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Peeks and Piques! Tastes & Opinions

By Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES Summer 2015

The old French adage, "Chacun à son goût" ("To each his own taste") — is put less elegantly by an unnamed American: "An opinion is like an anus; everyone has one and they all stink!" Unfortunately, 'artspeak' is entirely made up only of "tastes" and "opinions" making critiques, reviews, and explications of art, that are, in the end, merely 'arguments' without 'factual' basis to support the artwriter's "tastes" and/or "opinions. Unlike science (which itself is sometimes prone to tastes and opinions) 'art', other than its existence, is not easily nailed down by pointing to 'facts' that 'back up' an artwriter's (or even an artist's) statements and pronouncements on a given work (or body) of art. As a matter of fact, not only is art often mis- or overly-valued, but, contrary to what I said in the previous sentence 'art' itself has been lately pronounced "dead" by certain modern pundits. True, it has long been debated whether this or that 'creation' is in fact, 'art' — or simply an artifact'. One can surely love and appreciate a well-crafted artifact — I myself have 'created' several wooden trellis/gazebos covered with wisteria vines around our home where I can sit in the shade on a hot summer's day, and I do love them and certainly appreciate them when they serve my purpose…but are they 'art'? I had several of my miniature landscapes on sale at an art fair some years back, and a man walked up, looked, and said, "You call this art?" I shrugged and replied, "No. I call them paintings…history will decide what they are." And I do not think that any pompous (bloviated, as they say now) word-smithing can make them 'art'. History shows us that at times in the past, cultures (i.e. people) seemed to make clear distinctions in what was or was not considered 'art' — a particularly well-made painting could be called 'art' while a well-crafted church steeple was not. Clearly, we do not shy from calling just about anything 'art' — surely tastes and opinions vary widely in our new-found liberalism (Who says it ain't art?") and we have a well-entrenched punditry who will go to great lengths to 'prove' they are right. Bloviating seems to have not only arrived but also entrenched in and on our 'artscene' — but words are still only words and no matter how cleverly persuasive still remain, at bottom, tastes and opinions. I offer opinions on 'art' in almost every issue of ART TIMES, freely admitting my biases along the way — and be sure that I have been accused of 'pomposity' as I approved or disapproved on more than one occasion. But all the back 'n forthing is irrelevant since we are only stating opinions and not 'truths'. As I note above, even 'scientific thinking', which ought to be based on fact itself, oft goes awry. I've been visiting enough doctors and hospitals in recent years to learn what it really means when they say, "Let's try this, Ray" which causes me to not fully believe in medical 'science'. Watch enough 'health' sections on TV and you'll see what's 'good' and 'bad' for you change places more often than not. In the end, if it 'pleases' you (or has a bona fide medical impact for the better), then call it 'art' (or medical miracle) if you wish. My goût cannot tolerate turnips and no matter how much you try to prettify or prepare it, it ain't going down my neck. Like you can't force-feed broccoli on Mr. Bush Sr., you also cannot make me succumb to your 'special' recipe for turnips. And the same goes for 'art' as far as I'm concerned. I tend to write about 'art' that I like and ignore what I don't like (and that's my bias). If you don't like or agree with my opinions then, by all means, read the artwriters that you prefer and visit whatever gallery, museum or exhibition that pleases you. Just keep in mind that whomever you turn to for 'art' opinions, that his/her pronouncements are on as shaky a fact-based ground as mine.

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