Art is for everyone

Jude Gabbard is a member of the Reno arts community.

I would like to begin by apologizing directly to Mary Ellen Horan, who plays an admirable role in our community. While my personal views on art may differ slightly, I believe wholeheartedly in the philanthropic goals of VSA arts of Nevada. Like Ms. Horan, and many of the RN&R’s readers, I also believe that art is for everyone. It would have been wonderful had Carli Cutchin used her article ("Pins, Balls, Alleys, Strikes … and Art,” Art of the State, June 7) to inform readers about VSA’s admirable cause and nature of their Art of Bowling fund-raiser.Many people felt that my note published by the RN&R a few weeks ago was a criticism of anyone not holding a degree in art. This is untrue. It is difficult to summarize one’s entire value system in a few paragraphs. I hope to clarify my previous comments here.

On the subject of naive, primitive and outsider artists, I am not discounting their works by any means. These works can be phenomenal—offering perspectives that are too often overlooked. Grandma Moses, perhaps the most well-known of America’s untrained artists, serves as proof that untrained artists can produce flawless work. Nevertheless, I believe there is a difference between the explorer and the professional or serious artist. Artists must maintain a certain level of commitment, sometimes even at the expense of their well-being. Explorers, on the other hand, experience very few consequences as a result of their work.

In the West, the elements and principals of design were established nearly 2,000 years ago. They are an essential basis for understanding art and art criticism. Van Gogh was said to have never sold a painting, and while this is not entirely true, he certainly did not go unnoticed in his day. Considered a radical in his time, Van Gogh’s work was certainly a point of discussion in nearly every Parisian salon and gallery. Van Gogh’s work, like that of many other great artists, stands up to art criticism, even though he managed to shatter the standards of his day. Any curator, collector or gallery owner will tell you that they choose art based on design theory and an informed intuition.

Many other systems of art, like those developed by Pre-Columbian, African, Asian and Slavic cultures, are as profound as Western art. Tribal artists from Oceania and Africa are taught the finer points of their craft from the time of childhood, not at a university, but with an elder craftsman. These artists all require a level of thoughtfulness, commitment, skill and training.

Like Ms. Horan, making art accessible to all people is something to which I have dedicated my personal and professional life through teaching and volunteer work. Art and crafts are a great way to be creative and share our personal visions, and I do not deny anyone that right. Art enriches our lives on every level, and while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it is certainly not a qualifier in art. It is my hope that this commentary and my previous letter have prompted the RN&R’s staff and readers, whether they agree or disagree, to seriously consider their views about art.