Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What I learned over the summer

I have wanted to write about this for a long time. I haven't taught for a few years, so hopefully I am not full of rage anymore. I am emailing this to all my former peers because I want them to know how I feel and that others feel this way. I must acknowledge there are some wonderful people I've met in academia that fell between the cracks and probably making this awkward is that some of them are my friends. Nonetheless.... The ideas being taught in art schools, private liberal arts and state schools are largely irrelevant outside of the institution and one is looked down upon if they reject many of those ideas. I feel bad for the students for they are being taught by people who generally don't value craft, so the students don't have well crafted work, so they fail as artists largely because they don't have strong foundations. Foundations usually not even taught by the professors. Not that it makes a difference but everywhere I taught the adjuncts and part time people were better teachers than the professors. It was so frustrating to have taught, and to have been good at it, and not have any power or control to correct the problem. I also have found that most students complained and where more than happy when they were actually taught some technique. I have talked to many people who went through college with little or no classroom demonstration. There is a large disconnect between working artists and academics. I find my experience repeated again and again in the other artists that I meet, to the extent that I now am embarrassed I ever went to school for art. My experience with the instructors in academia is that they tend to be aloof and come with a large ego that is stroked and maintained by the institution; furthermore without the structure of the university to couch them-there would be no audience for their work. I hated returning from art shows, after winning awards, getting respect from other artists, and having people actually like me and my work, and then come back to school to teach and not have any of it be acknowledged. In fact it was looked down upon, because what I was doing somehow didn't have academic merit. Somehow I got punished because my work is well crafted, smart and relates to people; while most academic work is aloof to the point that it's audience is an esoteric minority. I was made to feel like I wasn't smart or contemporary. Obviously I must not be. How can a real artist possibly function in "the system". Think about that. Most of the artists I meet are happy people, while most academics are in some form of severe frustrations due to their job, or from not being able to relate to people. These people are not self-sustaining artists so please tell me how they are able to teach someone to become one? Their view of art is institutionalized and so are they. There is NO model being taught in school for how to be a self-supporting artist, largely because it is difficult and these people don't know, otherwise they probably would be one themselves. I talked to a jeweler this summer who complained "if you want to be an artist, at least I have a business model I can teach you." I feel there is nothing most of these people can or would do to change the situation. They are getting paid and have that really well earned tenure. It is a twisted kind of artist welfare system, and the cycle repeats. I hope they are embarrassed by it, but I doubt it. The thing to do is demand a different and better education. I would not recommend sending anybody to any institutionalized art education, unless I knew there was a nonconformist amongst the faculty that actually knew what the hell they were doing. Instead I say, do what you love and find people that you think are actually good at it, as opposed to relying on people the institution says are good at it. *FYI the painting I did last week in Lansing, Iowa.