Archive for June 25th, 2021


David Hockney- Mulholland Drive 1980

It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work.

–David Hockney

An artist only has so much control over how their work is seen and spoken of by others. The creation itself speaks loudest for the artist, of course. But it is also represented in words by gallery personnel, museum staffs and others. Each individual interpretation adds to or detracts from the work. The artist has little say unless they make an effort to control the narrative with their own words.

I know that I have tried to do this, with varying degrees of success. I felt that in order to do this I would have to try to be honest with my own assessments of the work and what I was seeing in it so that the viewer’s experience might be honestly enhanced. Hopefully, a little more depth into the work would be provided.

Whether this matters in the long term, I do not know. But for the time being, it gives me the feeling that I am somewhat in control of my narrative. Below is a post from a few years back that speaks a bit more about artists speaking about their work and the difference between doing so with words that actually say something substantive and those that are mere fluffy word clouds.

When I first read this quote from the great British artist David Hockney, a painter whose work I admire and always find interesting, I wanted to be offended. After all, I am an artist who has said plenty about his work through the years– this blog and gallery talks being evidence of that– and have tried to be always transparent and forthcoming when talking about my work. But even so, I nodded in agreement when I read his words.

Part of my own desire to be honest and open about my work came from the frustration I felt in reading other artist’s writings that were filled with ArtSpeak, that way of seeming to say something important and meaningful without really saying anything at all. The words danced around all form of meaning and never fully jibed with the images that accompanied the words, leaving me with a single word resonating in my mind:


And I know bullshit. I was a longtime bullshit artist. I sold swimming pools and automobiles– yes, I was even a used car salesman! – to the public for quite some time. I knew that you could sell by focusing on the strengths of the product and by dancing around questions about its drawbacks. Fill any voids with words that sounded like they were filled with meaning but really made no commitment to anything.

For me, there came a time when I was determined to not deal anymore in that manner of speaking and when I finally came to painting, I knew that I did not want my work to fall into that pool of bullshit. I wanted to tightly control how I represented my work and to be completely open about it. Its whole purpose for me was my own honest expression and I wanted people to be able to witness that without a crap filter between them and the work.

For the most part, I feel that I have been able to maintain that through these last several years. Oh, occasionally I feel myself straying off the path. But I simply remind myself that the product I am representing is the core of my self and once I cross that line I would be betraying everything art has provided for me.

But these are just words and maybe you should take them with Hockney’s advice in mind.

David Hockney- Arranged Felled Trees

David Hockney- Arranged Felled Trees

This post ran several years ago. I just didn’t have the energy to write anything new today without it turning into something I didn’t want. And here we are.

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