October 7, 2010

Factory Girl

Recently I saw this work up at a local coffee shop.  I'm not trying to slander a particular artist, but more so use this as a launch pad for a larger discussion.  The type of art on display here, and seen often in S.C., sells well.  In other states they may be different icons, but the artists who make these pieces do so with a sort of production mode in mind.  Make the same painting 12 times but change the color, so it matches someone's living room.  I often ponder about making work like this myself.  Not specifically roosters and palmetto trees, but pieces that are decorative and sell well.  These paintings become more about production and selling than about the work itself.  Still, in a way they are self-sustaining.

I had a critique with a visiting artist this morning and mentioned the problems with creating a "project" for myself, explaining that often I design the project and then make 4 or 5 variations on a painting, instead of 5 powerful individual pieces.  He responded saying, "certainly no one wants to think of him or herself as a 'factory.'"  Exactly! I thought.  I don't want to be a factory.  I was immediately reminded of Warhol and his views on art as production.  I've always found it disturbing and insincere, yet there's something interesting about it too.

Where is the line between making art and mass-producing a product?  Is it okay to sometimes do both?  I am unsure whether it is because of lack of time, disinterest, or simply fear of damaging my name that I have neglected to make any "crafty" art.  I always ponder over ideas of collage, cards, or other "projects," outside of my artistic practice.

Will we ever as a society move beyond the palmetto tree?  Does it matter?


  1. saw this today while getting a coffee. similar thoughts went through head.

  2. there's a ton of factory artists who win awards at the state fair for being unconventional. I gave up submitting to that a long time ago.

  3. SC is an iconographic state, as you've learned. It's in the DNA of most residents, including the artists. If you've met the Chicken Man, Ernest Lee, and talk with him a while, you'll understand how unconventional he really is.

    For instance, EL painted a large canvas for one of our Lutheran pastors in training. Chickens were everywhere, preaching, slain in the spirit, falling into the aisles. "That's no Lutheran service . . ." I joked to Pastor Terry.

    "Yes . . .yes. . . yes. . ." he answered.

    So a particular trope gets used in more sophisticated ways than might meet the eye. Also, Ernest has made his persona an art form, like many do, in a conventional/unconventional way.

    Read Harlan Hubbard, Life and Work by Wendell Berry--another interesting look at this phenomenon by a homesteader/watercolorist and his wife.

    From your old-fashioned Uncle John