Yesterday, I confessed that stored in my attic are paintings that I’ve deemed unworthy for public viewing. They’re all works that I painted with conviction and enthusiasm. However, my intentions didn’t always work out or, when they did, I felt the work was too personal. The one posted here is a good example. It’s entitled “Measured Life at 51” and is part of my annual series of self-portraits. This one was done years ago during my second round of chemotherapy. I was fed-up with measuring everything: food, drink, medications, my weight, and so on. Measuring became tedious and a constant reminder that I was ill. I’m pretty certain that no one would want to purchase this work and hang it in their living room! So, it’s in my attic.
This has led me to question my judgment about what’s “good” or “bad” art. Is there really such a thing as “bad” art? I’ve decided to explore this a little more.
According to the Museum of Bad Art in Dedham, Massachusetts, bad art is “art that is created with the best of intentions, but gone horribly wrong." I’m not certain what they mean by “gone horribly wrong,” but it might mean that art critics and the general public would find it amateurish or offensive. When I look at some of the work posted online by this museum that seems to be the case.
But, there must be more to it. Tolstoy wrote a lot about art, and expressed strong opinions on “good” versus “bad.” In a nutshell, he wrote that good art is intelligible and comprehensible while bad art is unintelligible and incomprehensible. Among my attic paintings are works so esoteric that Tolstoy would label them as “bad.” Maybe he has a point. Is the purpose of visual art to communicate? Is that the purpose of all the arts?
By extension, how important is the artist's intended message? The viewer won't necessarily interpret it the way the artist intended. If there's miscommunication, does that make the art "bad"? I don't think so.
Can art ever be “bad” if what makes it art in the first place is the intention of the artist? What do you think?