I may be in the minority, but I prefer the work of angry, bitter artists who are unable or unwilling to adjust to cultural norms. If I deign to offer an artist my bourgeoisie, Skittle-eating, domestic beer-drinking, and modern TV–watching opinion on their artistic creation, and they don’t hit me with a red-faced, spittle-flying, “Your opinions are excrement!” rebuttal, I might begin to question if they have the artistic temperament I require of those who lack any other means of venting their rage on the world than through artistic creation.
If I am to view their art in a serious manner, they had better view me as a symbolic substitute for the America-loving, God-fearing, football fan of a father they had, the man who ruined everything they held dear in their youth. I want them to view me as a symbolic substitute for the art critic who deigned to call their work pedestrian, the fellow artist who told them, “You’ll never make it in the art world,” or the art teacher who advised, “You might want to seriously consider changing your major to economics.”
The path to artistic purity is different for every artist, of course, but for most true artists, the primary motivation is not to create pieces consumers enjoy. For the great majority, the struggle of artistic expression is to locate and expound upon their individualistic interpretation of nouns (people, places, and things). While the idea that others may share a love for their interpretations might be exciting and fulfilling, it is not why they feel the need to express themselves. Outside adulation is of secondary concern to them, but it is also gravy. Some, however, create complicated pieces of literature or other forms of art for the expressed purpose of airing their complications. For these artists, the loathing they harbor for the common man’s opinion is so complete that they’re often looking at something else before we can complete our second sentence. Even authors of bestsellers, writing for the sole purpose of writing a bestseller, will argue until they bleed that their intention was not to create something consumers love. “I just happened to accomplish that,” they might argue, as if popularity was an inadvertent side effect of the quality of their creation. No matter how much we might disagree, we really can’t blame them for if they state that they intended to create a product of mass appeal, few would consider them serious artists.
If a starving artist declares how much they love their fans in their artistic statement and they’re hoping to one day see their art exhibited in a New York City gallery, they may do well to avoid the heartache, and headaches, and just consider another profession. If they have that mindset, it might behoove them to try out for the Atlanta Falcons instead. The chances are probably better that they’ll make that team than any team of artists considered for an exhibit in a New York City art gallery. A true artist can say they value input from those who have experienced their work, but they must word these critiques in such a manner that adamantly avoids any form of fan appreciation.
The best chance an artist has for achieving a spot in a prestigious gallery is to condemn everything purported by the consumer standing before them. Their best bet, in fact, is to find an artistic method of denouncing everything everyone believes in, to generate and work from an anti-consumer theme.
The anti-consumer theme has a timeless quality about it, one that goes to the heart of the artist. Its provocative nature does not yield to pop culture winds. It is anti-pop culture and a hot ticket in any era that appreciates its artists.
Little old ladies, in a blatant attempt to appear young and hip, will walk up to an artist in these galleries and try to find some way to tell the artist they find the most disturbing pieces in their portfolio, “Wonderful”, “Amazing”, and “Wonderful and amazing!”
“You are so not my demographic,” a true artist of an anti-consumer piece of art might say in the wake of such comments coming from a little, old lady. A vehement rejection of this sort could enshrine the artist in the word-of-mouth halls of the art world, and their opportunity for such prestige might increase if they added some sort of exclamation to that rejection, such as a healthy stream of spittle dropped on the little old lady’s shoes.
Receiving a compliment from a little, old lady must put an anti-consumer artist in an awkward place. Most artists feel a reflexive warm glow rising whenever they receive a hard-earned compliment from anyone, but the non-conformist artist knows better than to concede to some display of it. The intention of their creation was to reject everything most consumers hold dear, its purpose was to disturb the little old ladies of the world, and its goal was to shake up her conformist mindset. To hear that such a woman allegedly gets the artist’s attempt to disavow and denounce her generation –the generation that the artist purports screwed us all up with their toys, and wars, and unattainable gender-specific imagery– must be vexing for the artist.
Thus, the best way to handle such a situation might be to spit on her shoes. An enterprising, young, anti-consumer artist might even want to create such a scenario in which such an opportunity will arise. They might want to use a found-footage, shaky cam method of capturing the scene for a publicity junket. The artist who pulls such a situation off might just become the talk of the town if she managed to pull it off.
“Did you hear what happened when some old bag complimented Janice on her anti-fifties piece?” other artists would say to one another. “She spit on her shoes.” If such an incident made it through the artist community grapevine, it could become part of the artist’s folklore.
Criticism from some remnant of the 1950’s would be the next-best reaction for the angst-ridden, bitter, angry, anti-conformist artist. “Good, it was meant to unsettle you,” the artist could say. “Its purpose was to cause you to reexamine all the harm your generation has caused us.”
If the patron is not of the fifties generation and they deign to criticize anti-consumer art, they might want to consider the idea that they might be part of the problem. The artist might instruct them to venture outdoors more often to find out what’s going on in the world, or they may want reexamine the full scope of the artist’s narrative. The sociopolitical theme of anti-consumerism invites and hopes to incite criticism, because it is immune to most criticism by its very nature. If that were true, why wouldn’t a curator want their gallery lined with anti-consumer pieces?
The anti-consumer artist doesn’t have to worry about using current products in their projects either, for an anti-consumer artist can employ whatever consumer-related products are necessary to denounce the ethos of an era. A pro-consumer piece does not have such allowances, for to try to create an artistic expression that professes an enjoyment of Superman cereal, the consumer must have some experience with Superman cereal, in order to relate to the theme. That piece will likely evoke little more than some elements of quaint nostalgia. If the artist is unwilling to include some underlying, angst-ridden subtext regarding all the ways in which eating Superman cereal created unrealistic expectations in the patron’s mind and thus messed up that patron’s childhood the artist can be sure the piece will not fetch the kind of price that a bitter, condemnation of being forced to ingest the cereal (and thus the ideals of Superman as well), will.
Is there a sliding scale on anti-consumerist statements? I’m sure many anti-consumer artists would love to know it. If their piece contains subtle, sophisticated irony in its anti-consumer theme, with an ironic twist, what kind of return can they expect for their time? Are vehement declarations of such themes more profitable? Does the price point increase in conjunction with bullet-point adherence to the sociopolitical, anti-consumer theme?
The amount of anti-consumer art for sale in a gallery can be overwhelming, for this has become the most consumer-related, rebellious, radical theme for starving artists to pursue. In fact, “What are you waiting for?” might be the question that fellow artists and curators have for those who hold out. They might even inform the holdouts that anti-consumer art has become the safest theme to explore for any artist that wants to have 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 violate the anti-consumer artist’s tenets. All a curator has to do is rotate collections of anti-consumer art year round, and their gallery can exist in the radical, counterculture milieu 365 days a year.
How long have anti-consumer pieces held primo spots in top galleries around the nation? One would think the ubiquity of this anti-consumer theme in art galleries would invite a rebellion that would expose it as the market force it purports to detest. It would take a rebel willing to expose the counterculture in their work, regardless of how it affects their pocketbook, because the current art world would not view their work favorably.
As such, framing the concept of their piece would provide an obstacle for the rebel. The rebel would have to word their artistic statement carefully, for it would be career suicide to have their anti-anti-consumer art confused with pro-consumer art.
“It says ‘Eat at McDonald’s,’” a curator might say with absolute disgust.
“Right on,” the anti-anti-consumer artist would reply. “It’s my attempt to highlight the stereotypical art of anti-consumerism. My portrayal of the McDonaldland character Grimace is used as 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 an art gallery would be prone to view the anti-anti-consumer artist’s piece as a stab at consumerism that contains sophisticated irony. They might consider it quaint, hilarious, and an incredible salvo sent to consumers around the world, the people who really don’t get it.
If this anti-anti-consumer artist was available for a Q&A session, and the artist made the mistake of imploring their artistic friends to accept their anti-anti-consumer theme for what it is, the hip, avant-garde smiles would likely flatten. Some might consider the piece obnoxious, and they might even consider the anti-anti-consumer artist a whore for corporate America.
“I just want to celebrate the history and tradition of the McDonaldland character Grimace,” the anti-anti-consumer artist’s intro would be. “My painting is an effort to explore all the joy and happiness Grimace has brought to so many lives.”
“Is that sophisticated irony?” the patrons would ask.
“No. It’s an anti-anti-consumer theme that I am attempting to explore here.”
“So it’s … a pro-consumer statement?” one of the more obnoxious patrons might say to intrude upon the artist’s pitch.
“Good God, no!” the artist must respond, if they hope to generate the amount of interest that might result in a sale.
If the anti-anti-consumer artist has the artistic temperament of one who doesn’t care about the sale, however, and they’re able to maintain focus on the artistic theme, they might have to engage in a substantial back-and-forth with the patrons of their piece before they conclude that the artist isn’t putting them on or being obnoxious.
As stated earlier, being obnoxious in an anti-consumer theme is not just acceptable it’s expected. Stubbornly pursuing an anti-anti-consumer stance, however, will cause others to deem the artist obnoxious and pro-consumer.
Thus, attracting patrons to the anti-anti-consumer exhibit would not even represent the beginning of the artist’s problems, as no self-respecting curator would deign to display their work. I’m guessing most curators aren’t bad people, and they might even have some sympathy for this anti-anti-consumer artist’s frustrations. If the curator’s knowledge of the industry was such that they knew enough about it to be objective, they would probably sit the artist down to inform them of the inner workings of the industry.
“I know you are a passionate artist,” the curator might say, “but you really should reconsider this whole anti-anti-consumer theme. I know you built it to counter the counter, but you should know that this will not play well over the long haul. If you want serious cachet in the art world, there are two genres to consider. These genres include art built on an anti-consumerism theme and the anti-consumer works that are vehement in their theme. I suggest you drop this whole anti-anti-consumer artistic statement and make it known that your work contains a subtle, sophisticated irony with an anti-consumer twist, if you ever hope to sell anything.”
If the anti-anti-consumer artist somehow managed to achieve some degree of success with their theme, they would likely become the scourge of the art world. At some point, fellow artists would also approach the artist, as a coalition of condemnation for the audacity of the anti-anti-consumer theme. “You’re ruining this for all of us. Why would you do this to us? What do you think you’re doing?”
The anti-anti-consumer artist should look them in the eye and ask, “Is that subtle, sophisticated irony?”