“Your opinions are SHIT!” is something that those of us that love art want to hear from our artists. We want them bitter, angry, non-conformists that aren’t afraid to insult their patrons’ opinions of their anti-consumer art.
I may be in the minority, but I’ve always wanted my artists to be bitter, angry, maladjusted people that have found no other way to vent their rage on the world than to pick up an instrument and a canvas of some sort and go sit in a corner for a couple months. I also want them to turn some pent up hatred on me for being so well-adjusted that I can watch some Everybody Loves Raymond, while eating Skittles and drinking a domestic beer and feel better about myself. I want to be the product of the rage they feel for receiving poor critical reviews and poor reception from their peers. I would probably go so far as to question the artistic temperament of an artist that greeted me with genuinely appreciative smile that lacked all condescension, and I would probably leave their exhibit if they decided to engage in a conversation with me about my opinions.
The path to artistic purity is different for every artist, but most true artists do not set out to create consumer-friendly pieces. Some, however, loathe the common man’s opinion so much they’re looking at something else before you can complete your second sentence, and this usually comes through in their art. Even most authors that write bestsellers, for the sole purpose of writing a bestseller, will argue till they bleed that their art was not intended to be as consumer-friendly as perceived, and that they just happened to create something that consumers love. You can’t blame them, no matter how much you may disagree, for if they openly stated that their creation was intended to be universally pleasing to consumers, no one would consider them serious artists.
If you are a starving artist, that openly states how much you love fans in your artistic statement –and you’re hoping to have your art in a New York City gallery– you may want to save yourself a lot of heartache and just consider another profession now. You may want to consider trying out for the Denver Broncos instead, because you’re going to have a better chance of making their team than the ones that have their works considered for a New York City art gallery, and that attitude will be more welcome there. You can say that you enjoy receiving input from those that have experienced your piece, but it has to be meticulously worded so as to avoid anyone interpreting your artistic statement as one of appreciation.
The anti-consumer theme has a timeless quality about it that goes to the heart of the artist. Its provocative nature does not yield to pop culture winds. It is anti-pop culture, and thus a “hot ticket” in any era that appreciates their artists.
Little, old ladies that are perpetually trying to appear young and hip, will walk up to you in these galleries and tell you that they find the most disturbing pieces: “Wonderful”, “Amazing”, and “Isn’t it wonderful and amazing?!”
“You are so not my demographic,” is something a true artist of an anti-consumer piece of art might say if they heard such comments from little, old ladies. A rejection of such compliments, from such people could enshrine this artist in the word-of-mouth halls of the art world, particularly if the artist put some sort of exclamation point on their rejection, by either spitting or puking on their shoes.
Artists of anti-consumer art are always torn over compliments, for their product is intended to be a rejection of everything we hold dear. They’re meant to be disturbing, provocative pieces that unsettle you in your conformist world. A little, old lady trying to let others think that she’s still young and hip enough to “get” such a piece that is a direct angry, bitter comment on how her generation screwed us all up with toys and war and unattainable gender-specific imagery has to be particularly vexing for the artist that feels a warm glow rising.
The best way to handle that might be to puke on her shoes. An enterprising, young, anti-consumer artist may even want to set a situation like that up, in a publicity junket, for she would surely be the talk of the town if she pulled it off.
“Did you hear what happened when some old bag complimented Janice on her anti-50’s piece?” word-of-mouth patrons would say to one another. “She puked on her shoes.” It could become the artist’s folklore.
Criticism of the theme of the piece would be the next-best reaction, for the angst-ridden, bitter, and angry artist, especially if it were to come from some old crank from the 50’s. This would allow the artist to say, “Good, it was meant to make you angry. It was meant to have you re-examine all that you’ve done to us.”
If you’re not of the 50’s generation, and you deign to criticize anti-consumer art, you could be deigned part of the problem, a person that needs to get out more, or someone that doesn’t understand the full scope of what the artist is trying to say. The sociopolitical theme of anti-consumerism could then be said to be insulated against criticism by its very nature. If that is the case, why wouldn’t every curator want their gallery lined with anti-consumer pieces?
The anti-consumer artist doesn’t have to worry about using timely products either, for it could be said that all consumer-related products can be used as symbols to transcend the ethos of any era. A pro-consumer piece would not have allowances, for to try and create an artistic expression that professes an enjoyment of Superman cereal, the consumer must have some experience with Superman cereal that they can use to relate to the theme. That piece may evoke some sentiments of quaint nostalgia, but if you’re not willing to include some underlying, angst-ridden message about the ways in which eating Superman cereal created unrealistic expectations in your mind, and thus messed up your childhood, you’re probably not going to fetch the kind of price tag that a bitter, condemnation of consumerism will.
The question that I’m sure many anti-consumer, starving artists would love to know is, is there a sliding scale on anti-consumerist statements? If your piece is subtly anti-consumer, with an ironic twist, what kind of return can you expect for your time; if you’re vehemently anti-consumer how much more profitable will that piece be; and is there a percentage by which your price tag increases in conjunction with your bullet point adherence to the sociopolitical, anti-consumer theme?
Walking through these galleries, one can’t help but feel overwhelmed with the amount of anti-consumer art for sale. It has become the most consumer-friendly, rebellious, and radical theme in the art world. If you’re a starving artist, and you’re not painting, sculpting, or putting together an anti-consumer collage, your fellow artists would probably ask you what the hell you’re waiting for? It’s become the safest theme for an artist to explore if they want their work exhibited. Curators don’t have to worry about fads or trends in the art world, for the very idea of fads and trends are anti-consumer, and that which an anti-consumer artist speaks out against. All a curator has to do is occasionally rotate their anti-consumer art year around, and their gallery can exist in the radical, counterculture milieu 365 days a year. It’s progressed to a point where one would think that a truly rebellious artist –looking to be truly counterculture, regardless what it said in his pocketbook– would take one look around at all the anti-consumer art in the art world and artistically stick their middle finger up in the rebellion to expose it for what it has become.
The question of how to frame it would be an obstacle of course, for it would be career suicide to have your anti-anti-consumer art be confused with pro-consumer art.
It says eat at McDonald’s,” a curator would surely say with disgust for your piece.
“Exactly,” you would reply, “It’s my attempt to highlight the stereotypical art of anti-consumerism. Grimace is a vehicle for the larger idea through which I attempt to explore the tendency our counterculture has to use social media and propaganda to prescribe narrow contrived definitions of art to individuals and the nation.”
The hip, avant garde patrons of your piece would surely consider your artistic statement to be an subtly ironic stab at consumerism. They might consider it quaint, hilarious, and an incredible salvo sent to consumers around the world that don’t get it. If you were available to answer questions, and you implored them to accept your anti-anti-consumer theme for what it is, you could be quite sure that all those smiles would flatten out, and they might consider you obnoxious, and maybe even a whore for corporate America.
I just want to celebrate the history and tradition of Grimace,” would be our intro to the patrons of our exhibit. ”I also want to explore, in my painting, all the joy and happiness Grimace has brought to so many lives?”
“Are you being subtly ironic?” they would ask.
“No. It’s an anti-anti-consumer theme that I hope to explore here.”
“So, it’s a pro-consumer statement?” one of the more obnoxious patrons would say to intrude upon your pitch.
“Good God no!” you would be forced to say at this point, if you hoped to generate the amount of interest that might result in a sale.
If you had the artistic temperament that didn’t care about the sale, however, and your focus remained on the artistic theme, you would probably have to engage in a substantial back and forth with the patrons of your piece before they could come to the conclusion that you weren’t putting them on, and that you weren’t being obnoxious. Being obnoxiously anti-consumer is not only accepted, it’s expected, but being obnoxiously anti-anti-consumer would probably be deemed pro-consumer and thus inexcusably obnoxious.
I’m guessing that not only would you have trouble attracting patrons to your exhibit, but it would be difficult to find a self-respecting curator to showcase your work. If you did find a curator that was willing to showcase some of your early, more obnoxious works, and that curator knew enough about his industry to be objective about it, they would probably sit you down, at some point, and say something along the lines of: “I know you want to be considered a serious artist, you should know that this anti-anti, countering the counter theme is not built for the long haul. If you want serious cachet in the art world, you have two genres to consider: anti-consumerism and vehemently anti-consumerism. I’d suggest you drop this anti-anti-consumer statement and make it known that your works contain a subtly ironic, anti-consumer twist, if you ever hope to sell anything.”
If you somehow managed to achieve a degree of fame with your theme, you can bet you would be the scourge of the art world, and at some point your fellow artists would roundly condemn you for your audacity. “You’re ruining this for all of us. What are you doing?”
At which point you could look them all in the eye and say, “Isn’t that subtly ironic?”