“It wasn’t a person; it was a picture.”
Edwin Dickinson 1962 Aug. 22, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Go Back to the Beginning Part 1
This is my continuing study of art that distorts, smears, or obscures the faces of its subjects. I am trying to get my head around this art – in all its forms. It seems to me to be almost an art movement – there are hundreds of artists that do this type of work exclusively. They are men and women from around the world. They are educated, self taught, professional, and hobbyist. They work in all different genres from photography to sculpture. I think ultimately my goal is to understand what this art says about our world, the culture of our world. I think that collectively this art is saying something about this moment, I think that it means something beyond simply someone smearing their fingers through the paint on a persons face. So I muddle, picking through the minutia of art, looking at different works, parsing them for meaning, comparing them and writing ridiculously ungrammatical sentences. As always if you see your art here and want me to remove it please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will take it down right away. None of this art is mine. All art is attributed, and if you click on it will take you to the spot where I found it.
I have been thinking more about the relationship between the artist and their subject – the who that they are painting. I think that I have been intuiting a personal relationship. However traditionally artists models have been found, paid, or unknown to the artists. I ran across this fascinating interview with painter Edwin Dickinson who began formal training as a painter in 1910. As you can see from the quote above his goal was to paint. In order to learn to paint, he painted large volumes of canvasses and as he said . “Nobody cared. It wasn’t a person; it was a picture.” (See above reference) Perhaps as an artist if you are interested in the technical aspects of painting, if it is a craft, what you paint is a painting, not a person. If that is the case then you aren’t capturing a message, or transmitting a message. Of course this is before modernism, which insisted on making statements with art, which insisted on reacting against that which came before including the kind of painting that Dickinson was doing. How often have a I seen a review of art that said, “They are showing it in a new way” ? Or they are “deconstructing” something? If you read Dickinson’s article he doesn’t see himself as working out of a past model, but rather as perfecting a craft, as trying to get something right. This obsession with the past and smashing it, or rewriting it, or deconstructing it seems more recent than 1910 at least. Here are a few more recent works, and if I look at them in the light of paintings not people I can seem them in a new light.