Tuesday, April 30, 2013

An Appreciative Review of Green Heron Lino

Green Heron with Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Reduction Linocut by Ken Januski

In my many years as an artist I've heard a lot of complaints from artists about lack of appreciation. To a large extent I have little sympathy. My very first experience with public audiences, as opposed to friends and relatives, took place at an art festival in San Francisco about 40 years ago. As I watched people walk by the 2-3 works I'd gotten in the show I noticed that most people didn't even look. Those that did usually spent less than 10 seconds looking.

When I got into my first juried show as a student at University of California at Berkeley the janitor yelled out in his memorable Portuguese accent that I'd better get my stuff out of the gallery if I didn't want it to "smell like horse****". Some disgruntled, or perhaps just avant-garde graduate students, decided to dump a load of horse manure in the gallery. They called it an Art Attack as I recall.

When I got into my first serious juried show at the University of Rochester about 30 years ago I went to the opening with a friend of mine who'd also gotten in the show. I think he might have ended up winning a prize. Me? Both of my 4x6 foot abstract paintings were hung upside down! When I complained about this I was told that they couldn't fix it until after the opening, when of course the audience would decrease drastically.

Between those experiences, a lot of knowledge of art history and the lives of artists, and perhaps a general skepticism I've come not to expect much in the way of appreciation. Even the best artists are often appreciated for the wrong reasons. So much as I'd like to sell more of my artwork and see more appreciation of it I fully believe that most artists are quite lucky to find even a few people who really appreciate their work.

At some point of course truly appreciative buyers help I think to build an impetus toward sales to a broader audience that may buy less for appreciation than for cachet. Of course if it pays the bills I think most artists can live with that, especially if they know that they have some true fans.

All of which leads to the thought that I almost never read anything in print that I think appreciates my  work, especially something that is more than just a quick comment from generous peers. As I've said I don't really expect this, or wake up each day hoping to find it. I think this is in the nature of art, regardless of whether it is painting, writing, music, or whatever.

But when it happens I'm surely not going to ignore it. So this is all an extremely long lead-in to a note of thanks to Martha Knox for a wonderful review and appreciation of my reduction lino, Green Heron with Twelve-spotted Skimmer, shown at top. You can read the post on her blog Words on Woodcuts. Thank you  Martha!

The link above takes you directly to the post about my work. But I'd recommend looking at other posts as well as exploring all of her collected links. As an only occasional printmaker I often work in the dark. It's always to see the work of other printmakers. Martha has also written appreciations of other print works in separate posts. Eventually I hope to find the time to read more of them.

Art criticism is the oddest thing. I was once asked if I had any  interest in writing it. I said no, definitely  not. The reason is that I'm a fairly critical person and it would make no sense, and I would take no enjoyment, in writing primarily negative articles. Writing an appreciation of an artist I admire is something else entirely though. It's fun to do, though not necessarily easy. I've only written a few such appeciations but  when I do I  enjoy it. I  think what's most enjoyable is that I get a chance to try to share my excitement with the work with others. Sounds corny  perhaps but it is true. And that is what Martha seems to do  in the posts I've read so  far about the work of others. I would heartily recommend taking a look at her blog, especially these appreciations.

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