Wednesday, March 17, 2010

DAMage Report - A Horse is a Horse of Course...Unless it's an Artist

Carol Jensen, a multimedia artist, jewelry maker and musician taught her quarter horse Buggs to paint two years ago. Her intent is to fill a gallery with her horse's paintings one day, or possibly take his show on the road. The paintings sell for between $75-$125 each and the horse has produced around 30 "abstracts."

Mary Lou Schumaker points out "Let's not forget that Buggs' work is being made with a heavy dose of help by Jensen. She is selecting the palette, directing Buggs and moving the canvas. To call this a true collaboration feels like a stretch. One way to look at it -- she's turned Buggs into her own abstraction maker. And that's their real value -- their novelty, that they're being made with the help of a horse."

Intent is fundamental to art - the artist has to be intentionally setting out to create in order for the label or art, good or bad, to be applied. Everything else is happy accidents. So without intent can the horse be labeled an artist? Isn't it more accurate to label the horse, or any other animal as a tool or part of the process, while the artist would have to be the trainer - whose intention it was to create these pieces using her horse?

The article states that "Horse-produced art has attracted a fair amount of media attention in the last couple of years. Cholla the painting horse has had watercolors displayed around the world. The earliest documented art-producing animal may be Congo, a chimp that painted and drew in the 1950s and the Milwaukee County Zoo's elephant, Brittany, earned minor fame with her painting abilities. Cheryl Ward has coined the movement "interspecies collaborative action art" to reflect the partnership between human and animal.

I don't disagree with the novelty or even entertainment value of using these animals as tools to create art. It doesn't appear that they suffer any abuse to get them "trained" and as pets probably enjoy the attention. I do toss down the bullshit flag though and draw the line at calling these animals artists.
No insult to the intelligence of animals and it is acknowledged fact that some critters can be down-right creative in problem solving and behavior. But slapping the title artist on to them demeans Art... in my ever so humble opinion.
Abstract art is so often viewed with disdain by those that don't understand it nor understand how bloody hard it is to do an excellent abstract that captures and holds the viewer and says something more than "paint on canvas in random patterns." An excellent abstract, such as a Kandinsky is completely about intent, emotion and creative delivery of artistic vision in a way that is unique and inspiring.

The biggest irony is that true abstract paintings are so intellectually and emotionally based that it often does take a degree in art to fully understand them and walk away with an OMG epiphany after viewing some of the masters of abstract. Yet it is invariable the art that is most often slapped with the "oh my kid could do that, my dog,... my horse." In reality it takes an extraordinary amount of study, intellect and talent to produce a successful abstract painting. Throwing paint on a canvas in mimicry of Pollack doesn't cut it as original, outstanding art. He did it, he claimed it - it's done.

Now dress that horse in a tutu and get it to pick out paint colors on its own then slap them on the canvas without instruction, while neighing the theme song to Mister Ed and I will concede and be impressed.

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