Holly Solomon Criticizes My ArtThe lecture hall of the art museum was standing room only for what was sure to be a lively discussion. Despite over 1,000 entries from 12 states the juror of the 20th Joslyn Biennial was not impressed. The juror thought of us as uneducated and that our art would not even be considered acceptable in the world of art she lived in.Her Juror’s Statement read: “it is apparent to me that these talented artists have little or no reference to the vocabulary associated with contemporary art and therefore very little possibility of achieving work which would be considered acceptable in an art historical reference. It is a great hope that this community, both the financial and intellectual, will support this institution and its staff in order to further educate the intellectual/artistic community”
Since many of the pieces she chose to exhibit were from university art professors and Bemis Foundation artists, it wasn’t long before someone challenged her opinion. In the ensuing dialog I sensed that she was genuinely interested in helping us understand her point of view. And her point of view needed to be carefully considered. She was Holly Solomon, an important collector of contemporary art and founder of the Solomon Gallery in New York City. And New York City was where art was sold, made, defined, and legitimized.
|My painting was singled out as an example of “unacceptable” art|
A New Direction
Rather than defend myself with my credentials, sales and artwork, I challenged myself to re-examine everything I thought I knew. I studied what the art critics wrote, both past and present. I was determined to be a relevant artist in the fine art contemporary world. After much study and contemplation I decided that Francis Shaefer made sense when he said: Only when the technique matched the world view being presented could it be considered great art.
|A new direction, but the same message|
|Exhibition at the Joslyn Museum|
The more involved I became the more I saw the disconnect between the “fine art” crowd and the ordinary person. The fine art world was obsessed with their theories, their message, with being the first to do something different. They were creating art for themselves, and did not care about the common man. And the common man had no use for their fine art as movies, gaming, and other new media had assumed most of art’s traditional functions.
This disconnect came to a head when I realized that I needed to live and work in New York City if I was ever to reach a greater and more sophisticated audience. With little money and 2 young children this was something I was unable and unwilling to do. At the height of my “fame” I put my art career on hold for the next 25 years and concentrated on a professional career that had nothing to do with the art world.
My Life Saved
So then, how did she save my life? Holly Solomon’s fine art world was not one I wanted to live in. It would have caused me to make too many compromises and forced me to live in hypocrisy. It would have destroyed my faith, personal life, marriage, and my children. And that was something I was not willing to do. Looking back I realize I made the right decision. My kids grew up in the country where we home-schooled them and they grew to be creative, well adjusted adults.
I celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary having been married to the girl I met when I was 15. I have enough money to live and work on my art on my terms. Most of all my faith in my creator is strong and I look forward to my journey here on earth.
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