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Target Painting, And The Hazards Thereof.

Target Painting, And The Hazards Thereof.




Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa.  And may I share I just returned here from Minneapolis and the Powderhorn Art Fair?


I have always thought that Jefferson is your basic normal rural midwestern town, so the city--which Minneapolis definitely qualifies as--for the weekend, was sure to show me something new.  It was an interesting few days, and a few short minutes of it supply the color for this blog post.  But possibly you need a little background info before we get to the color part :)


When our three oldest kids were school aged, we lived in northwest Iowa, where a large group of people of the Apostolic faith also lived.  Through West Lyon School, we got to know several families of that faith.  When young people made their public profession and joined the church, there were some changes made to their activities, including dress code.  For example, a young woman who'd joined the church would not have "being a high school cheerleader" on her to-do list.  It would not be considered appropriate behavior or dress code.


So while in Minneapolis, at Powderhorn Park, I happened upon cheerleader practice for some area school.  The scene involved two or three women, acting as coaches or directors, and ten or twelve girls, of the 8th or 9th grade variety.  All my pre-formed conclusions went out the window, as I noted the head coach and three cheerleaders all wearing the hijab.  Whaaaat?  Call me backwoods and all of that, but everything in my experience to that point told me that was not something that could/would happen.  And the girls wearing their head coverings (for modesty?) were wearing really short shorts, just like their sister cheerleaders.  Cool.  Lesson learned for me.


But here's why we are talking about this on an art blog:  that color commentary proves that it takes all kinds of people in this world to keep it interesting. 


Recently there have been articles written and opinions aired on the subject of painting in a subject matter and style with more salability.  Target painting.  I think the previous paragraph points out the error of us as artists trying to generalize about what the average human wants, and specifically what they want for art.  Yes, we can read statistics about what paintings sell well.  And we need to remember those statistics are averages.  Think of homogenizing all the preferences of this country's citizens into one number.  Doesn't that become a little mind-boggling to you?  That you should try to paint one specific way because it will more likely appeal to that homogenization?


My concern then is of two things:


#1. and foremost:  in painting a specific subject matter and style designed for salability, the work is devoid of emotion because it's not OUR style.  Aren't we instructed time and again to paint what moves us?  To paint until we find our style, and then grow it to become our very best?  Hard to do if we are target painting, or painting for salability.


#2.  the streetscape of our lives/world changes on a daily basis.  Is it wise to work at painting what's "in demand" today, when in reality it probably won't be tomorrow?  To paint what you're told a people in one place want, when it turns out people in another place might want what you'd really rather be painting?


Remember that childhood book The City Mouse And The Country Mouse?  Ha!  It IS good to find your place and be comfortable in it, eh?  Comfortable in our own skin, and our own painting style--I think it's an admirable goal for painters everywhere.


Later, Cooper

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Comment by Annette Piper on August 10, 2011 at 10:49pm
I think so!
Comment by karen cooper on August 10, 2011 at 10:30pm

Annette--can that be paraphrased "if you're in it for the long haul, you've got to be creating what inspires you"?  Sounds like it!


Comment by Annette Piper on August 10, 2011 at 7:14pm

Karen, I agree - it takes all sorts to buy and we can't be everything to everyone (even though we'd like to sell a piece to everyone!)   I occasionally do this thinking .... I think people want x ..... and then I might sell a couple or even a few, but the things that keep on selling are what I feel connected to, what I want to make.  Not just what I think I SHOULD make.


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