Art education at UCSC

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Art education at UCSC

From Brianna Lee

Published before 2005


Dear ARC,

Again, I am appalled by what has been promoted and given the title of fine art. I wrote not long ago, my senior year in high school, about the absurdity of the modern art I saw in SFMOMA, and although it is still absurd to me, I am no longer laughing. After taking my first "art" class at the UC Santa Cruz, Intro to Visual Arts, and being forced to swallow Linda Weintraub's Art on the Edge and Over, my spirit is crippling. The class tried to "open my mind to what art is and could be" but instead showed me that modern art is a monster, consuming everything and everyone.

The first day of class, I was an optimistic art student ready and more than willing to learn about art. I even let out a squeak of excitement when I saw that one of the first two slides was Le Ravissement de Psyche by William Bouguereau, I felt a sense of hope because they were actually showing his work... that was until the professor opened his mouth. First of all, you could tell this professor knew nothing of William Bouguereau, he practically annihilated his name attempting to pronounce it, then said very little about him other than he was an academic painter (at least he got that right). But then he began to say that Bouguereau and other academic painters, even masters such as Ingres, painted nudes as a form of "Soft Porn"... SOFT PORN?!?!?!? I couldn't believe he would make such a comment! He then went on to "explain" that it was an excusable way for men to see naked women at the time, women were just seen as objects... could he be serious??? I know that women had little status at the time, but I mean, of all artists, Bouguereau held women in high respect, as did many other artists of the time. It's all so absurd!

So the class went on, preaching the greatness of Pollock, Hannah Wilke, Richard Brettel, Baudelaire, Sherrie Levine, and Yoko Ono (seriously??), Mike Kelly, Cindy Sherman, George Maciunas, Jeff Koons, Duchamp and the list goes on and on. According to the Professor, people who cut themselves with razors in front of an audience are artists.

Overall the whole class experience was bad. Even the discussion sections with the TA was unbearable. The first essay we had to write was on the ideas of Modernity, Modernism and Post-Modernism. I wrote my opinions about these movements in the essay and was given a poor evaluation, receiving written comments like "Do you really believe what you're saying?" and "That's a really bold statement!"

Yes, I said that the Dadaists were a nihilistic group, but even that's an understatement in my opinion. Also in discussion groups we were given an assignment: to bring in a picture (or description) of a work of "art" that we thought was not art and we would discuss it. I thought, "Now here is my chance!" I tried to think of the most controversial work out there, so I referred to the ARC articles because I remember reading an article on inhumane art. I chose the goldfish blender by Marco Evaristti, what I thought would get my fellow students worked up. Every student brought their picture and description and handed it in to the TA. I waited and waited, but we never discussed it... I was disappointed.

Finally, the last day of discussion came, and she whipped out the works of "art" and handed them back to us. She asked us if now, after learning about modern art, whether we consider them art or not. 99% of my class changed their mind, saying that now they could understand how it was art. The 1% who still thought it wasn't art was me! I was heartbroken that they had won them over. It really was a sad affair. Then I saw the TA's gaze directed at me, probably analyzing the expression on my face, and she asked me to talk about my piece (knowing well what I had chosen - she did this on purpose). I refuse to give in like everyone else, so I described the fish blender installation, the inhumane acts of blending fish for distasteful amusement, clearly stating that this could not possibly be considered art. Many of the students seemed shocked, the reaction I was hoping for, but then the TA chimed in and began to make excuses for the artist and explaining why it was so great... it was hopeless.

I still told her it wasn't art. Then she said that I can't say what is and isn't art, but I can say that it is bad art if I don't like it. My reply to the insistent modernists:

"Okay, have it your way then, call it 'art'... but it isn't good, and it definitely isn't Fine Art."

Side note: since I am a freshman here at UCSC, I get low priority for classes, so despite the fact that I am art major, I haven't taken one studio art class. Instead, I have had to take extracurricular nude drawing classes, which don't have an instructor. (But I have been teaching myself for a long time now and a free nude model just makes my job easier.) I am financially dependent on this system so what is an aspiring artist to do? I am still struggling to find some safe escape route, but for now, I am looking to independently study under an artist whose work I admire over the summer, but not many live in the Santa Cruz-Monterey bay area of California. If you know of any workshops close to Monterey, Carmel, or Santa Cruz please let me know, I would really appreciate any information. When is your ARC Salon Competition for 2006?

I would like to enter this year, something I should have done last year as well.

Well I hope my experience, like many other students have had, only provides more proof that students should not seriously consider attending a university over a good art school, because it will cripple your artistic spirit.

Forever loyal to the return of Fine Art,
Brianna Lee