Every once in a while it still bothers me that the primary role of artists is to produce knickknacks for the rich... Mostly I've gotten over it, of course, but occasionally my tongue gets stuck in my cheek and I think of my senior art project at St. Olaf College in 1975: Art as a Bourgeois Sham. The hardest thing about remembering it, is remembering how to spell bourgeois. So I've entered it into my computer memory, and now it's easy: bourgeois bourgeois bourgeois bourgeois bourgeois bourgeois. It's much more fun to pronounce than to spell: "bush wah." However that's the last time you'll encounter the word on this excursion, so don't get too attached to it...
The second hardest thing about remembering it, is that some of the slides used in the original presentation have disappeared. These things happen. The rest have been digitized by Wes Rolley, making them zoom onto your screen. Also I've freely reinterpreted and added to it so it isn't what it was. So, let the Sham begin!
In the good old days an artist was clearly defined as
a capturer of images. A good artist made stuff look real. I've
no doubt that the Arnofini guy in this picture by Jan Van Eyck probably
looked a lot like his image (Too bad for her, you might say).. This took
a lot of work and real talent. Anyway, artists painted portraits and landscapes
pretty much, so rich patrons could have something to hang on the walls
of their baronial estates.
Then a while later the camera was invented, and artists lost their main mission in life. With a camera, no lingering long hours over the paint palette. "You want a wedding portrait? Done."
So now everybody can have pretty pictures on their walls, and so cheap that you don't have to be a Baron. It saves a lot of work... I mean, imagine trying to draw all the detail in this sunset picture.
So the portrait business and pretty landscape wall art business looked like it was going down the tube, thanks to Mr. Kodak. This was okay, because artists decided they didn't need to paint things as they were (it was too hard anyway), so Impressionism and cubism and all that stuff became the hip thing.