What if

      A thoughtful reader has challenged me to offer a more particular definition of what I consider “junk.”  And in time I will try to do so, because having raised the issue myself, I ought to be willing to face it squarely.  But until such time, I would refer readers to the previous post where I criticize the work of Ellsworth Kelly, who I put forth as representative of the artist-as-charlatan.  I do so boldly from the sense that Mr. Kelly himself is unlikely to stumble upon my remarks and is therefore in little danger of having his feelings hurt.  Or, even if he were to read them — “famous” as he has become, he cannot expect everyone to gush about what he does.  Obviously he has critics, as assuredly he’s aware.  If one cannot take the heat (as we all know), one has the admonition to stay out of the kitchen.  Right?

Now then, to more pressing concerns:  self-confidence.  What about the artist who fears that his own works are junk?  What about the over-fastitious individual who cannot accept the merits of what he does, who is overly critical, who is perhaps crippled by a sense of failure?  Sometimes highly talented people — just the sort who we’d expect to be “great” artists, are of this type.  So what about them?

Van Gogh had perhaps the best answer when he said, “if you hear a voice telling you you cannot paint, then paint My Boy, and that voice will be silenced.”  Van Gogh heard that voice.  He fought that voice, which sounded in his own head.  The paintings he left — in their great beauty and brightness — are the answers he gives us. 

The cure for a lack of confidence is work.  Just do it.


The Best Policy

Honesty can be very appealing, though obviously sometimes we have to be careful about what we say.  I judged that it would be preferable to write “Delacroix’s Journal” than to pretend false modesty.  After so many years doing something, well, one learns quite a lot and believes that it would be better to share knowledge than to hide it under a bushel.

I see lots of art that is junk, and I know categorically that it is junk quite apart from whatever claims others might make on its behalf.  Certainly, I would never tell another artist that his painting or that his “new media” is junk.  Nor would I ever tell a collector that his cherished objects are junk.  It’s just not something you can do.  It would serve no purpose.  It would hurt someone’s feelings.

But to suggest that junk exists — this is wise.  It launches the idea into the world and sets people to thinking.  Perchance they begin figuring out for themselves which objects belong in the “art” category and which into the “junk” category.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  And in a smaller circle the fear of junk imparts wisdom too. 

That’s why I’ve drummed away at this theme more than once.  It’s the kind of truth that bears repeating, for the recognition of things having  true worth is the first step one takes toward gaining them.   Sleeper awake!