Archive for the Art humor Category

The cartoon below says everything you need to know about why artist are doomed to failure. (Side effects of creativity include: “poverty, impaired judgement, poor health, difficulty with relationships, delusions of grandeur, alienation, anxiety, dependence on the approval of strangers, and bad reviews.”)

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“Make a child a painting and he’ll be happy for a day. Teach a child to paint and he’ll be miserable for a lifetime.”
-Christopher Willard

Another tip of the failure hat to Rich for alerting the Chronicle of the exhibition called “Failure,” slated to open soon at the Belmar Lab just outside of Denver.

Subtitle to this exhibition?: “FEEL FREE TO HATE THIS EXHIBITION”

Dates?: “FEBRUARY 14 - WHENEVER”

And after reading Executive Director Adam Lerner’s statement for the show, I’ve decided I have to find a way to get out there and see the show, come hell or February snows.

Failure is an exhibition that considers the artistic implications of disappointment, rejection, malfunction and breakdown. Sounds implausible, right?

That’s what I would have thought until about a year when I went to visit a friend of mine who is now a professor at Cornell University. Jason called me on my cell phone the morning of my visit, “If you drive to campus directly from the airport, you’ll be able to catch Judith Halberstam’s lecture on failure as a political strategy.” “What? Yeah, sure.” And as I sped through the winding roads of upstate New York, I thought, “Wow, I must be really out of touch.”

Speaking to an eager crowd of philosophically-hip Cornellians, Halberstam presented the notion of failure as a means to affirm marginal voices in our society, people who missed out on the happy social and economic networks of family and work. But, as I listened to her wrangle a political theory out of the concept failure, a flood of images came to mind suggesting that that failure is a wide current hidden in plain sight at the very center of contemporary American culture.

Like its opposite success, failure runs deeps through the fabric of our society from the “Turn on, tune in, drop out” creed of Timothy Leary, to the aggressive nihilism of the punk rock generation, to the identification with the beautiful loser among skateboard and graffiti generation. It’s seems to be the theme of every other story on Ira Glass’ radio show This American Life and Dave Eggers literary magazine McSweeney’s. American dysfunctionality is the very subject of American’s longest running sitcom, The Simpsons.

When I shared my academically inspired insights with artist Ethan Janzer, he convinced me that visual artists have a great deal to say about failure, so I asked him to co-curate this exhibition with me. The works we selected for Failure suggest different ways of failing, and by doing so offer a critique of what we are told is right.

Right on, Adam. Failure does run deep through the fabric of our society. And, I’d add, through the fabric of art!

There’s a lot of humor based on stereotypes. Stereotypes are generalizations based on minimal or limited knowledge about a group, usually made by people who do not belong to that group. Of course, there’s often an element of “truth” to stereotypes, whether it’s self-fulfilling truth or not. Stereotypes can be a way to help people comprehend a vast and complex society. The problem, however, is stereotypes are often employed for reasons of power and subjugation. Or as Michael Pickering, a professor of sociology, explains: “Those who generate and perpetuate stereotypes of others are usually in positions of greater power and status than those who are stereotyped. Stereotypes not only define and place others as inferior, but also implicitly affirm and legitimate those who stereotype in their own position and identity.”

This website includes a list of 45 (and counting) humorous artist stereotypes. Many are overly simplistic, some are insulting. The following seem to me, based on what I know about artists, particularly true:

A humorous look at the things you do that indicate you’re an artist.

2.  The highlights in your hair are from your palette and not Clairol.

8.  You are over 50 and still have no health insurance.

9. Your family takes out a life insurance plan on you for less than $5000. [ouch]

14. You chose to buy that new Russian Sable Number Six Round instead of a Big Mac, a Large Fry, a Milkshake, Desert, and five gallons of gas.

21. When you go out, you are always stopping and gazing at the world around you.

26. You explain your deplorably bad housekeeping by saying, “it’s a work-in-progress…” [I’ve heard this one from artists at least a dozen times]

30. You paint more than you talk.

44. When others are needing to be with the in crowd, you feel lost in the crowd.