Monday, September 15, 2008

Seattle art culture and Gabriele D'Annunzio

D'Annunzio being an Italian writer who had terrible politics yet wrote well and who provided an anecdote about the relation of artists to patron's that useful for evaluating the Seattle arts scene. Basically, D'Annunzio, before the rise of Fascism in Italy, was having dinner at the home of a famous patron of the arts who liked to set up elaborate salon-like encounters between artists, herself, and other guests. D'Annunzio was eating and not talking much, eating and not talking much, and finally the patroness asked him straight out about some aspect of one of his books. D'Annunzio replied something along the lines of "I write, you feed me". The meaning of which is that he was an actual artist, she was just an interested socialite, and he didn't want to give her the time of day or prop her up by making her think she was something other than that. There's a similar phenomenon in parts of the Seattle artworld, where folks who make their living in the IT industry and who live on the East Side, the name for the very rich ex-urbs that include Redmond, periodically get the idea in their heads that they can be artists. They take classes at the Gage Academy, which is a laughably traditional institution that's willing to provide an air of snobbery and rigid academic art making to anyone willing to pony up the cash, and make their little drawings or paintings, and expect to not only be taken seriously but to be accorded the same respect they get in real life where they pull down six figures. Which is not to say that they couldn't make good art, but, quite honestly, there are many more of them out there who completely suck than there are folks who actually have talent....and they don't understand it when you decide not to kiss their ass thoroughly and completely, I mean, like, you don't even wear a dress shirt! How dare you question me and my art skills! Idiots.

Gage Academy is a cancer on the Seattle art scene, something that turns out useless fuckers who have either had their spirits crushed by it or who have given in to their point of view. There are other institutions that are much better, but you'll have to find those on your own. I'm not going to give you any hints.

With people from Bellevue, or, heck, let's include Kirkland as well as ├╝ber elite Mercer Island, where Bill Gates lives, increasingly my attitude is that it's okay if they spend lots of money on art but let's be serious: don't pretend you're an artist. Please. Please don't. Just buy art and be content to be a patron and art fancier.

And the nature of the tech industry doesn't provide the best financing for artists in Seattle either. The scuttlebutt is that more Seattle artists sell work outside of Seattle than inside of it, to people all over the country. They just opened a Science Fiction museum in Seattle, but people with money here tend to like pretty landscapes and city scenes as opposed to actual non-hokey, valuable, art. So we have the failing of the American educational system right in front of us: people who can program anything yet who don't really have that much knowledge of the liberal arts in general, which includes Art History.

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