Imponderable #10: London England

29 Jul

July 29, 2011

Does the old saying go that life imitates art, or art imitates life? Either way, what is the point of this? 

People read this and say “wow, that’s art!” I read this and say “what a weirdo.”

“Art” is a catchall for anything nowadays, and if something is “art” we are supposed to accept it. Why?

This a guy who stretches out on the sidewalk and paints filthy pieces of gum stuck to the cement. But because it is art it gets celebrated! Celebrate it? Sorry, this is stupid. How does this not get made fun of? If the guy has talent, and from some pictures I’ve seen he can paint, though certainly not Matisse level, let him paint on something other than sticky trash.

Remember the guy who implanted a camera in his head, and later developed a raging infection? That was beyond stupid, but because he called it art no one told him what him an ass he was. They lauded him. Once you call the most asinine thing “art” for some reason people are not allowed to make fun of it. Surgically implant spikes into your skull? Art! Slice your tongue like a snake’s? Art! Make statues out of excrement? Art!

No, that statue is literally a pile of shit.

I am all for art. I have no problem with freedom of expression. But if someone chooses to paint on dirty pieces of gum stuck to the ground, then I have the freedom of expression to say he is a weirdo.

Why would a talented artist choose to paint on disgusting pieces of spit-out gum?

The question ins Imponderable.

33 Responses to “Imponderable #10: London England”

  1. Mac of BIOnighT July 29, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Is this the one we were supposed to have a fight over? If so, I’ll have to disappoint you: while not as drastic as yours, my opinion is more or less the same… (too bad for the fight, I’d have enjoyed it ;-P )


    • bmj2k July 29, 2011 at 12:51 am #

      As you are an artist, I thought we might have a disagreement about artistic expression. I miss you teasing me mercillessly about the art in Mandrake.


      • Mac of BIOnighT July 29, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

        As a matter of fact, I never used the word artist to define myself, precisely because I didn’t want to be mixed up with people like that. Only in the past few years have I started using the A word for convenience’s sake. Anyway, my point is that something like that could actually be art and also a statement, but if that’s the one and only thing you do, you’re not an artist, you’re just somebody with a peculiar hobby.
        I met a guy many years ago who carved faces into nuts. All very nice, and kind of artistic, too, but that’s all he did and – because he was intelligent – he would have never called himself an artist, he was just somebody who liked carving faces into nuts. And that probably made him more of an artist than many of those you can see in museums.
        I believe that art (in its most profound sense, of course there are many more shades) is when you express yourself, your emotions, your ideas, etc through something that can be seen, heard, touched, read, whatever, and understood or/and felt by others. I can hardly believe one could actually express himself by just doing the very same thing over and over for his whole life :-/
        You do that, and it becomes a job. Mind, it can also be a very pleasant job both for the author and for the people who will enjoy his works, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! Some might even be so extremely good and honest as to inject real art into something that is apparently always the same thing, so what I’m saying is not necessarily always true. In general and broadly speaking, though, an impressive number of so called artists are actually just people with a job.
        Love for what you do, honesty, and need/urge to create are what make a real artist.


        • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 12:06 am #

          No one really brought it up, but I understand that the medium can be a part of the artist’s message. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the gum guy.


          • Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 1:21 am #

            “the medium can be a part of the artist’s message”
            Absolutely. That’s why I have a problem with this kind of thing – if you repeat exactly the same message for your whole life, is it still a message? Of course some messages are so important that are well worth repeating and can last much more than a lifetime, but something like this?
            I mean, the Mandrake strip’s artist repeated – actually copy-and-pasted – the same background in every frame, was that a message? What was he implying?
            (I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist ;-P )


  2. Thomas Stazyk July 29, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    Yep. I have lots of opinions on this topic. Basically I think the guy is a high class vandal and has now had his 15 minutes of fame. The root cause I think is that with the burgeoning of the middle class you have a lot of people who actually do have some skill and want to be artists but the market isn’t big enough to take on the supply of artists so postmodern art schools have all told them that they can’t be derivative and paint a picture that looks like something otherwise they’ll be selling their stuff with the day glo Elvis pics at the gas station. So there is an arms race to come up with something new and different and novel. If it weren’t for the internet these guys wouldn’t get known beyond a few city blocks.


    • bmj2k July 29, 2011 at 12:53 am #

      Wow, this is another case where individual comments need “like” buttons. You’ve gone in a beautiful direction that I never even thought of, let alone feel qualified to discuss.


      • Thomas Stazyk July 29, 2011 at 1:24 am #

        I’m not qualified to discuss it either, but it hasn’t stopped me!


        • Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 1:24 am #

          I’m not qualified at all either, but you’re so right – why should we let such a triviality stop us? ;-P


          • Thomas Stazyk July 30, 2011 at 1:49 am #

            You got it! Let’s run for Congress!


            • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 1:55 am #

              You guys may run into a problem of geography. The three of us are on three different continents!


              • Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 8:54 am #

                And you call that a problem? We can run for the Global Congress!

                (what continent are you from, Thomas? I’m from Italy, so Europe (although I wish I could say I’m from the lost continent of Atlantis, that’d be so much cooler…))


                • Thomas Stazyk July 30, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

                  Yes a Global Congress. With a Secretariat!

                  I’m from NZ which some people say is part of no continent but lately we have been called part of Australasia or Oceania.


                  • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

                    I need to update my address book.


                  • Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

                    Nothing to do with anything, but Oceania has always been and forever will be one of my very favorite songs
                    Sorry you can’t understand the words – cryptic and beautiful. Sorry also for the fact that whoever uploaded this brutally cutoff the final solo 😦

                    Anyway, New Zealand is in many people’s minds the final frontier… what’s life like there?


  3. heartsara July 29, 2011 at 1:38 am #

    I agree.


  4. Mike Monge July 29, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    This is why I always say I’m an ‘illustrator’…or I try to be…haha


  5. TexasTrailerParkTrash July 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    Speaking as one who’s created over 100 artist trading cards (artwork the size of a playing card) I think this guy is pretty creative. Who said you need someone else’s permission to consider yourself an artist? With that said, I don’t run around telling everyone “I’m an artist!” It’s just something I do because I enjoy it or I feel the urge to create. If that makes me just a hobbyist…well, that’s okay too.

    Here’s a video of the Dust Art of Scott Wade of San Marcos, TX that you might enjoy. (Ignore the cheesy music.)


    • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      Scott Wade does amazing work, and I don’t have the same reaction to him as I do the gum guy. I think if he put a finish and and made those pictures permanent I’d have a different opinion.

      And you are an artist to me.


      • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

        Quick story about my Dad.

        He used to make ink on glass pictures. He’d paint the ink on a sheet of glass and when it dried he use an x-acto knife to trim it and he end up with some amazingly good and detailed pictures. He sold a few at local art fairs but to make them easy to see he’d put a sheet of paper behind them, and that made them look like a picture on paper under glass, and if that was what they were, they were no big deal. The method of creating the picture was the artistic value, not the final product. He would experiment with different backgrounds, like a picture of a train on the glass and a photo of hills in the background but they all still looked like he drew right on the picture. Take away the picture and you had a 4×6 sheet of glass sitting on the table and unless you came close it was hard to see what it was.


        • Mac of BIOnighT July 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

          The problem is that there are a lot of people who create beauty – like your dad – but some of them just do it, while others make a big deal out of it and call themselves artists.
          What Texas says above (“It’s just something I do because I enjoy it or I feel the urge to create. If that makes me just a hobbyist…well, that’s okay too”) is a perfect example. He doesn’t do it to prove he’s an artist, he just does it because he enjoys it and feels to urge to do it, period. Therefore, he’s probably a real artist.


          • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

            He was always creative. When he was young he wrote fiction but didn’t follow it. He painted a little, drew a little, and later in life he got into woodworking and furniture making. He made some very nice, open-backed bookcases. And you should have seen the model train layout he made from scratch. He even designed and built a special table for it- about 5×3 feet, with hidden and recessed shelves and chambers to hide the inner wrokings. That was a little rough around the edges but the train layout was amazing. What he felt made his layout special was that most model train builders will put stations, bridges, etc but Dad felt they never looked like they were used. Dad modeled “the garbage,” as he called it. His train stations had half-full garbage cans. There was a newspaper or two blowing on the tracks. You could find a soda can sitting opn a bench. Those were realistic touches.


        • TexasTrailerParkTrash July 30, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

          That is really cool. I used to cut silhouettes (scenes and people) from black paper, so I can appreciate the work he put into his art. You’re right about the creative method being the important thing, not necessarily the final product. I would say that your Dad most definitely was an artist. Do you have any of his artwork?


          • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

            Not any of the glass, and only one or two drawings. I taught in the same high school he attended and I found in an old file cabinet a copy of the school’s literary magazine from 1956. I flipped through it and found a story he wrote and illustrated. The magazine was in amazing condition and it became a birthday present for him about 10 years ago. That I still have.


            • TexasTrailerParkTrash July 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

              What a thoughtful gift! You were a great son to your Dad.


              • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

                Thank you so much. My family is small but we were always close.


                • Thomas Stazyk July 30, 2011 at 8:14 pm #

                  Yes, I really enjoyed the Chinatown stories!


                  • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

                    Thanks. Dad was a bit of a character. For years my fishing hat was a Walbaum’s (that’s a big grocery store chain) cap that my Dad talked the guy behind the deli counter into giving him right off his head for no other reason than to see if he could do it.

                    Not many years later I was wearing that cap when I walked into Walbaum’s to do some shopping and a shoplifter thought I was an undercover security gaurd. He opened up his coat and dozens of boxes of fronzen food tumbled out.


  6. Joe McTee July 30, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Sorry, I’m late to this party. Looks like I’m going to be the one to disagree, although perhaps not for the reason you were thinking.

    I’m not particularly impressed with his works, art or not. That’s the great thing about people, we all have different opinions on many esoteric things… art, beauty, poetry, writing. And so, for those who don’t like this persons’s “art”, we’re entitled to say so, just as he is entitled to call himself an artist and others (I’m sure they exist) can claim to be his fans. I don’t even mind that you find what he is doing imponderable. Although it sounds like (not postive) at least some folks pay him for the work, which in mind would be even more imponderable!

    I would like to point out that his work does accomplish at least one useful service. Because the gum is flattened and laquered, no one is going to get the gum stuck on their shoe.

    What I take umbrage with in this piece is the ad hominem attack, declaring he is an a–hole. I know you are from New York, so maybe this is just on offhand remark used to refer to anyone you don’t care for, not sure? Seems a bit harsh to me.

    But where I really have a problem is with statements like: “This should not be celebrated, this should be made fun of, mercilessly teased and mocked.” I’m a live and let live person, becoming more so the older I get. I really don’t see that this fellow is hurting anyone. If he is truly hurting someone else, then it needs to be stopped, otherwise, even though he is doing something I don’t particularly understand or care for, I’m willing to give him space to live life as he sees fit and go on my own way.

    Imponderable? Absolutely. A–hole worthy of mockery? I don’t think so. Life is too short and the world too small to go down that path.


    • bmj2k July 30, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

      What you say is all rational and reasonable and more or less inargueable. I certainly won’t try. I am just surprised that I did not get a comment like this sooner. When I wrote this one I certainly knew that I was being a bit confrontational and wondered if I should tone it down. And though I do speak in absolutes, I still only speak for myself and my point of view. To be positive about the man, yes I think he is creative, and yes, he is entitled to do what he wants and no, he is hurting no one and no, I would not stop him. I am live and let live too.

      But I look at this rationally and it comes down to a man who makes the decision to paint on pieces of spit out gum. That’s weird. Is “a-hole” harsh? In retrospect yes, and by this time tomorrow I will have changed it, though to what I don’t know. “Weirdo” may be the choice. I stand by the statements about people getting praised for any nonsense if they call it art. And in my opinion, painting on spit out gum is nonsense. And though this is really a harmless example, I think that at some point this guy should be told what utter nonsense his art is. Again, this goes to my bigger point that “art” has become a catchall without meaning.

      My example of the statues made of manure is true. I was in the country and a man had a stand where he sold his art. As statues they were not impressive, the selling point was that they were made of manure. Where he lives there is plenty of free manure around so it made sense to use it as a medium. But there was no message in the medium. The manure did not enhance the point the artist was making, and in fact his only goal was to make a nice statue, no point to it other than that. Manure statues may be a curiosity, and yes, they are art. but at the end of the day they are statues made of manure.

      However, I think I may change the “teased and mocked” part as the anger is more toward the attitudes of what is considered art than at the artist.

      Bottom line though, is thank you for that comment. Most people, and I’m one of them, wouldn’t have bothered. I always appreciate any well-though out comments, especially if they disagree with me.


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