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You Gave A Blue Ribbon Why?

You Gave A Blue Ribbon Why?

Fine art Impressionism… White Bear Lake, deconstructed plein air. 30×40 Oil. by Ann Bailey

Why do blue ribbons mean so much if we’re just going to give them away?

This post discusses a competition I was not involved in – it’s just an expose of the public announcement of its illogical outcome.  My painting is featured here as a counterpoint.

-A. Bailey

Museum art judge gave a blue ribbon…

Curious times see odd decisions. I hope the word curious raises a red flag here, but I actually feel a sense of shock and disdain at the event I’m describing… In truth, I want to scream, “REALLY??!”

A recent notification to the public from a minor, outer-lying “museum” in my area announced the choice of the People, or the Judge, or – never mind, somebody‘s choice, which was, to them, worth announcing – of an annual art competition. They gave a blue ribbon to a pastel ocean closeup. It’s a freeze-frame close up of grey-green waves. And it’s a nearly-accomplished, photo-realistic piece. That’s it.

What’s wrong with that picture?

REALLY?! OMG. Why would a fine art judge be impressed with the craft of a handiwork, an “almost looks like a photo,” 2-dimensional copying? This particular work is not even hyper enough to be confusing (as in “IS that a photo?”).  It’s only a rounded, nearly realistic copy of a rectangular cropping of an ocean photo.

  • You take an ocean photo and you crop it
  • Then you work it to death with pastels
  • Till it looks like you’ve exactly copied everything

Boom! Ya got a copy!

Never mind that the crop you chose to attempt to duplicate (really, this is just an exercise anyway in pointed chalks) does not in itself serve any purpose OR solve any emotions. This is just a “Best of” being able to exercise the points of the chalk. You don’t hear the ocean, you don’t smell the ocean, you don’t sense a danger, or love, or even awe of the ocean. It just says, ‘Here’s ocean.”

Could we all take an educated step back from evaluating this kind of visual as “fine art?” Back when LOOK magazine would use Coca Cola’s advertising budget money to pay for realistic images of real-life, albeit sugar-coated, scenes, nobody bothered to say “Oh! That’s deep!”

You know why?  They weren’t deep.

What does advertising art offer, then?

  • It’s comfortable.
  • It’s NOT new.
  • It’s illustration.
  • It doesn’t stretch your imagination.
  • It rests it.

Not a dirty word  – “Illustration” –  but it also does not fall into the category of describing fine art. There are two categories here:

  1. Fine art

and its  either/or relationship with

  1. Illustration

One, or the other. By definition, you’ve either got one or the other. So can we get over this awe of illustrations-for-art’s-sake of things like cropped, slice-o-life views of the mundane? Ain’t Art.

Please stop riling up the likes of me by announcing a perfectly executed, illustrative work as the one you gave a blue ribbon to in a category “reserved” for a perfect piece of creative art!

Why you gave a blue ribbon at all

You know what? We don’t even have to decide to agree on what “Art” IS. Let’s just leave it to the already-defined what “Art” ISN’T. Yes, these are semantics, but after all, isn’t that what we’re talking about, the semantics of it? Because once you remember to separate what’s Art from what’s Illustration, you can properly identify why you would give a blue ribbon to either.

One format is intentional copying. One is intentional interpreting. You can love them both, or not, but please don’t confuse them.

  • The illustrator works really hard at their craft of portraying what everybody sees as “what is”
  • The artist works really hard to present a new look at what it feels like to them.

Hmm. That seems to be a tidy explanation. Could we all agree to be separate-but-equalists now? Could we all please stop judging illustrations (and finely copied photos) for their skill in craftsmanship against creative artwork that’s trying to change the way we look at something?

No shit the illustration looks more like a photo. The art doesn’t WANT to look like a photo- it wants to disrupt it!

What do you think?  Is art your idea of an exact illustration or an interpreted feeling?

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