July 15, 2008

Laurie Fenrich: Why do painters have to justify being painters?

Fenrich recently returned to New York from a stint as a Visiting Artist at Painting’s Edge, a summer painting workshop in Idyllwild, CA. She reflects on the experience at Brainstorm. "I encountered, firsthand, the intense pressure that’s now on painters to justify why they are painters. When I was in art school in the late ’70s, I saw it begin, but the young painters today, unlike my generation of painters, find it almost impossible to locate truly inspiring contemporary artists for whom painting’s meaning can be derived from what a painting looks like. Instead, the few remaining artists who are sticking to painting who are making any name for themselves are making paintings that derive their meaning from the 'ideas' behind their paintings. The result is that young artists feel compelled to offer long, complicated explanations about their intentions (many of which I dutifully listened to during the critiques I conducted with the painters who signed up for me).

"It takes an extremely talented and mature artist to hold together a big theme, yet many of the young artists I encountered were desperately trying to make their paintings 'reflect their interest' in some enormous idea or other. Some of them wanted to address themes so big that they really should first earn a Ph.D. in anthropology or Chinese before putting brush to canvas. Yet to my way of thinking, it’s hard enough to paint a still life, let alone paint something that carries multiple cultural references." Read more.

Related post:
Laurie Fendrich: jetlagged visiting artist

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