Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grappling with Taste

Anna's House - Andrew Wyeth

I like Andrew Wyeth. I like how personal his work is. I like the American-ness of it. I am not a patriot, not nationalistic at all. I am very interested in people and art from other places, but as an artist I keep being inspired by very personal, very rooted representational work. I love Eakins, Homer and I like Wyeth. And my goodness, what a handsome, magnetic man. He looks like a combo of young John Wayne and the new James Bond guy - Daniel Craig.

The reason I say I am "Grappling" with taste is that, well, he's so popular. I admit I want to be "cool" and know and like hip, obscure artists, but I don't really. I like Wyeth, not everything he's done, but I like him. So anyway. There it is. It's kind of like the Beatles, or Bob Marley, most people have to admit they like it. There's an honesty to his work.

but my attraction to "American" things is a realization that's been dawning on me for a few years. I'm not a "proud to be an American because at least I know I'm able to shop at Walmart" but I'm culturally an American. I like fried chicken and gravy. I embrace who I am as part of a culture. Not as being better than other cultures, just to appreciate my traditions and values. My ancestors came over to this country in the 1600's (the Irish ones in the 1800's) and this has informed my taste, my habits. I love roots and history and looking at things sentimentally but honestly. making a living on the land, knowing how to build and grow and repair - I love that kind of thing. I love the heartbreak too. Well, I don't love bad things that happened, but I want to feel them and let them be part of my past.

Post Script: I just found an excellent article from the Smart Set on Wyeth's Christina's World. The author addresses common Wyeth criticism and gets at the core of Wyeth's appeal. Link ">Here.


Deborah Paris said...

Sarah- what a refreshing post. I too love Wyeth (and mourn his passing). The funny thing about Wyeth is that so many people (the ones who put him down mostly) saw his work as sentimental- I don't think there was a sentimental bone in that man's body. And yes, we are American and why shouldn't we love and celebrate our American-ness, just as others cherish their cultures. Wyeth once said he was so out of the mainstream (then abstract expressionism) that he was a radical- that's the way I see him- a complete fiercely independent American radical.


I like Andrew Wyeth too, and you posted a beautiful painting. I don't know if you read his obituary in the NYtimes
I had no idea that his subject for the painting "Christina's World" was in fact paralyzed from the waist down and refused to use a wheel chair; she dragged herself around - which is what she is doing in that painting.

Nance said...

So interesting to read these comments. One of the first things I thought when I read the article about Wyeth's passing on the NPR homepage was: I wonder if Sarah likes him - his work seemed like her kind of thing - the feel of the way he appreciated light and the subtle colors and the humanness of humans. I read about Christina's world in the New Yorker once: an article about his family heritage. We saw some of his paintings at the Metropolitan Museum, and liked them.

Sarah, have you ever read "High Tide in Tucson" by Barbara Kingsolver. There's a couple of essays, back to back, that touched my sense of Americanism. One is called "In the Belly of the Beast" and the other " Jabberwocky". Together, they brought tears to my eyes. It's possible to love your country and not be nationalistic. I love where I am and the people of Mexico, and everything I'm learning, but I love where I'm from and your paintings have heightened all of that. And that's what art is supposed to do! Love you for so many things...

sarahfburns said...

I started composing this blog entry while reading the NY Times article over breakfast on Saturday. I read the same thing about Christina's World that you had, Rachel. I vaguely remember something or other about that from Art History.

It's funny that people found him sentimental. Maybe familiar, but his work is too neutral and calm to be sentimental.

He was so independent and private. Looking at his work and reading about him made me want to be alone. I grew up in the country and could easily have totally private walks in the hills and oaks. His work takes me to that kind of place.

I heard an NPR interview with the guy that is Bon Iver and he created For Emma in solitude. The interviewer ended with a quote basically saying art is created in privacy. That spending time alone is good for creativity. That rings true to me, although one must be balanced - otherwise yikes.

Nancy, I'll look up those Kingsolver essays, thanks for the recommendation.