I agree that having an artist colony in Mobile would be fantastic (Artifice 5/22/14). However, you could refurbish every derelict building in the downtown area, fill them with local artists and it would still probably fail. Here, in my own opinion based on observation, are the reasons.
1. We really don’t have any artists in the area providing anything original. To give you an example: I’ve been to galleries in Atlanta, New Orleans and San Diego. All of them had art that could have passed easily as those similar as the art Brad Robertson produces. All of them different artists. In short, it’s not original anymore when everyone is simply doing the same thing.
2. We have too many “weekend warrior” artists. These are amateurs, bored house wives of the rich husbands (who can afford to not sell any works) and others. Their pieces are WAY over priced for what they, the artist perceives as high art. Most of the time it would actually qualify as crafty art or something to cover a blank space on a wall. Of course, there are exceptions such as C. Tapper’s watercolors which are exquisite. But the exceptions are too few. Jean-Michel Basquiat sold hand painted post cards and small paintings as “Street Art” for $10 to $20 until he was discovered. Just because you think it should be an expensive painting doesn’t mean it’s actually worth it. If you want art sales to start moving more frequently, you need to price them to sell.
3. Art shouldn’t just be something pretty to put on your wall. Art should also be avant-garde, provocative, daring. Art is a physical medium that, if competently executed, will provoke the viewer think and feel. Art should be controversial as well. Unfortunately, we live in a city of people who light the torches and pull out the pitch forks and start a protest movement if an artist actually displayed a nude subject. To many Mobilians, especially those of the Christian right, Picasso, Matisse and even Caravaggio are more pornographers than artists because of their prevalent usage of the nude form. How do you expect to attract serious artists to the area when outrage and not appreciation is the standard response to a nude painting, which is the basis of all classical art?
I was at an art gallery in San Diego. In the front window was a large phallus sculpture, at least seven feet tall and painted every color of the rainbow. I asked the gallery manager if there was any negative response. She looked at me as if I were nuts. Here was this gigantic, beautifully crafted, colorful penis, in the front window of a downtown gallery, where everyone could see it, even children. Yet, no outrage. Why? Because the City of San Diego has a very well educated populace and doesn’t get “giggly” or offended when nudity is displayed in an artistic fashion.
Try doing that here. Mobile is still stuck in the dark ages in many respects. When you have an education system that puts more emphasis on sports, then they do on the arts, you end up with an ignorant population. Unfortunately, this applies to Mobile and until you start changing attitudes about art, you will never be able to attract serious artists to Mobile.
We’re just gonna have to be happy with dull paintings of starfish and birds.
I’ll get off my soapbox now.
D. R. Moreau