Without wanting to preempt the conversation that I hope will take place sometime next month within the hallowed walls of the BFAC, I'd like to offer the beginnings of it as it occurred in some email exchanges between a few of us. Jon Nix proposed a question last night, as we were winding down our discussion, that he feels is at the center of our lives as artists, and that he particularly joined the group in order to answer. The question is some form of "Why do we bother, want to, insist upon painting people?" There are so many reasons to not paint and draw people. After all- they're hard to do, they don't sit still, people don't like to buy them, or at least not hang them in contemporary homes and certainly not in business or corporate settings where the lowest common taste denominator needs to be soothed. So why bother?
Here's our exchange, to serve as a jump-off for a discussion next month:
Jon- As for the topic(s) I raised, at first I thought it could be distilled down to one question: "Why do we paint the figure?" But reflecting a little further on the drive home, that seemed unsatisfactory. Since what I'm looking for is a theoretical underpinning -- or at least justification -- for this aspect of my work, perhaps the question should be more pointed: "Why SHOULD we paint the figure?" Or even "Why MUST we paint the figure?" I defer to your judgment as to which of the latter questions would make a better jumping off point for discussion. The blog piece you wrote last year was one of the clearest and most edifying essays on art that I've ever read, which is what drew me to BFAC in the first place. I'd love to see us come up with a manifesto. I think I've always secretly wished for an "ism" to paint under -- what the hell, maybe we'll end up with one. "Vernonism"? The Sixist School?
Damon- Hey that's great- I so much appreciate your close analysis of things,
and your last question I think is the strongest, and nearly serves as a
manifesto by itself. It includes a kind of moral feeling, which I
think can really animate our pursuit. We paint figures to some degree
because it's the hardest, most direct, and least susceptible to the
fraud and chicanery that infuses the art world (where opaqueness and
incomprehensibility are allies of the art con-job). We want to offer
something absolutely valuable, a direct line to the viewer without the
intervention of would-be priests of art (the dealers and theorists who
make money on our backs). Alright, I'll stop- I'll try not to get too
dogmatic yet, and after all we need dealers and theorists.