Sunday, January 25, 2015

Is painting dead?

Just at Sunrise    12 x 25 acrylic on canvas
Is painting dead? Or to be more accurate, are paintings (made entirely of paint on stretched canvas) gone by the way of the typewriter and the curly phone cord?  I pose this question for a number of reasons and based on accumulating observations of the ever evolving art world. Now to be fair, Canton is not exactly a booming mecca of artistic innovation. We tend to see what is “out there” and follow suit in our own ways. So why the question…..

My gallery neighbor recently returned from a national gathering of art marketers, suppliers and other such related artists who are in the business of making art.  One of her observations was that wall art (as in paintings made of paint on stretched canvases) were very rare. In cases where canvases were featured, they had matching accessories to make a complete “look”.  In a way, the painting had to be seen and appreciated as a grouping, not as a stand-alone image.  What does comprise the “solo canvas” category now is more mixed-media oriented, more craft content then imagery. Collage if you will.  Speaking of which, we must all get to the MassMu to see the collage exhibition, I hear it is fabulous.

“Wall craft” does seem to be dominate in the industry. “Craft” in general appears to be the direction of art for the near and most likely distant future, the trend if you will. Could it be that homes are just out of wall space? Newer homes have lots of big windows and those ginormous TV’s take up a lot of what is left. The open concept floor plan has eliminated many walls, collections of memorabilia or clusters of family photos compete for what little square footage is left. Some folks just plain hate to pound a nail in the wall for fear of getting it in the wrong spot and making a hole.

I did happen to see a very large “painting” being purchased at the local big box store last week. A good 60” on one side…and not expensive either. So too can one find very large art and very small prices in all the craft stores, accessory stores, even clothing stores, not to mention thrift shops and garage sales. Prints on demand over the internet are killing us too, the place where you send in a picture and it is blown up, perhaps manipulated like a Warhol, and put on canvas for your decorating pleasure. 

On the subject of sizes, bigger is no longer better. The small accent pieces are very much “on trend” with painters actually being able to use only paint and make little gems at reasonable prices, while still enjoying and engaging in the physical process of putting a brush onto the canvas itself. I chatted last night with an established artist who is also struggling with this transition from working on detailed and skillful pieces that could take a month or more…or more…to complete. Why are we still doing it? Nobody really appreciates the time factor (and the subsequent price) when so much art can be had quickly and cheaper. She is not the only one recently to bring up the question of when is it time to quit, or change direction, or reinvent oneself, or branch out or toss in the towel or rework the old stuff etc..?

Don’t look to me for any answers, this is a blog of questions! I am struggling with the same issues as my contemporaries….where do we go from here and why? Are we finding joy in new directions? (Yes) Do we feel a bit “guilty” for deviating from our “signatures”? (No, but it does make others oddly a bit uncomfortable)  Six canvases into my cacti and every day brings the same question from someone…why? Well…I will list a bunch and you can circle whichever one fits the narrative…

Because I can  - because I want to – to give my brain a break – to play – to experiment – life is short – I was bored – I like cacti – cactus is really a funny word to make plural – the canvas shape was cool in the store – I am getting older – they are fun – warm work in cold weather – who doesn’t’ love a botanical? – they kept getting in the way of my landscape photos – saguaros have personalities – I like big buds and I cannot lie – it is a prickly subject with me – they come in pears and barrels – I get to buy new colors – it is not easy being green – you can’t lean on one -  shall I go on?

I think I hijacked my own blog. This was supposed to be about the changing surfaces of canvas and the changing purpose of wall art. So is “painting” dead? Maybe in other parts of the country, but it takes a while for things to catch up here in the Midwest, so no. Painting is alive and well here in O-H-I-O. Check out the daily gems of Bullach and Digby….C M Adams is on to some new explorations in mixed media that is very color pallet oriented and I believe that some of us old dogs and that young pup will keep the torch burning until the rest of world cycles back and catches up. After all, typewriters are being made once again just like turntables and big headphones. And if we bring back the brick streets how far behind can the buggy whip be?

PS - The series will have its own gallery on my website. 


  1. I will add that that neighbor of yours did hear a lecture on the corporate art market as not being dead at all for the original paint on canvas type work. But it seems a different sort of business with it's own set of what works and what doesn't. We will discuss that next week?

  2. Reminds me of the infamous Time Magazine cover from a lifetime ago, "God Is Dead". Painting dead? Naaah - false alarm.

  3. Always enjoy your insightfulness. You make me think in new directions.
    And I guess some of us are just prone to do art work, as you stated, because we can, we want to, we don't know how to stop, don't want to stop, don't want to clean the house........