C’ville Art Blog: On painting in Charlottesville

Chanatown, Oil on Canvas - with permission from Mcguffy artist Krista Townsend. Chanatown, Oil on Canvas – with permission from Mcguffy artist Krista Townsend.

An Op-Ed style manifesto and general response to the McGuffey Summer Show

Art in Charlottesville can be characterized by a sort of conservative tameness. Local artists combine quaint country craft with universally pleasing aesthetics to create an experience that is enjoyable but limited to a limbo world of perpetual charm. Limitless talent is channeled into oil, mosaic, and tapestry landscapes and ruggedly constructed objects that easily fit into the idyllic country experience in which we imagine we live. It is a highly marketable image, and artists have to eat.

There are many conceptions responsible for perpetuating this charm-limbo, including several that trickle down from lofty galleries in Manhattan. Such concepts include artistic identification, a lingering Modernist Greenbergian narrative of introspection, and the desire to attain genius status, or to make a living at any rate, through the positive feedback loop of actually selling work. In this way, contemporary gallery exhibitions feature collectability and fashionability but dampen the visceral experience of specific, emotive, and purposeful visual constructions.

The quality of paintings in Charlottesville is good, but considering the level of resident talent, paintings from Charlottesville should be impressive and momentous. Paintings which are or become significant have an aura, a fetishistic quality which is nearly impossible to reproduce: a mixture of purpose, time, mystery, and artistic excellence which can only be viewed in person. Significant paintings necessitate a pilgrimage.

With this in mind we have assembled the following brief message for painters, patrons of painters, and the art community at large:

Stuff style. Stuff originality. Stuff introspection. Find what you love and preserve it in the most impressive manner you can imagine. Make a spectacle. Make pilgrimages. Steal everything.

Make studies, make paintings, and then make better ones.

And after that, make better ones.

~Aaron Miller and Rose Guterbock