Somewhat surprisingly, this week I came across a videotaped lecture from Princeton University (2004)—and then a subsequent [blog] interview (2010) in which painter Frank Stella states that architecture, performance art and photography are either (1) not art, or (2) art which should be segregated from painting…and get this… “separate, but equal.”
Then, almost at the same time, I came across two university job postings that stated only applicants holding certain studio MFA degrees could apply, while applicants holding an MFA in photography [et al] could not. The first job ad was for a Studio Art Instructor at Foothill DeAnza Community College District in Cupertino, CA, and the second was for a full-time, tenure track instructor in Art at Lassen Community College District in Susanville, CA. Both used identical wording [emphasis added]:
"Master's in fine arts" as used here refers to any Master's degree in the subject matter of fine arts, which is defined to include visual studio arts such as drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, textiles, and metal and jewelry art; and also art education and art therapy. It does not refer to the "Master of Fine Arts" (MFA) degree when that degree is based on specialization in performing arts or dance, film, video, photography, creative writing, or other non‐plastic arts.
Even considering that both of the schools are part of the California Community Colleges, which is but one of many, many higher educational systems, it’s still astounding that these job postings imply that photography is NOT ART in the same sense as “drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, textiles, and metal and jewelry art”
Really?!? (Border Patrolling Moralizers…)
Perhaps the signs on the museums and colleges should read PAINTERS ONLY. Are they really suggesting that there should be JIM CROW LAWS FOR ART?
First let’s look at Frank Stella’s amazing claim that segregation—long fought against as unethical, immoral and unequal legislation as it related to people—is somehow [inexplicably] advisable, permissible and okay (???) when it comes to art? Stella argues that there should be separate museums for Performance Art, separate museums for Photographic Art and separate museums for Painting. It’s true that specialized museums do exist, but not because of some belief in or attention to discriminatory segregation. They exist to highlight a particular topic or genre, but not to the exclusion of any other. Some museums have a specific purpose, after all: you wouldn’t expect the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to also showcase, say, notable Hockey Players. The museum has a specific focus and its collections are organized around a central theme. Some art museums are also similarly focused. But what of some of Western Culture’s most prominent Art Museums—MOMA, The Art Institute of Chicago, et al? In these places, all sorts of “art” is housed under one very (liberal?) inclusive roof. If we subscribe to Stella’s beliefs, are we to fear that one type of art might muddy the genetic purity of any other? Are some arts born inferior to others? [Can you even believe I’m writing this as if it needs to be said?] In the interview posted in the blog referenced above, Stella says: “I didn’t like the museums being overrun with just a lot of junk” and, in his opinion, this includes everything other than painting, sculpture, and architecture.
I find myself still incredulous, because while some people might say: Bruce why are you arguing this? Others, like Stella, are preaching segregation and the hierarchical value of some art over others.
It’s all ART, damn it!
And what of those academic job postings? It’s hard for me to believe that in 2012 any institution of higher learning—normally bastions of liberalism, acceptance and inclusion—would separate and exclude applicants holding MFAs in photography (and other categories) while allowing applicants holding MFAs in painting, drawing, sculpture (et al) to apply for certain jobs.
In our society, events such as the Civil War, Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act have not yet been entirely successful in eradicating discrimination between people based on race, gender, or religion, although progress continues to march on in these areas. And the same is unfortunately true when it comes to art—sadly, even within the liberal environment of academia.
The ignorant tight-ass club lives—and they say we shouldn’t argue for decentralizing the core in art? Give me a break!