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Sunday, April 20, 2008

A "Taste" Manifesto

Hey Banjosnakers!

Well, it's a little late for new year's resolutions, but I'm getting married in 12 days and it's got me to thinking and doing some serious self-examination. I've decided that there is one "self-improvement" resolution I'm going to attempt: that is, to never apologize for my taste any more, ever again.

Most artists I know seem to live on a roller-coaster where the peaks are blasting, glaring confidence - to the point of being sometimes offensively full of ourselves - and the valleys are black, loathing, self-doubt. I think though often painful, this cycle is natural for artists. We must have intense, self-conscious ego to do what we do - to have the cojones to put forth new "art" into the world and endure the criticisms of others - then still remain artists! But we also worry all the time whether or not what we're doing is any good. The artists I've know who never had any doubt were total assholes. And the artists I've known that were all about doubt never found the courage to put anything out there - good or not.

Then those of us who "merely" appreciate art endure a similar, but lesser trial: that of the art critic. Let me illustrate: I like the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. I could go into long-winded, intellectual, informed and well-thought-out, emotionally-charged arguments for why I like Wyeth's work so much, but that would distract from my point. The point is, I love his work. It makes me happy, and it makes me feel good.

But you've got your hyperventilating, pontificating, bloated windbags like critic Robert Hughes who tell me that I shouldn't like Wyeth, because Wyeth is all nostalgia and goopy sentiment and romantic pap, and if that isn't enough, that Wyeth can't paint. I'll consider listening to such bullshit when Robert Hughes produces even one painting as accomplished as Wyeth's "Trodden Weed" and then I'll dismiss his bullshit once again. But you know what? Here's the deeper truth I'm trying to get at: Not only is Robert Hughes free to never look at another Andrew Wyeth painting if he doesn't want to, but what if Hughes is "right?" What if Hughes' opinion is "truth?" What if Wyeth's work really is nostalgic, sentimental crap and nothing more than the equivalent of Ralph Lauren in tempera? Well, SO FUCKING WHAT, can't I still love it if I want to? Does Hughes' opinion in any way invalidate my own experience?

Screw Robert Hughes. It nearly makes my head explode when someone I know falls for this nonsense. I always encourage friends who want to get into something new to research it, but please, for God's sake, never take the so-called "expert opinions" as gospel... hell, they're just opinions! And yours is just as good!

I like Andrew Wyeth, superhero comic books, cheesy science-fiction movies, redneck southern rock-n-roll, barbeque pulled pork, bluejeans, cowboy boots, and lowriders. That doesn't mean that I can't also like Richard Diebenkorn, Herman Melville, avant-garde French cinema, Steve Reich's electronica, sushi, Armani suits, Italian shoes, and Subaru station wagons. In fact, I do like all those things, too. Especially sushi.

Not only am I going to stop apologizing for my tastes, I'm going to stop letting anyone, especially experts, tell me they should be mutually exclusive.

I suspect that there is some line when "artfully low culture" simply becomes crap, but I'm not prepared to tell anyone else where that line is. I want to try to respect them enough to allow them their own opinion. Hell, I'm not even sure where the line is for me. Sure, I'll continue to read movie and CD reviews, to help me decide what I might be interested in and to avoid wasting my time on something that I'm pretty sure I won't like... but I've got to allow myself the freedom not just to make up my own mind, but to stand by my taste.

Friends, you may see me next in a rare book store, or a comic book shop. Eating sushi or eating a hot dog. Listening to Mozart, or listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Watching Kurosawa, or watching Tarentino. In cutoffs, or in a tuxedo (well, probably a tuxedo... I am getting married in 12 days!) But either way, feel free to join me or not, depending on your taste. And don't feel the need to explain or apologize, either. I'm right there with ya.

Take care, Chipper

P.S. Check this out, and take from it what you will: Wyeth2.html

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original artwork by Chipper Thompson

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