Michael Meszaros has produced a thoughtful and contentious piece in “Style vs. Content in art," but I question whether his concerns are echoed by all the members of the ASV. He must be congratulated on the fact that he has been kept busy with commissions for his work for the last forty years from individuals who know what they're getting. Given that he has hit on a winning formula the best thing to do is to stay with it, obviously, while the rest of us proceed in a less deterministic or proscribed fashion. Personally, I don't think that it is evident that many of us are subject to the whims of fashion in art. A lot of us would be hard put to identify fads or fashions in the world of sculpture, surely. I can't see that Michael has elucidated what these fashions are and, for the life of me, I'm unable to see how his reference to the world of hemlines and skirts is relevant. We all, as sentient, empathetic human beings, register what goes on around us. We most likely know about the
work of Moore, Hepworth, and Bourgeoise and so on. Inevitably our work will be pastiche- but GOOD pastiche, and elements of the work of others will be bound to shine through. I don't have to make a living from my work, and that liberates me to do what I want to do and truly follow my muse. Others find disparate elements such as folk art, the work of the Bauhaus and Lutyens in my works but none of these are fashionable and none dictate to me. When I'm in my studio I follow the flow of the work as it comes from my hands and my tools. Fashions, fads and fancies- none of these could be further from my mind and I don't think that I'm alone in entering into this spirit.
“Style vs. Content in art" (March 2010 Newsletter) Comment 2.
Concerning Michael’s musings on what is important in art (“Style vs. Content in Art”) in the last newsletter, I would like to mention an observation about art made in a book called “The Spirit Level” by Wilkinson & Pickett. The authors present objective research evidence that a significant number of measures of economic welfare are related to the degree of inequality in society. They show that health, violence, mental illness, teen pregnancies, life spans, obesity, etc, are correlated with a scale of income inequality, measured using official data, both internationally and between states of the USA. They further consider the motivational factors that may influence these correlations, and observe that social inequalities create considerable stress on those at the bottom end of the social hierarchy. The authors quote from much other research, including Bourdieau who wrote on restrictions to social mobility. Bourdieu maintained social discrimination was practised by the elite, to mark their distinguished status, and one form of such discrimination was in art. “The upper classes preferred abstract art and experimental novels, while the lower classes liked representational pictures and a good plot” (Wilkinson & Pickett, page 164). I wonder how many of us would agree with this observation, from our own experiences.