Creationism in Art: Make It Up as We Go Along?


Lucas Deon Spivey, Before and After (Jasper), 2009

I can sum up my family's mentality on conceptual art by paraphrasing Garrison Keillor, "Performance artists in New York say the world is going to end and this makes sense considering the shared trait of all performance artists is raging narcissism" adding that the best cure for raging narcissism is to have children. His quote posits that in lieu of a real meaning in life (i.e. children) we sometimes invent meaning and I think this describes much of the conceptual art world - in lieu of actual meaning in our work we invent a meaning for our work.

It's embarrassing to witness such an artist talk about their work when you suddenly realize they're coming up with answers to questions they never asked themselves. Some of us have been to that artist talk.

Audience member asks "Why did you use choose to use 2 by 4s?"

Artist lies "To reference the abuse of nature."

...instead of admitting it was a cheap alternative to brushed steel.

How dishonest to our viewers to come up with our inspirations and choices after the work is done and complete? And sometimes this dishonesty is noticeable in the work itself. I think of Frankenstein's monster when he learns that his creator had never thought to give him purpose before creating him. It makes me want to swaddle the art in my arms while it softly weeps.


Young Frankenstein, Wilder and Brooks, 1974

An artist creates things beyond what they understand but an artist is responsible for the choices they make. To me, an example of this pre-meditated art is the work of Ali Luis. Her materials carry specific meaning(s).


Ali Luis, 2008

This is a baby blanket and outfit made from Toys"R"Us bags - complete with a crocheted bonnet and booties. The piece is poignant because its materials are relevant to its concept - Ali chose her materials before she set to work. From here many interpretations can be explored; the appropriation of consumer-culture as an art material, the influence of media on our children, the impossibility of such a garment, the splayed out dismemberment in the image, etc.