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art school confidential

updated tue 8 apr 08


David Hendley on thu 3 apr 08

If you've enjoyed this week's Clayart discussions of
criticism and making a living, you gotta see this movie!
The hero is a skilled artist who graduates high school and
goes to a famous art college in New York.
He is shocked and flabbergasted that the school is filled
with idiots making crap, yet everyone thinks they are
doing great work.

During a critique, he dares to actually criticize, and the
whole class turns on him and calls him mean. The
teacher has no control because he is more interested in
trying to get a show for his own work than teaching the
class. The artspeak BS had me rewinding several times
because I couldn't hear it all through my laughter.

Like a well written poem, every scene subtlety, or
not so subtlety, richly skewers all the fakes and
posers. The scene in the ceramics class will have you
chuckling, when the teacher, a 50-something guy with a
ponytail, naturally, writes "don't care" on the blackboard
when a student asks if attendance will count towards
the final grade.

The movie is written by Daniel Clowes, the well-known
artist and "graphic novelist" who also wrote Ghost World.
At the Berkeley Potters Council Conference this winter,
I discovered that he is the son-in-law of potter Virginia
Cartwright, when she entertained us with the story of
how he and her daughter met (ask her sometime).

I guess the movie was not a big hit with the movie-going
public because, even though it has not been out for long,
I got the DVD from the "Buy 3 for $9.99 table" at
Blockbuster. Anyone who took art classes in college will
love it.

David Hendley
Maydelle, Texas

Snail Scott on mon 7 apr 08

> Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2008 23:43:24 -0500
> From: David Hendley
> I guess the movie was not a big hit with the movie-going
> public...

I was actually still in art school when it came out, and
it didn't seem to be a general-public hit. (Dan Clowes'
stuff all tends to be a bit dark and gently sardonic, with
an underlying sense of inevitable futility.) It was the talk
of my classmates and all the on-line art groups, though,
and we enjoyed its angst-ridden satire quite a bit.

As participants in the art-school world, we had all met
some version of each character type in the film, which
for us gave it much of its resonance. For the general
public, I suspect it was a more distanced experience,
since the specific details and settings were still
entertaining but less personal.

Clowes never has any real heroes in his work, and in
this film, presented from the perspective of a young
'misunderstood genius' art student, we see the faculty
skewered as alternately pretentious or apathetic and
the students as talentless self-involved poseurs, but
when we at last see our protagonist's own work, it is
every bit as mediocre as what surrounds him.

Of course, as participants in the art-school process, we
all hope that our own experiences and contributions will
rise above those shown, but as with much of Clowes'
other work, it leaves us with the nagging sense that
maybe we aren't that different, either. Good comedy,
to be sure, but as much cautionary as funny.


Randall Moody on mon 7 apr 08

I will have to see if I can NetFlix that one. I just came across a
quote that I liked.

"The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all
the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly the
slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster
area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so
many to say so little. --Banksy
Randall in Atlanta