Friends-- I want to share with you the news that I have been selected
as one of ten semi-finalists in the Land of Odds second annual Ugly
Necklace Contest (images will go up on their site in June, and you
can vote for your favorite). This is the oddest honor I have yet
received. On the one hand, it was an interesting challenge to make
something ugly. It is quite hard not to fall into a tendency to try
to create charm, whimsy, or some other strategy to make even the
ghastliest materials appealing in some way. I encourage you all to
give it a try! (There will be a third annual contest.) On the other
hand, it’s tough to brag about having a thing I made be deemed
exceptionally ugly! It is fascinating to me what mixed emotions I
have about it. Overall, though, I’m proud of it. I set out to acheive
a thing, and succeeded. I think. Anyway, if you’d like to check out
last year’s semi-finalists before the new ones go up, go to
http://www.landofodds.com/store/uglycontest.htm. I’ll post a
reminder when the new contest is on line so you can check it out if
you like. --Noel
Friends-- I want to share with you the news that I have been selected
Anyway, if you'd like to check out last year's semi-finalists before the new ones go up, go to http://www.landofodds.com/store/uglycontest.htm
you know, Noel, one really interesting aspect of those entries is
that some of them seem far more creative than many of the things we
see around, that are deemed beautiful. While none of those pieces
fits the classic ideas of beautiful jewelry, more than a few of them
can command considerable respect for their creative merits, and there
are some in there that frankly, I consider rather good in an artistic
sense, even if to normal standards of beauty, they’re ugly. I know a
few people who’d be much happier wearing some of those things, for
the impact and statement they make, than they would be wearing more
Makes ya think, it does…
This reminds me of the adage in athletics that to be able to "spoof"
a sport, you have to first be an exceptional athlete in that sport.
One notable example…
Quite a few years ago (about 8 or 9, I think), I took my daughter to
a “tour of champions” show in gymnastics. It was filled with
wonderful olympic athletes performing jaw-dropping routines. But the
one truly memorable and awe-inspiring routine was a balance beam
routine performed by one of the guys on the tour. As you may know,
it isn’t a male apparatus in the first place. But this guy came out
in a wig and full women’s leotard, and proceeded to do a “spoof” of
the womens’ routine, complete with “falling off” the beam, landing
"wrong" in a variety of ways, and generally doing slapstick. The
amount of skill required to complete this routine without literally
killing himself was amazing.
I really think that in any art (and sport can be an art), you have
to be a master at it before you can get to the point of creating
parody. As in comedy, the humor comes from the essence of truth at
the core of it.
So, Noel, you should be proud of this honor – it’s not a dubious
one at all!
No Limitations Designs
Then again I just read a list published by some magazine of the 50
worst songs ever. Some I would have to agree with, probably none
are going to be called classics of the songwriters art. But, I would
love to be collecting the royalties on even one of those songs.
you know, Noel, one really interesting aspect of those entries is that some of them seem far more creative than many of the things we see around, that are deemed beautiful.
Oh, I am SO glad somebody wrote this!! I looked at the uglies, then I
picked up a magazine on way-out “art” jewelry, and I thought to
myself, I can’t tell the difference. Well, some of the uglies, yes,
but even they look like something an art teacher might praise as
innovative. I’ve been feeling so incredibly un-artistic - I didn’t
know the difference between junk and praiseworthy originality. For
instance - the Saddam Hussein necklace has a distasteful theme, but
it’s not ugly per se. What IS the difference??
For instance - the Saddam Hussein necklace has a distasteful theme, but it's not ugly per se. What IS the difference??
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Often, our notions of beauty
have little to do with art or creativity itself. We often tend to
find things beautiful that reinforce our notions of what we already
believe to be beautiful, and the result of this is that often,
“beautiful” jeweler tends to follow traditions. Things that are too
far from the traditions, challenge our notions of what we’d consider
beautiful, or suitable for US to wear, and at some point, we get so
shocked at the notion that someone wants us to wear something that
challenges us too much, and we decide that this is ugly. it’s a very
culturally biased notion, and often not actually based as much in
formal aesthetics as it is in traditions, fashions, and what everyone
else considers acceptable.
A useful thought for me is the concept that I do not have to like a
thing, in order to recognize it as being valid artistically,
creatively, or aesthetically. it can be all wrong for my own taste,
and still be valid and good. In fact, if a piece doesn’t challenge
something, somewhere, then the result is that it doesn’t show us
anything new, or teach us anything. Jewelry does not have to be art
in order to be pretty. But at least the way I define art, for it to
be valid as art, it should attempt to teach it’s viewers something,
or show them something they didn’t already know, or show them
something they knew, but in a new way. If all an object does is to
reinforce what we already know and like and expect, then it comes a
lot closer to fulfilling the definition of Kitsch, than it does the
definition of art. Mind you, as with art, there can be bad Kitsch
and good kitsch. Kitsch simply serves a different set of roles and
functions than does art. And some objects can have aspects of both
kitsch and art. Really good kitsch, usually does.
Some of those so called ugly pieces just attempted to break rules of
aesthetics, jumbling together things that just didn’t seem to have
any relationship to each other. The result is sort of a visual form
of noise, as opposed to visual “music”. Yet even this can have some
justifications, if the maker has intended to do this with a creative
aim in mind. Others of these objects are well thought out, and show
us things in very creative ways, but simply choose subjects that we
don’t associate with body decoration as jewelry, so it becomes the
thought that someone wants us to wear the thing, rather than just
look at it on a mannequin, that makes us somehow recoil, and find
the thing ugly. Yet the same concept presented as, for example, a
written essay, or a painting, might easily gain acceptance as art,
not an ugly thing. It’s all relative to the combined needs of
creative expression, and the societal requirements of fashion, which
are often quite opposed to each other.
A useful thought for me is the concept that I do not have to like a thing, in order to recognize it as being valid artistically, creatively, or aesthetically. it can be all wrong for my own taste, and still be valid and good.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work with avant-guard
composer John Cage. I mentioned to him that I was having difficulty
getting my art to communicate with my audience. He said “The purpose
of Art is not to communicate with the audience. The purpose of Art is
to still and quiet the mind, and make it receptive to divine
influences.” He further explained that a still and quiet mind is one
free from likes and dislikes.
His words completely changed how I look at Art. Looking at life
with a “still and quiet mind” allows you to accept things, ideas,
concepts that are not tied to Pop Culture, current beliefs, or
contemporary aesthetics.I don’t want to get into a discussion of what
are “divine influences,” but I have found that the Art that inspires
me most speaks to a mystery that I don’t pretend to understand.
35 N. Market St.
Frederick, MD 21701
Dear Peter et al: Please don’t consider anything I have to say
personal criticism, it is merely an opinion-informed by the study of
anthropology and years of designing and making—things. From what
I have seen, both aesthetically and academically, I do think that
there is an underlying human aesthetic, based upon symmetry, balance
and harmony. Visually, I think the form of the human face underlies
all human conceptions of symmetry, beyond that, the natural
environment of any particular humans, which is why Maori art looks
quite different than Inuit art, but both are pleasing to the eye.
When the human mind finds randomness it attempts to see symmetry,
which is why we can make a human face out of almost any random
collection of shapes–all our best mythologies are attempts to make
sense of randomness. The more random an assemblage the “uglier” it
is perceived to be, but the human mind has a terrible time creating
actual randomness. Why do we feel drawn to Jackson Pollocks drip
paintings, mathematicians have just shown that they are not random.
A tangential question that has plagued me (and multitudes of better
minds) is the question of what art is. I differ from yourself and
others when you say that art must teach, that seems to insist on a
certain pedanticness (is that a word?) that I think is the surest
sign of “bad art.” All I ask of art is that it comment on the world
around it. That it not be a dialog between the artist and her own
mind, but that it look toward the world. Horrifyingly, according to
this definition, a certain portion of what is on museum walls, while
beautiful, or “aesthetically challenging” may not be art.
Furthermore, what I am doing these days, creating beautiful
necklaces and rings out of silver and gold is not art. (I will
inform my ego at some later date.) The pieces, more or less
symmetrical, beautiful (or not) are adornment, not commentary. Some
jewelery is art, but from what I have seen it is not usually
wearable. So how do we know what is art? It is not so simple as my
father-in-law says, “I know it when I see it, it is what pleases
me.” Because if it asks a compelling question about the world, it
may be painful to look at and still be art. But at the same time,
the hell with the smug avantgardest, the universities full of
graduate students who want to “challenge” our "bourgeoisie notions"
and create nothing but the ugly, the asymmetrical. I don’t care
what your decapitated baby dolls, or your decontextualized scribbles
got in crit, it is self indulgence, & as I said before, I don’t
think self indulgence is art. I am sorry to have gone on for so
long, I really can not resist the temptation to think about things
like aesthetics and the human mind. We are clever monkeys, there
have never been any monkeys like us and I am glad I am one; matter
of fact, the name of my (vanishingly small) jewelry co. is Primate.
I differ from yourself and others when you say that art must teach, that seems to insist on a certain pedanticness (is that a word?) that I think is the surest sign of "bad art."
Oh, I agree completely. Once the work becomes pedantic, it verges
into rhetoric. While there may be an art to rhetoric, I don’t
particularly find rhetoric or propeganda to be valid artistically,
and art that follows such politically correct lines suffers for it.
Whether it’s bad art or not is a different question, but when the work
becomes too tied to some party line, it does fall into serious risk
of falling into that catagory.
All I ask of art is that it comment on the world around it. That it not be a dialog between the artist and her own mind, but that it look toward the world.
If this isn’t asking the art to teach, then I don’t know what it is
asking. You and I seem to ask the same things of art. But I’m using
differing words to describe that requirement, and I think perhaps
you’re reading something into my words that I didn’t intend.
Horrifyingly, according to this definition, a certain portion of what is on museum walls, while beautiful, or "aesthetically challenging" may not be art.
I’ll agree there, too. I don’t have to like a work in order to
accept it as artistically valid, nor does the fact that I DO like a
work make it artistically valid for me. And not everything that is
on exhibit as art, is any good. All artworks are attempts at
something. As with any human endeavor, some attempts work, and
Oh, Marya, I SO agree with you! Life is disturbing enough; I don’t
need further upheaval in what I see and make. What I will never
comprehend is how the artists or self-indulgents of the world ever
arrive at a consensus that a given piece of asymmetric, gratuitous
ugliness is “art” and should be exhibited as such. My ego is also
apparently in the dark. This is not to say that an assemblage of
ugly things cannot be art, even in my eyes: my daughter made a
collage of pictures, items, and quotes that contrasts the
materialism of the affluent with the despair of the impoverished of
our own country; it ain’t pretty, but it’s a wonderful statement of
her perceptions, and I put it on my wall in a place of honor.
Tas <- confused, but loving her blooming garden and simple jewelry
First, Noel congratulations! I’m anxious to see your work. Second,
I once has an art professor that insisted that art delves deeply
into the fourth dimension, namely time. I was studying Three
dimensional design at the time and this confused me at first. He
pointed out that most art was seen to occupy the 2 or 3 dimensional
realms we all see. I asked if he was referring to the time involved
in the creation of the piece. He stated that that time was
irrevelant. An idea may be conceived and, depending on size,
materials, skill of the artist and other variables, could be
completed in a frenzy of creativity that lasts only a day or hour.
The creative time in a piece was solely in the artists realm. The
time factor that counted the most was the amount of time that a work
of art held the attention of the viewer. Like a piece or not, find
it socially or culturally worthy or not, whether a piece fit the
criteria of “good” design or not…None of these really mattered.
The time that a piece held the attention of the viewer was how art
enters the fourth dimension, and that is what is important. That was
his opinion and, at the time, I was suitably impressed. Years later
I find that I don’t necessarily agree with his asessment of the
value of time. I do however have a greater appreciation for the
concept of time in a piece. As for the “Ugliest Necklace” contest
entries, there were several that I wouldn’t spend much time on but
there were several that, although not what I’d consider beautiful,
captured my attention for a considerable length of time. There were
a couple that I just plain liked. The one with the Jawbone was
great. Now that’s just me. I have a penchant for things that strike
me as primitive or ancient. I’m a closet archaeologist and I love
working multimedia with bones, stone, leather, fuzz, fur and the
like. Watch out, the bearded wierdo is on the loose again. Where’s
my club and cave?
This is an extremely interesting thread for me as I too was
extremely confused by the mention of the fourth dimension when
related to sculpture. For the life of me, I could not understand it
like so many other things in my life at the time. It was not until
many, many years later that a wonderful private art school teacher
explained the “time factor” to me in a way that I could understand.
You are absolutely correct Mike in that it IS the time that the
sculpture holds the viewers attention. I would like, however, to add
one further factor in order to drive the point home or make it a bit
clearer. The fourth dimension relates to the time that the sculpture
holds the viewers attention while he/she is MOVING AROUND the
sculpture and witnesses the continual movement and unfolding of the
piece as a result of this activity. The same could apply to a piece
of jewellery except that the unfolding would be experienced as the
piece was turned in one’s hands. Love you all out there in Orchid
land. You are all so beautiful and generous with your knowledge.
In Cape Town where winter this year is so wonderful.