Monday, April 10, 2006

pep talk

Just when I was feeling blue about some pettiness I heard about the blog I received this link to an article jerry saltz wrote about art criticism. I started out writing this blog in an anonymous tone, free of my opinions. I never wanted to sway anyone from going to see an exhibition. But then it changed a little for two reasons: I remembered that I was writing the blog for me as a way to vent and rave about the art community and that I myself found even the harshest criticism more interesting than just fact reporting and description. I found that the more I shared, the more comments and readers I got. I like having an interactive site that everyone can catch up on the happenings of the detroit art world and beyond. I really do take offense to those who say that my blog is all negative or trite. I only write what I see and everyone should know that I am for things happening in detroit more than the next person. I love attending art openings and being able to share with the community what is happening in this city and region.
I have only lately been feeling like I should hold back from disliking something because of this buzz in my ear. I looked back into the archives and the percentage of me being critical is pretty low, which I assume I will already have someone counter me and tell me that I am wrong.
In regards to MOCAD and my criticism, I am only hard on the project like a parent being hard on a child - I want the museum to succeed! I think that the first show needs to have one detroit artist included in the show. I believe that the whole art community will benefit from the museum but a little lead time is needed if other galleries and events are to be coordinated around the grand opening. All that said, I am meeting with someone on the MOCAD committee this week. I hope to have more information to spread at that time. And for now, expect my opinions to stay!
Here are a few fun saltz quotes:

"...I started out as an artist, stopped painting, and became a long-distance truck driver. My CB handle was "the Jewish Cowboy": Shalom, partner. I didn't begin writing criticism until I was almost 40...
Many writers treat the juiciest part of criticism, judgment, as if it were tainted or beneath them. The most interesting critics make their opinions known. Yet in most reviews there's no way to know what the writer thinks, or you have to scour the second-to-last paragraph for one negative adjective to detect a hint of disinclination. This is no-risk non-criticism. Being "post-critical" isn't possible. Everyone is judging all the time. Critics who tell you they're not judging or that they're being objective are either lying or delusional. Being critical of art is a way of showing it respect. Being subjective is being human...
People report not liking 80 percent of the shows they see, yet 80 percent of reviews are positive or just descriptive...
They [critics] praise everything they see, or only describe. These critics are like the pet owner who sews up the cat to stop it from fouling the sofa: They keep the couch clean but kill the cat."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should MOCAD show at least one Detroit artist Anne? Who should that one artist be? What's the criteria for selecting her? Maybe it's time more local artists looked at more than other Detroit artists, and that's what MOCAD will have to offer rather than giving Clint or Scott another place to show. Sorry, but I think artists should support MOCAD even if it NEVER shows a Detroit artist. The world is a big place. Stir things up.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hypercriticism is a problem today and has been for awhile. Not just in dealing with Art reviews but all aspects of criticism. Its like no one takes you seriously today unless you find a way to point out something you don't think works or should all together not have happened!

It is defenitely more challenging to dig deep and find the positive sparkle in something even when others don't see it. To bring it out and enhance it or atleast bring it to others awareness and say this could be great. This is especially true when dealing with students.

I remember in critique back at CCS.. it was one of the only opportunities to have in depth discussion about your work and others. Some people just never spoke out untill that time. Occasionally there are those few teachers whom save their deepest criticism for that moment. I even remember being criticized in critique for making a minimal comment during each student's critique! So much reliance on negative criticism does not seem functional.

1:52 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

Thanks anon...but it's funny that you say such bold things yet have no name. It's easy to criticize without anyone knowing who you are.
I don't think you understand, I think bringing in national/international artists to mocad is crucial and a GIVEN. I am only stating how important that it is to see detroit work among national work. I don't think clint or scott are at the level yet to show in with the first show if that is what you are implying.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


LA, NYC, Houston, Chicago, Berlin, London ... All these towns and more have museums that support local as well as national/international artists. The Hairy Who, the Imagists, the Stuckists, the Cass Corridor Group ... none of these would be here if it weren't with the support of their local museums.

3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Berlin. I have lived here for eight years. And am becoming very irritated with the art scene here. Everything is in place to become a vital art community, except self-respect.

And you can't find that somewhere else. You build it here.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" I like having an interactive site that everyone can catch up on the happenings of the detroit art world and beyond."

I like it too. Coming from a person on the periphery of the arts community, this blog really helps me get a sense of what is going on. And Ann's personal point of view gives it the 'spice' that is needed. Its like reading Samuel Pepys' diary, or the journal of Eugene Delacroix....Pepys' points of view about London in 1666, or the influence of Parisian culture on Delacroix's paintings are made more interesting because they offered opinions.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a provincial attitude to consider Detroit's contemporary museum as a frontier outpost for only NY artists to show.

We've plenty of great artists right here, right now. And I want to see them alongside the world's art.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog would be fine if you were treating it as just a blog. You are not a victim or a martyr for doing what you do here. You post people's hard work and do a quick critique that often times misses the point of the art activity. ... or many times gives an odd amount of kudos to a mundane act of art showing.

This blog cannot begin to represent the Detroit art scene until you step out of yourself.

You have been put in check because you are putting yourself in a big role while acting as though you are a casual art lover who has a blog. You received media attention and posed for a photo. You cannot expect all to take this lightly as you give props to friends and misinterpret shows.

It is not the opinion here that annoys - it is the obvious self interest and cronyism that makes a visit here frustrating. Critique all you want but understand if you dish it you will have to take it.

I hope this blog becomes less art school faculty and more understanding of the scene that doesn't spend it;s time remembering life by semester,

be a good art bully

9:37 PM  
Blogger John Azoni said...

anon - as we have established before, you obviously want a blog that has no opinions, no discussion, no life, no criticism, only praise praise praise. If that's the case, start your own blog and build up everyone's ego. That's fine with me. I like compliments. But what I appreciate more than that are the criticisms because a compliment does nothing for me. Someone giving me nothing but praise often frustrates me because that says I've done all there is to do. It offers no challenge, and nothing to think about for future paintings. On the same level, saying nothing at all is even more frustrating. In almost every critique I've had, the majority of the students don't even bother to open their mouths. They just sit there and stare at the work in front of them, watching the clock until it's time to go. Criticism, whether positive or negative is the most crucial part of developing talent. I think Ann offers a perfect opportunity to hear her opinion, without recognizing her as the be all end all authority in art criticism, and allows everyone else to either agree or disagree. I think people should just quit complaining. If you don't like the blog, either don't read it, or start your own. Or both. It really doesn't bother me that Ann mentions certain artists repeatedly. Those are the artists she's friends with and who she supports the most. It's a personal blog, with personal opinions, which means personal friends. Who cares? does that really change the quality of art you make? Is it keeping you from getting in the studio because you're pining over whose name gets dropped in the DetroitArts Blog? Just do your art, and forget about what is said in the blog. This isn't the ultimate authority in the Detroit scene. It's just one view of it. It would be nice to get several blogs going that are as current as Ann's so that we can get several perspectives on it.

So seriously anon - and I'm not being sarcastic, or rude...but start your own blog because I think we'd all love to hear what you have to say. If you have a problem with Ann's blog, then do it better! If anything it would give us all another stop when surfing the web.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get off ann's back, anon. she is not setting herself up as the only authority. there is no cronyism here that i can see. this is her opinion and it is her blog. you sound like you have an agenda that is not being served by this blog.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For any art community to flourish, it has to feed itself. It creates a contemporary museum that serves out-of-town fare along with local dishes. This in turn creates a dialogue between artists and art communities.

Different kinds of artists using different mediums will be encouraged to exhibit here and share ideas in pursuit of a shared voice, or a communal space for that voice, that allows us to connect with each other, back and forward.

Ann has begun this dialogue by showcasing many of our own artists. MOCAD will take that dialogue further by seating them alongside outside visitors.

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wowsers !

This is all typical flack from starting any type of opinion based site where you invite feedback. These types of sites actually draw in the gadflies like rotten honey. Not that all criticism of this site is invalid - but people who claim to complain about unconstructive criticism are often massively unconstructive in their own complaints.

Disagree with what Ann says ? Counter her points - do not attack the messenger. Thats weak.

Art bully ? Jeezuz - that is such an outrageous pile of crap. Some of these folks act like you are Simon on American Idol !

For one, I admire how much you hold your tongue in order to remain as unbiased as possible about the whole scene. I am also among an increasingly large group of people who have come to respect and depend on the Detroitarts project for vital information and input on the arts community.

PLEASE do NOT stop the project because some armchair quarterbacks are biting your ankles.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep on doing what you are doing, Ann.

6:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never will forget Joe Wesner telling us that "in this industry we must have the hide of a Rhino".

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pacopez, i am looking at a picture of Joseph Wesner right now. i have it on my desk at work. i can hear him saying that......also, that we must remember to always keep "raising the bar"

i miss him so much

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Anon stated an opinion, which is what this is all about . . . as you stated yours . . .

Remember, one person's opinion is one person's opinion! They are entitled to it.

Just remember not to be too one-sided . . . sometimes those who think they are so "open-minded" are not!

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There does seem to be a group of people that are in this together, people may have any opinion they want. Just because you don't agree with it doesn't mean they are wrong, also if a lot of people share another person,s opinion it doesn't make the opinion "right either", i know we all know this, so if we do; why does it keep coming up? Arguing is not necessarily the best way of operating a conversation.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep doing what your doing Ann. Ignore their criticism and keep doing what you do. I think people are just jealous because you are so in tune with the art scene. What you are doing here is amazing! You manage to go to art shows and give us all your photos and thoughts about the Detroit art scene.

See you at my show this weekend!


6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good criticism is based on a good philosophy. A good philosophy is simply the best disposition of all evidence available... A thoroughly competent critic is one who has both intimate experience with the art world he/she is judging and a strong respect for the philosophy of art and it's movements as a whole.

A good critic can make a distinction between art criticism, which is a qualitative judgment of works of art, and the philosophy of art, which is concerned with interpreting works, with discovering the nature, significance and symbolism of art in general. The critic should be able to draw these two ideas together otherwise they are just taking photos and talking up their friends.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 7:43pm lays it out pretty well. Real criticism depends upon a philosophical stance. What are the criteria we use to determine what good art is? I'm not sure about his/her distinction between criticism and quality. I suppose an artist can be philosophically sound but not very good, as in a good idea that is poorly executed. Ann (whoever she is) has created an entertaining blog. She may also have created a monster. The discussions here seem to grow in animosity as they shrink in genuine reflection about art and its significance in our lives. My refrain: Is the judgment of art based on more than subjective experience?

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the key to all of this: it's ann's blog. if you think all she writes about is her friends and you don't like that, why are you here? why do you read it? why do you comment? why not stop reading the thing you constantly rip on?

8:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pacopez, Ann, Gilda - and anyone else who may have known Joesph, check out this bit of wisdom that he laid on me at a bad time in my life:

In the mans handwriting complete with signature. That quote he came up with says it all - and more. This is from a letter he wrote me that is framed and hangs on my office wall next to my desk.


8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, detroitfunk. I am going to print this and keep it in my office next to his picture on my desk

9:22 AM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

thanks dfunk! I printed it out as well!

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks detroitfunk!
Wesner is a great example of how someone could balance out strong criticism and positive reinforcement. I really got a lot out of our sessions and it always impressed me that concurrently he was working so busily with his art. He always seemed to be in the zone.
Earliar someone mentioned harsh criticism working to bite back the ego.. I feel that is necessary to some extent but as much as possible leave that job for those qualified!

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does everyone remember that joe's death happened on april fools day, i can never get that out of my head, I think about it every year. no jokes,I remember seeing a drawing by Joe at ccs a few years ago. It was from 1979 and it showed a rock or boulder with a cage around it. I thought that was so sad, and I wonder how he held on as long as he did.
matt Lewis

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No I did not know that, thanks.
When I called to let a friend know about Joe she was very upset and told me that a few weeks earliar she had dreamt of Joe trapped in this underground labryinth. She had been meaning to contact him after that. Perhaps we could speak more freely about interior issues if not so self-concious of harsh judgemental criticism.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Joseph was still in grad school at Cranbrook, he did a whole series of sculptures consisting of the rock surrounded by the cages or rocks emerging from behind fences. I never before thought of them as metaphors for his life, but I think maybe they were.

Speaking in terms of criticism, one should start with their own work and progress outward. Joe always did. There was a film made of Joseph discussing his work; it was made for his Meadowbrook Art Gallery show, I believe. In it he is describing his process of self examination, and how he revisits his sculpture by doing drawings of them after the fact.

Yes, Matt, I remembered that he left us on the first of April. That is why I no longer do any joking on that day. It is now a day of reflection for me.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because of Joe I made sure that I had a thoughtful criticism for every person in our critiques, he really knew how to get the most out of a critique and also was able to transfer a more correct way to critique a piece or body of work, for him there was a formula to it.

matt lewis

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what was joseph's forumla for critiques?

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you should probably get that from a more reliable source like from gildas, or mark sengbusch, mark is excellent at cretique and really has an understanding of "a " correct way of critiquing

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to jack this thread with too much on Joseph Wesner - but the critique thing does weigh in heavy with the actual topic.

The most valuable thing about Josephs efforts during critiques is that he would always contribute something for each and every student. Not just art stars - EVERY student. The most bone crushing failure you could receive at a critique was silence - not criticism ! Joseph would speak up during each critique and was constantly trying to get the student body (and faculty) to do the same.

Was his criticism always perfect and unbiased ? Hell no. But him putting something out there meant that you could engage him in deeper conversation or debate.

Earlier I used the Simon Cowell (american idol) analogy for peoples reactions to criticsim. That show is stupid and everything, but seriously think about peoples reactions to Cowells criticisms. Surely a great deal of that is for entertainments sake, but if you listen to what he says he really is giving solid valid feedback. The public and television studio reaction to him is a VERY strong indicator of a trend in the USA towards anti-critical thinking. People seem to want to hear NOTHING critical about anybody, as if everybody does everything perfect and everybody is of equal effort, skill and talent.


This is part of a dumbing down process, dont buy into it. The old joke is that people always tell kids that they can be anything they want when they grow up. Again, bullshit - else we'd all be rock stars, millionaires and astronauts !

7:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for reassuring DFunk.
I'll see if Simon Cowell can make a stop at CCS some day. Perhaps he could bring his audience that is waiting on edge to hear him publicly humiliate someone.
Did you see him on Saturday Night Live a year back? He could barely shake a maraca and sway side to side at the same time.

9:25 AM  
Blogger no-where-man said...

whoa, a detroit art blog... i went to CCS, for undergrad - there was no CONCEPT of a market in the MFA program for better or worse. in nyc is is ALL the students think of. the work is very tainted.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to WSU for undergrad and grad and COULDNT WAIT until I got that MFA because I was OUTTA HERE on my way to NYC too.

Things happened, and I stayed in the D to make my art and my life. Often wonder what would have been different if I had made NYC my the sense that "all politics is local", all art is local too.

I used to wonder why Wesner didnt head to NYC. He was from the East to begin with, Philly. Had work that blazed trails.

But he was very much an "artist of the world". Born, raised in Philly, studied at Georgetown and Cranbrook, lectured often in China, taught and lived in Metro Detroit.

Just goes to show you. Make the work anywhere.....Detroit, Saginaw, DesMoines, Columbus, etc etc.......but consider yourself an "artist-citizen of the world", and share the work you do with your "neighbors". Where ever they are.

Ann doesnt mind if we hijack the thread for a minute.

All in a good cause

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a new book that might prove interesting, on the nature of critiques----

The Critique Handbook (Paperback)
by Kendall Buster, Paula Crawford

From the Back Cover
How do we see, think about, and evaluate works of art?

At once a theoretical investigation of the underlying nature of the studio critique as well as a practical manual for participation in this fundamental studio practice, The Critique Handbook is an invaluable resource for examining the uses and mis-uses of artistic analysis. Presenting hundreds of examples drawn from every genre of artmaking, noted artists Kendall Buster and Paula Crawford address the complexity of what actually occurs in critiques. Their book fills a serious gap in the art studio, as they scrutinize a practice that has been largely unquestioned and provide models for more informed and effective ways of conducting and taking part in critiques. Their observations, which can be applied to beginning through advanced studio courses, bring to light the underlying social and power dynamics of critiques and offer illuminating advice on how to make critiques more cogent and evenhanded. They also offer advice for participants on how to prepare for critiques and benefit more fully from them.

its available at

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a must read, Thanks Leoqueen!

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to order it right away, Pacopez. I JUST discovered it on amazon.

11:47 AM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

thanks...I am going to check it out at borders too!

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ann, where do you find the time and energy to do all of this? keep up the good work

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though she does come off as a know it all at times, It's cool Ann is doing her thing. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys the blog. She's a good resource. We're all just bitter because we live in a shit hole. Any time something good starts to happen, we all gotta run it down before it even gets off the ground. Detroit's covered by a dark cloud, don't be pissed off at Ann because she decided to pull out her umbrella.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just learned of the death of Joseph Wesner. We met him in Hot Springs many years ago and I loved his work and his vitality. Was shocked to learn he died. Such a loss. I hope it was not suicide.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi All,
Sometimes, when I miss Joseph, I Google him just to see if I'll find anything and today I found this great discussion.

Hi Gilda, hi, D-Funk, it's Janette - Joseph's videographer. I hope you and others who post here are well. You're right, Wesner's critique was one of the best you'd ever get. He had a great way of pushing me - to think deeper, do better, keep going and trust myself. I'm glad a poster here remembered his interview in our video for the retrospective at Meadowbrook - it's nice to know something we did together has stuck with someone.

10:00 PM  

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