OpEd: A response to the "Doing it themselves" review


The following is an opinion editorial response to the review written by Dan Grossman of the Indianapolis Art Center's Doing it Themselves show. 

I want to respond to the point that my artwork “may not offer social commentary…if there is such a thing, beyond irreverence.”

As an instructor, I insist to my students that the primary job of an artist is to communicate—either by visualizing the ineffable, or by contributing to an ongoing cultural dialogue in a way that adds something to our understanding of the world.

It is her responsbility to know what she is trying to communicate before the viewer, loaded with his own experiences and influences, complicates the dialogue.

I am interested in investigating the distinctions between art, decoration, and kitsch and the function of adornment. I am fascinated by the utility of pictures, particularly the kind that are so commonplace as to be overlooked.

The piece referred to by Mr. Grossman, “Welcome,” references a traditional household sign — a plaque or flag bearing a pineapple saying “Welcome,” or “Welcome Friends.”

While I’m aware of the history of pineapples as symbols for goodwill, I am more confused about the ubiquity of this kind of signage in homes or on the shelves of stores, where many people seem to purchase framed images.

What would be the effect if the artist adjusts the language?

I guess this could be referred to as a kind of irreverence, if you choose to hear me “taking a tone,” but I consider it part of an investigation into the function of marginal forms.

As I wrote in my statement for “Doing it Themselves,” I am as fascinated with looking at the reflexively made art of neighborhood backyards and basement thrift stores as the art of galleries and museums. I relate to the imperfections of these forms and their immediacy.

(Un)surprisingly, this gets into terrain about class and power.

The people who made the puffpainted sweatsuit or poured plaster lawn goose might have access to 3D printers and and wireless scanning ,but as a downwardly mobile artist in search of a sustainable practice, I do not. Or, more significantly, I choose to work with the materials to which I have more immediate access (paper, plywood, paint). In this case the medium is part of the message.

In this same way, choosing to learn from a small business’s hand painted signage or investigate the functions of folk mediums could be an attempt at amplifying the marginal and destabilizing power, which is the thrust of my artmaking commentary.

Sorry mom and Mr. Grossman, it’s not just a youthful phase.


Arts Editor

Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.