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Registered User
(5/12/02 10:19:11 am)
Wiscon panel: 'Fine Art with a Capital F'
I was browsing through the event discriptions to see what was planned for this year's Wiscon. (yea, even though I'm not attending this year.) This particular panel popped out to me, being a visual artist who creates in the sf/f genre. Is anyone else interested? Want to discuss - or perhaps just drop me a few notes after the con?

~ Marie

(30) Fine Art With A Capital F

Senate A Friday, 10:15-11:30 p.m. (Creative Arts)
Many artists whose works thematically focus on SF/F have been dismissed as artistic lightweights or as "merely illustrators." Yet SF/F elements continue to pop up in galleries and on museum walls, and entire mainstream art movements have made liberal use of explicit fantasy content, futuristic sensibilities, or outright narrative disjunctions. So what's this artistic schism all about? Is it rooted in economics, a snobbish scramble for status, differing ideas about the purpose of art, or something else? Does it mirror the situation of SF/F writers in the book world? And are there any parallels between the second-class citizenship of the SF/F artist in the arts and the second-class citizenship of women in the world? What about Glenn Brown's Turner-prize nominated “Loves of Shepherds 2000”, closely-based on Anthony Roberts’s book jacket illustration for the Robert A. Heinlein novel Double Star? Does an sf-trope become fine art if executed by a fine artist?
M: Steven V. Johnson , Darlene P. Coltrain , Jorjet Harper

Registered User
(5/12/02 12:06:26 pm)
Re: Wiscon panel: 'Fine Art with a Capital F'
Hello all.

The whole thing strikes me as being akin to the genre controversy, as in "fantasy" being something entirely other than "literature," a divide that I myself just don't understand. As a writer and an artist, I tend to avoid all distinctions in my work and let people make of it what they will, but these are viable questions and concerns that, no matter how much I want to avoid them, affect how my work and the work of others is perceived.

Ursula K. LeGuin has written a good piece on this matter on her website:

While her focus is on written material, I think that what she is saying applies to the visual arts as well.



Registered User
(5/12/02 4:53:12 pm)
Re: Wiscon panel: 'Fine Art with a Capital F'
Erzebet ~

Thanks ~ I'll check that out. I've also read the article on Interstitial Art on the Endicott Studio website - I can see how this can all be boiled down to genre bias. But I find the last question interesting - if an established 'fine artist' creates something usually labeled 'fantasy', is it put in that category? Should it be? My thought: Maybe it should be, but it shouldn't be dismissed because of it.

Again, good luck at Wiscon.

~ M

Edited by: Marie at: 5/12/02 4:55:59 pm
Unregistered User
(5/13/02 7:50:11 am)
Fantasy elements & fine art
I work in the Art History and Classics division of an academic press. I'm well aware that the discussion is probably limited to contemporary art work. However, I thought I would mention a few trends I have noticed in the academic publishing field.

First, under the heading of classics, almost all the artwork that relates to the ancient world is based on the mythology of that world. In fact artwork based on secular subjects is a relatively new development, as is non-representational or non-decorative artwork.

Both the decorative arts, and artwork that has previously been shunned for academic scrutiny (such as Victorian fairy painting) are now becoming hot topics of study, if for no other reason than that everything else has already been studied.

Victorian (19thC) studies are especially hot right now, with people rediscovering all the illustrative painters (most of whom painted characters from myth & legend) as legitimate talents both inside and outside their cultural context.

We have a book on Fairies in Nineteenth-Century Art and Literature that has done quite well. Terri (I believe) also wrote something on fairy painting in a issue of Realms of Fantasy last year.

The subject of art with a capital F (Fart) is something that makes me incredibly cranky, I'm not sure why the distinction is worth making or who the division serves.


Charles Vess
Unregistered User
(5/15/02 7:20:29 am)
Art talk...
I once heard a visiting artist lecture on "Art". I will always remember him saying, "All there is is up and down and left and right. All other difinitions are useless."

And trying to define "Art" is much like defining the meaning of "Life". The definition is always a personal one and will consequently vary from person to person.

I know that for a variety of reasons labels are placed on most every mode of thought or movement in art, etc. but I've always thought that labels were a short cut for limited minds that live their entire lives within a iron box of never changing rules. It is one reason that the "interstitial" movement is such an interesting one to me. I see no reason why the same artist can't move between personal image making, to illustrating someone elses prose, to sculpture, to music, etc. Whatever medium that best suits an idea is the one that that idea should be presented in.

For myself I just try to tell stories, whether in a personal, single image peice, a graphic narrative (comic book) or in an illustrated book and try to leave the labeling to others.

Charles (who is always drawing up and down and left and right)

Registered User
(5/15/02 8:44:37 am)
Re: Art Talk...
Yes, this limiting of one's vision is so frustrating and so pervasive. I graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which is about as "artsy fartsy" as you can get and from what I can see, it mostly has to do with fear and snobbery. Very few artists can live successfully off their work. When a "fine"artists sees illustrators or craftspeople doing well, when they aren't, they get insecure. It makes them feel better to put down their art as JUST illustration or whatever.
I find it really ironic that a group of people (artists) that often pride themselves on their creativity and openmindedness can be so narrow in their viewpoints. Unfortunately, in order to get your work out there to the public, you have to deal with these attitudes. I have to agree with Erzebet, you just have to do what you do and let others make of it what they will. As long as your happy with what your doing and being true to your vision, that's all that matters.


ps - I didn't have a chance to say hi, Marie. Be sure to let us know if you get some of your work up online.

Registered User
(5/15/02 9:13:43 am)
Re: Art talk...
My drawing instructor in art school, Gaylord Torrance, would occasionally affect a Southern drawl and say slyly, "Art is anythang you want it to be." I thought it was a great pronouncement because it incorporated both a joke and an essential truth.


Chris K
Unregistered User
(5/15/02 4:05:35 pm)
Art and the academy
I found the same kind of snobbery against "genre" fiction (as if "literary" is not a genre) in the academy as well. I wonder also if it hasn't got something to do with that dreaded term "commerical." It seems if something makes money (in one case SF/Fantasy does better that literary, or in the case of illustrating for income) it can't be as good. Maybe it is jealousy.
I worked in an art gallery for awhile that sold your standard wildlife print for $100-$150. I also work for a well known fantasy artist/illustrator whose average prints go fo $25. I couln't believe it.
But, I am glad to see fantasy and Sci Fi art getting more recognition and "hang time" in galleries. I don't think there should be distinctions either especially when you consider all the classical art that was based on myth.

Registered User
(5/17/02 12:08:27 pm)
Fine Art vs. Illustration...
There was a quote from James Montgomery Flagg (the American Golden Age illustrator who painted the "Uncle Sam - I Want You" poster, along with many other things) that one of my professors in college loved to repeat, which essentially said -

The difference between a fine artist and an illustrator is that the illustrator:

1.) Can draw
2.) Eats three square meals a day and
3.) Can afford to pay for them.

Apparently this was an issue even then - with ALL illustration, not just fantastical. The difficulty I see with fantasy art getting the recognition it deserves is that some of it IS sub-par - yet widely distributed. There are many incredible fantasy artists, yet that genre seems to be less consistent in the quality of art that ends up on book covers and in other venues. I think the quality is improving all the time - it is SO much better and more consistent than it was 20+ years ago when I started reading sci and fantasy (some of the old paperbacks and calendars I have from the 70's and early 80's are absolutely laughable). It's hard to shake some of those first impressions of the field in general, maybe.

At the root, good art is good art - whether it is 'personal vision' (fine art) or commissioned (illustration - fantasy or otherwise).


Edited by: tlchang37 at: 5/17/02 12:17:49 pm
Registered User
(5/17/02 2:18:59 pm)
Life, the Universe, and Everything . . .
"And I go on writing in both respectable and despised genres because I respect them all, rejoice in their differences, and reject only the prejudice & ignorance that dismisses any book, unread, as not worth reading."
~ Ursula K. Le Guin

That is my favorite quote from Ursula K. Le Guin's essay - though I believe it's supposed to be the most stunning line, because it is the last one.

Charles ~ wow, I never thought of boiling down genre prejudice to the intangible definition of art. But that is what prejudice is all about, isn't it? If its not good enough, its not art . . . I'm also quite interested in the Interstitial movement. Another quote from Ms. Le Guin's essay: "Genre has no use at all as a value category and should never be used as such." Genre shouldn't limit what we create.

I'm going to agree with Connie and Erzebet ~ Just do what you love to do, and let others think of it as they will. And of course, don't allow labels to limit us . . .

~ Marie

ps ~ Connie, thanks for the hello! Yeah, now that I got my comp back to snuff, I'll be working on my website . . .

Jane Yolen
Unregistered User
(5/18/02 4:09:32 am)
Changing Times
I think times are changing. Thirty-five years ago, when I began to collect children's book illustration, the illustrators of my books simply gave their pieces to me. "Take two or three" they'd say. "It's cluttering up the place." (Remember a single children's book would have at least 18 major pieces of art, and often more.)

Nowadays there are major auctions of such art, galleries like Storyopolis and Every Picture and Michaelson's that specialize in it, and museums that have been set up (the Eric Carle Museum, the Mazza Collection) for it. And those same artists are now charging me $3000 for a double page spread from my own book!


Registered User
(5/30/02 9:13:26 am)
Another illustrator vs. "artist" quote...
Thought was funny - though a little too true:

"Almost everybody is an artist these days. Rock & roll singers are artists. So are movie directors, performance artists, makeup artists, tatoo artists, con artists and rap artists. Movie stars are artists. Madonna is an artist because she explores her own sexuality. Snoop Doggy Dog is an artist because he explores other people's sexuality. Victims who express their pain are artists. So are guys in prison who express themselves on shirt cardboard. Even consumers are artists when they express themselves in their selection of commodities. The only people left in America who seem not to be artists are illustrators."

Brad Holland

I really like Brad Holland - both his very innovative editorial work and his views.

Obviously this is not fairytale/fantasy specific, but I think it's the same issue. Did anyone go to the panel/lecture that inspired this thread? I'd love to hear how that went.


Registered User
(5/30/02 9:54:18 am)
Re: Another illustrator vs. "artist" quote...
Tara, Marie, what great quotes! Thank you!

Registered User
(6/9/02 6:59:31 am)
Quotes . . .
Thanks Terri! Did you happen to go to this panel? As Tara said, it would be interesting to hear from someone who attended . . .

~ Marie

Registered User
(6/9/02 7:19:48 am)
Re: Quotes . . .
No, sorry, I didn't make it to this one.

Post script:
I'm going to be off the board over the next week or two while I travel back to England and unpack my office there. I'll "see" you all again later in the month!

Edited by: Terri at: 6/10/02 7:16:13 am

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