaches yields a curvy dancing psychedelic energy.

V.
Next, returning to the originals, I spent time in trial-and-error mode, a mode itself networked via fortuity and possibly happy accidents. I played around with the integration of both of the cousins’ images in a single image for the sake of retaining their detail and some of their object, (or symbolic content.) Eventually, I came up with a circular mandala-like image that is tagged by several whimsical features, none more so than the lips originally found in the mask in Zoe’s image.

Unity for Zoe & Amina #1 (2017) 36x36a Stephen Calhoun

Unity for Zoe and Amina #1
 is, in my own judgment, a terrific art work. It is demonstrably so in my art practice’s given aspirational terms, in that it scaled up to a thirty-six inch diameter circular image able to realize what I am usually after: an overwhelming experience of intriguing detail and dynamic, visual, object relations. (The piece will go into my primary catalog and someday will be exhibited along with my best 36-48 inch diameter mandalas, mandala-like, and, what I call, unity, pieces.) This art work will always conceal its story of collaboration and serendipity.

VI.
The imperative of being open to unusual and original instances of source material is a pragmatic consequence of understanding that one of the only ways to assure novelty is to network and collaborate with definitively external human agencies and their unique capacities. In the case discussed here it matters very little that the capacities are naive because it matters greatly that the capacities would nevertheless support the distinctive production of materials unable to be realized any other way.

Agents like this, collaborators like this, bring unique potentialities to the table. The threads of serendipity are structurally most obvious in setting to a task people about which little is known, or, are in practice, strangers, unpracticed, inexperienced, outside the norm, or, even, randomly selected.

The over-arching conditioning of new collaborative potentials are also constructed out of all the hidden and obscure factors which, were these concretized and examined, would showcase all the accidental developmental relations which arrived to produce the actualization of exact contingent conjunctions of agency in time and space. You knock on the wrong door, I invite you in anyway!

The shorter idea about this concerns what had to happen to bring the collaborators together in the instance for which collaboration is possible. The example described here possesses critical ‘priors’ which set my studio down across the street from Roger and his granddaughters. These necessary fortuities are, as I like to put it, innumerably prolix.

The promise of novel heuristics was clarified in the experiment and its later ramifications in my art practice. It is worth supposing that there could be a possibly worthwhile problem-solving routine that involves running the problem by, for example, your children. The point of doing so has to do with networking potentially fruitful resources that are by definition possibly powerful precisely because the steward of the external resource, the outside agent, is going to come up with provisional discoveries and findings which may only be sourced in the agent’s unique flux of experience, global and local aspirations, resourcefulness, and, as it is described, fresh eyes.


 

Grandpa Roger’s blog, Fear Not, Living the Second Half of Life Unafraid, is superb.

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Socially Engaged For Just an Aggressive Moment

TW-The-Genius-of-the-Deplorables-(2017)-9x18-Rijks-Museum-Stephen-Calhoun-copy

Roots-of-An-Approval-Rating-(2017)-10x18-Rijks-Museum-Stephen-Calhoun

TW-Your-Post-Modern-Republican-Party-(2017)-(8x18)-Rijks-Museum-Stephen-Calhoun

TW-Trumpocracy-(2017)-12.5x18

My art practice is not directed to be socially engaged in the conventional ‘art world’ sense of my intent and the work itself referring to social problems or political challenges. (In noting this, if I needed to, I would make a case for its capacity-building potential at the scale and level of individual consciousness. This increase in self-awareness may fund constructive benefits in the social domain.) However, I am a bit of a trickster, so i noted upon visiting the Rijksmuseum’s digital collection that they allowed for open use of available downloads of digitized images from their vast collection, Plus, upon request, the museum could supply to artists hi-resolution images. One has to ask nicely it would seem. Because I had previously manipulated purloined images (via Google image search,) of favored Flemish proto-surrealists of the 16th and 17th century, when I revisited the online Rijksmuseum I had already hatched an idea.

These four works are the result.

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Briefs 3

Stephen-Calhoun-Totem-artiststatement-III

Straight-forward enough; my art practice is not rocket science. Here is the index of all my best work.

Stephen-Calhoun-Totem-artiststatement-Kabir

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Briefs 2

Stephen-Calhoun-Totem-artiststatement--II

I could explain these statements, but then the point of their needing to be unpacked is negated. Dewey offers a clue.

more

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Briefs 1

artist stephen calhoun

There could be a subset of the literature of art and of art practices that is concerned with only the so-called artist’s statement.  Such a scholarly endeavor might go far in going beyond the rote qualifier about such statement, that they are a necessary evil.

For my own part, I have no hesitancy seeing my own statement being the integration of intent and brand, and, alas, psychological priming.

This first of four parts seems nicely tuned, and I wouldn’t offer a statement that I didn’t deeply resonate, yet I intentionally managed to throw in a word the reader might have to look up. Isn’t a law that the artist’s statement has to include a minimum of one such word?

More: artiststephencalhoun.com

 

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Setting Up

Burnt Patch from Museum Trade on Vimeo.

Andrew Goldsworthy
Rivers and Tides: Andrew Goldsworthy Working With Time, is an essential documentary about creativity in the world.

Lori Nix – "Pull them in with beauty" from Derek Means on Vimeo.

Lori Nix

Nix & Gerber

video+article

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Upside Down

Jeff-Koons-Balloon-Dog-Orange-Sculpture
$58.4 million

“If the aforementioned tendencies—the event-driven turn in the market, the market’s ongoing globalization, the continued ascent of formerly ‘alternative’ practices to the mainstream, and persistent complication around investing in art—have all come into greater clarity over these past five years, one final factor arguably trumps all others with respect to the present vitality of the trade: the growing divide between the top of the market and everything else.” Noah Horowitz, author, The Art of the Deal

There are around 2,000,000 working artists in the USA. Many of them work at other jobs. I do not know of any social science research that is aimed to accurately capture the varieties of business models being deployed by individual artists. That said, there are tiers given by the global art market.

Regional art markets are variously describable, with specific institutional and commercial concerns leading the description of their local ‘art world,’ and, to a lesser extent, the success of some of their resident artists also adding to the description.

The top of the art world is the art world everybody is fascinated by, yet, working artists in their hometowns are much more likely to be fascinated by their local art world.

The amazing paradox of the world of art commerce is that its model is thought to scale all the way down to the lowest tiers of local art worlds. This is paradoxical. The results speak for themselves! I’ll demonstrate this soon. The scaled-down model is preposterous on its face. However, its verities infect most everything in the local art worlds, especially the nature of gatekeeping in those worlds, and, how a simple problem is mediated, that there are many more artworks than there are post-transactional places for the pieces to end up at.

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Instructed

Sol LeWitt 1928-2007

bonus:

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Chronic Outside Art Worlds

Nugs Hero (Stephen Calhoun 2017)

Nugs Hero (Stephen Calhoun 2017)

This is not a post about bongs-as-art. Unfortunately the video I’d like to feature is from VICE, and it can’t be re-embedded. Still, it’s right here and needs to be viewed (5m) before I note its few exemplifications of what I call the 01% thin art world.

First, the subject of the short video is a twenty-one year old college student, although, truth be told, he joined a venture capital group, and, the location for the video is his sleek Manhattan apartment. The young man is clearly monied, entrepreneurial, and, conversant with bongs. He is addressing the question: how such implements might instantly constitute a high end in either the smoking pot or art world?

$100,000 glass sculptures are not unheard of; Dale Chihuly’s chandeliers have sold for well over that amount. (Chihuly chandeliers are large 4-8 feet in length.)

…is actually an accomplished glass blower.

(Edward L. Milstein, Mr. Grey’s father, was around twenty when he co-founded a venture capital firm in NYC.)

Art is flourishing in New York more than anywhere else in America.

The people buying this right now are smokers.

Millennials in Manhattan go to a party implicitly tasked to, hopefully, begin to elevate bongs costing tens of thousands of dollars out of their current niche as high end devices for mere smokers.

Young Benjamin Milstein briefly comments without any guile about how a market might be made in NYC. Take aways, one, throw family money at the challenge, two, enlist apparently accomplished artists/craftsmen and give them a shot at upending the world of 2D hanging art joints on walls. An,d strike while the iron is hot in flourishing NYC!

mid-to-high market bongs

working class art appreciation:

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I See You

1997: Birth of the Camera Phone from Conscious Minds on Vimeo.

The Mobile Phone in the Hands of the Nepalise People: A Humanistic Perspective of Technology (master thesis, Merilin Piipuu, pdf)

The Art of Making Photos: Some Phenomenological Reflections (Thomas S. Eberle, pdf)

cameraph

Women on the move: the mobile phone as a gender technology (Carla Ganito, pdf)

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Settled It!

I would use such a rarified technical term to better describe my artistic position, that there is no reason to actually deploy it! While I contemplate the problem of the insider/outsider artist, I also play around with the designation I grant to myself. There is no way to summarize or integrate the slew of positions that are–at a minimum–personally vibrant. On twitter I have at times tagged posts #outsider, #visionary, #archetypal, #generative, #experimental, #experiential, (and more.) Each such designation fits in their specific way.

Nothing rides or rests on this designation even if it might find its way into an explication gathered from possibilities which inhere to ‘here’s what I am about as an artist.’ Nor can any designation capture the thick part of my practice, the part that is partly described as being underdetermined, stochastic, heuristic, etc..

Still, to my self and for myself, I am an enactivist artist. My subjectivity is situated in a body, in a time and place, in an interface, in a constructively vital ecology. This settles it for the time being.

And, yes, I am dedicated to articulating designations that rub the post-modernity of the art world’s predispositions and normative designations differently. Why?

It seems to be a universal feature of human perception, a feature of the underpinning of human epistemology, that the perceiver shall perceive only the product of the perceiving act. He shall not perceive the means by which that product was created. The product itself is a sort of of work of art. (Gregory Bateson, A Scared Unity, p217)

If we relate this to seeing the art object, the crucial tacit element to this point of Bateson’s is that the entirety of the second and third orders given in the cognition, processes and history of the artist, and which are behind the art object, are not at all features of perception.

enactivist theory:
etec.ctlt.ubc.ca/510wiki/Enactivist_Theory

Tutorial on Embodiment

Tutorial on Embodiment (eucognition.org)
5.1.3. Embodied dynamicism and enactivism

“Since the early 1990s the computationalist orthodoxy has begun to be challenged by the emergence of embodied-embedded cognitive science (e.g. Clark 1997; Wheeler 2005; Varela et al. 1991). This approach claims that an agent’s embodiment and situatedness is constitutive of its perceiving, knowing and doing. Furthermore, the computational hypothesis has been challenged by the dynamical hypothesis that cognitive agents are best understood as dynamical systems (Van Gelder and Port 1995). These developments can be broadly grouped together under the heading of embodied dynamicism (cf. Thompson 2007, pp. 10-13). While this approach has retained the connectionist focus on self-organizing dynamic systems, it incorporates this emergentist perspective into a non-computationalist framework which holds that cognition is a situated activity which spans a systemic totality consisting of an agent’s brain, body, and world (e.g. Beer 2000).” (Froese, 2009)

“The paradigm of enactive cognitive science originally emerged as a part of the embodied dynamicist approach in the early 1990s with the publication of the influential book The Embodied Mind by Varela et al. (1991). However, while the enactive approach also emphasises the importance of embodiment, situatedness and dynamics for our understanding of mind and cognition, it has stood out from the beginning by promoting the cultivation of a principled phenomenological investigation of lived experience as a necessary complement to a standard scientific inquiry of the mind (e.g. Varela et al. 1991; Varela 1996, 1999). Moreover, it has recently set itself apart even further by placing a systemic biological account of autonomous agency at the heart of its theoretical framework (e.g. Weber and Varela 2002; Thompson 2004; Di Paolo et al. 2008). This complementary focus on biological (living) and phenomenological (lived) subjectivity clearly distinguishes the enactive approach from the rest of the competing paradigms in the cognitive sciences (cf. Thompson 2007).” (Froese, 2009)

bonus:

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Ngaphandle – Part One

Edward M. Gómez on Outsider Art from Sinnlicht on Vimeo.

Definitions?!

RAW VISION : The controversy surrounding the exact definition of Outsider Art and allied fields has been going on ever since awareness of the phenomenon began so here we try to clarify the different aspects.

Essay offers sub-divisions without defining the term itself.

Outsider Art Fair: Over the years, the parameters of Outsider Art have expanded dramatically to include art made by a wide variety of art-makers who share this common denominator of raw creativity. Outsiders come from all walks of life, from all cultures, from all age groups. In recent years, Outsider Artists may have even come to outnumber Insider Artists who have achieved critical validation within the elite art world, and yet who speak with increasingly less clarity and relevance to us about the human experience.

It seems to me obvious that there are more self-trained artists than there are academically trained artists.

Huffington Post 11/20/2014 10 Outsider And Self-Taught Artists Who Use Art To Create Their Own Worlds: The term “outsider art” was first used by art historian Roger Cardinal in 1972 to loop together art made by people living with certain disabilities, as well as those living on the outskirts of society. Unlike most other art movements, outsider artists don’t have much in common besides straying from the norm. They work in different media, throughout different times and places, without shared assumptions or aesthetic styles.

In fact, most outsider artists have or had no idea they would be categorized as such — or even that their art would be seen by someone other than themselves. Therein lies the conundrum — is a celebration of outsider art redemptive tribute or exploitation?

In “How to Look at Outsider Art,” Lyle Rexer defines the tricky genre as “the work of people who are institutionalized or psychologically compromised according to standard clinical norms.” This definition was amended to include those enduring an altered state of consciousness — whether from marginalization or incarceration. “Self-taught art” is a category that often overlaps with outsider art, referencing artwork made without schooling that strays from the norms and styles of the time.

Christie’s : ‘Outsider Art is perhaps a catch-all term,’ explains Christie’s specialist Cara Zimmerman. ‘I tend to classify it as art made by people who weren’t working within the artistic establishment.’

In the United States, she says, the material stems from a folk-art tradition. Most Outsider artists received no formal training and were influenced by pop culture and the world around them rather than other mainstream artists.

The Atlantic The Rise of Self-Taught Artists. Out is the new in. : For an artist to be considered an outsider, he or she must first be brought inside the professional art world by an insider.

Huffington Post 1/30/15 What Is The Meaning Of Outsider Art? The Genre With A Story, Not A Style: There are various ways to make sense of outsider art as a genre. Roberta Smith calls it “a somewhat vague, catchall term for self-taught artists of any kind.“ Lyle Rexer defines it as “the work of people who are institutionalized or psychologically compromised according to standard clinical norms” or “created under the conditions of a massively altered state of consciousness, product of an unquiet mind.” Jerry Saltz argues it doesn’t exist at all, except as a discriminatory boundary preventing untrained artists from their rightful places in the canon.

Artsy – About Outsider Art: A label applied to artworks that have little connection with the art world or are created by people with no formal art training. The term is also applied to artworks by people with psychiatric disabilities and others on the margins of society. However, as more and more examples have been exhibited and subsumed into the historical canon, some have argued that the ‘outsider’ label should be retired.

Hyperallergic. What Does “Outsider Artist” Even Mean?: In a blog post from 2007, dealer Edward Winkleman discusses the issue of intent and his changing perceptions of outsider art:

Being the stubborn loggerhead I am, I can’t get myself unstuck from an assumption about the importance of intent in art. Especially intent with regard to communicating.

Taken to its logical extremes in our debate, however, this assumption has led me to conclude that the work of Henry Darger, for example, is not “Art” because (or so it’s been reported) he had no intention of ever showing it to anyone, meaning it was not created with the intent of communicating anything with anyone, and that then made it something other than “Art.”

Now I can look at Darger’s work and feel my jaw involuntarily drop. I can marvel at the vision. I can delight at the composition and especially the color. But because I know (or think I know) these works were the result of a masturbatory effort, they don’t meet my own definition of fine art, which goes beyond just intent to communicate to include what bnon called, in the thread on child prodigies yesterday, the act of “submerging [one]self in art history as well as surveying the contemporary field and carving out a niche.

Jerry Saltz on the Outsider Art Fair — and Why There’s No Such Thing As ‘Outsider’ Art: Which brings us to the the horrible Rubicon that still separates so-called “outsider,” “self-taught,” and “visionary” art from institutionally sanctioned official art. Now that even immigration reform can happen, it’s time for MoMA — and all museums — to integrate “outsider art” into their permanent collections and erase that distinction for good. They need to allow these artists to take their rightful places in the canon. In addition to the artists mentioned above, visionaries like Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, Bill Traylor, Adolf Wolfli, Martin Rameirez, Minnie Evans, John Kane, Clementine Hunter, Hector Hyppolite, and others must be integrated into the canon. At the Fair, there’s a 1939–1942 town scene by one of the greatest “outsiders” of them all, Bill Traylor, that would easily compare with any Picasso from the same period. Or, indeed, any artist.

With this outmoded discrimination still in place, the story of art is woefully misrepresentative — a lie, even. Millions of viewers and thousands of nascent artists are being denied the chance to see some of the best work made in the last 100 years simply because it was once decided that to be an artist meant having had pre-approved training. It’s a self-perpetuating false distinction…

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Visual Thinking Strategy

A VTS Discussion with First Grade Students from Visual Thinking Strategies on Vimeo.

(source) In his 1997 article Thoughts on Visual Literacy, Philip Yenawine describes visual literacy as:

“…the ability to find meaning in imagery. It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification (naming what one sees) to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. Many aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing. Objective understanding is the premise of much of this literacy, but subjective and affective aspects of knowing are equally important.”

The three fundamental questions of Visual Thinking Strategy:

VTS

Abigail Housen and, later partnered with Yenawine, structure a theory of development around the experience of art. It has become popular as a basis for pedagogy in some schools, in many museums, and, as a foundational practice for art teachers and docents. (See: VTS Basic Manual: Learning To Think And Communicate Through Art; Housen, and Theory into Practice: The Visual Thinking Strategies, Yenawine. The latter article is available at VTShome.

VTS is very close to being in alignment with my own artmaking ethos, except it is missing the body. The body in this case is the viewing subject.

Here are four questions that could restore the body in the process of aesthetic inquiry:

(1) What do your findings feel like as emotions?

(2) What do your findings feel like in your body?

(3) Characterize your sense of your own experience?

(4) What are you doing to understand your experience?

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Questioned, Again

Stephen Calhoun, cleveland ohio photographer artist

Oh Good Party has published this month an interview with yours truly, artist Stephen Calhoun.

(Oh Good Party is art advisory and art concierge providing services to their private group of asian collectors, some in Canada, most in China. They invited me to be the second American artist to join their roster of artists.)

On my own website there is an extensive Q&A too.

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Outside, Looking Outside

In his pamphlet, Asphyxiante culture, a classic statement of an anti-cultural attitude, the artist Jean Dubuffet relates an instructive anecdote to illustrate the degree to which cultural preconceptions can completely stifle the proper apprehension of anything that resists accepted ideas about art. It concerns a conversation he had with a teacher to whom he tried to expound the hypothesis that throughout history there have always been forms of art alien to established culture and which ipso facto have been neglected and finally lost without a trace. The teacher expressed his conviction that if such works had been assessed by contemporary experts and deemed unworthy of preservation, it was to be concluded that they could not have been of comparable value to the works of their time that had survived. To support this view, he cited the example of some German paintings he had seen in an exhibition. Though these had been executed at precisely the time the impressionist school was directing art into new channels, they bore no traces of that influence. After submitting these forgotten works to a thorough and objective perusal, the teacher felt obliged to admit that they were aesthetically inferior to the work of the impressionists; art criticism had accordingly been perfectly justified in preferring the latter.

Dubuffet points out the stupidity of this sort of reasoning, based as it is on a notion of objective value that betrays the worst kind of cultural myopia: where respected critics have testified their approval, there can be no dissension; bad marks in art can never be forgiven, at least not by layman. Dubuffet stresses the futility of the man’s ‘objective’ certainty, and suggests that it is only as a result of a particular education, of a particular cultural formation that the teacher made the judgement he did. His aesthetic preference was totally determined by these factors. A difference in his background or a difference in the opinion of the experts might well have led to a completely different assessment of the paintings concerned. Instead, the teacher bowed before the prevailing wind emitted by the Establishment, and could consent to find objective beauty only in the place marked out by a superior order. Roger Cardinal, “Cultural Conditioning,” Outsider Art (1972) excerpt | hat tip Petullo Art Collection

Cardinal’s essay bookends, for me, Clement Greenberg’s The Historical Context of the Avant-garde and Kitsch. I’m nominally an outsider artist, not much at all a naive artist, surely am an untrained artist, and in all ways a self-trained artist. Most art is created by self-trained artists; like 99%.

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Fronting Front

Rock stars seems to be an odd metaphor for art, given the state of the world of rock music, and, even more so, given the difference between the scarcity model of high art that underlines art world status, and, the popularization model–based in hits and reach–of pop music. There isn’t a good way to bridge Justin Bieber with Al Wu Wei, or Adele with Damien Hirst. Anyway, I wonder about this–while Mr. Bidwell’s sense does, once again, moves me to consider the similarities and disparities betwixt the art and music markets.

Jens Hoffman asserts “real creativity doesn’t necessarily happen anymore in LA or NY.” Is not the objective truth that real creativity has always happened most everywhere? The validation of artistry supplied by the entanglement of capitalism with the sociology of normative artistic practice provides a rather thin warrant for speaking of necessity, as Hoffman does so.

I’m being charitable. NY and LA are art centers because of the scale of capitalism and culture, and laws of institutional attraction that unfolded in the two largest American cities. From my idiosyncratic perspective, real creativity and the sites of its happening is not a question resolved by affirming the obvious, that L.A. and NYC are America’s principle art centers. First order creativity does happen where it does happen, and this would tend to disrupt the facile tautology that reduces to: city A is an art center because it is a center for art.

It will be fascinating to observe both ideas become joined by the outcome of the curatorial process which will unfold for the sake of shaping a Triennial roster of international art stars and their local counterparts.

In music, the democratization inherent in the self-organizing operations of the internet have led the mainstream music business to counter this an solidify a global cartel; and then affirm by its reach a mostly reactionary (as against an avant-garde,) “pop music.”

bonus:

FB-Sixteen-Faeiries-(2017)46x21-Stephen-Calhoun

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