In defence of weird, weird celebrity art


Checking out the stats on The [now defunct] Ethel Mermaids’ Etsy shop I noticed a lot of recent traffic came from this blog. Thrilled to think we’d got a mention I found the entry. The author laments that there is a lot of ‘weird, weird celebrity “art” out there’ and asks of my portrait of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest, ‘HOW?! WHY?!’

For those of us who get bad art the answer to the first questions is acrylic and pen on card. For those of us who get bad art, the second question needs no answer because it is not asked.

I’m not upset and I’m not being defensive. In terms of bad art, I find this fascinating. I’m actually perversely stoked that she reacted to it so strongly that she needed to bitch about it on her blog. (And that we got some traffic!) The description of the piece states that it is by a bad artist but she either missed that or didn’t think what it meant in terms of the picture. Or didn’t care. I’d gladly have a dialogue with her about it if she wants to, but can’t be bothered to initiate it as she didn’t ask me directly ‘why’ before she blogged and linked to my art in the first place. Instead, I figured I’d reciprocate by blogging about her blog post on our blog. Blog.

If we did have that conversation she might find out that whilst the pictures she  features in her blog post as examples of good, accessible, not amateur, not weird, weird celebrity art are very nice, bad art is about breaking down rigid, judgmental binaries of good and bad, talented and nontalented, capable and incapable. Bad art questions ideas of taste through undermining the classic hierarchy of high and low art. And bad art actually gives a lot of joy to a lot of people. For some bad art is simply about that pure joy. It can be all about the weird. Bad art is loved because it is camp and subversive and radical and fun and silly and righteous. It can be light as air or incredibly deep. Bad art can upset because it disturbs and that disturbance can come from all kinds of places – some valid, some that should perhaps be considered and questioned.

Bad art also offers a lot to those who do it. For the trained and those who might otherwise make art that would be judged as ‘good’ or ‘correct’, doing bad art can be an extremely liberating – if sometimes challenging -endeavour. It can offer a freedom, and bring the fun and joy back, to the process of creating. For those of us who are not trained and have always believed that we can’t and so shouldn’t bother trying, doing it can change our lives. I get tons of pleasure out of it and that would be enough. The fact that I have had enormously positive feedback since I produced my first piece and had requests, commissions, sold pieces and had work so tempting and wanted that it was stolen (and later paid for when the thief was suitably shamed), tells me that there are people out there who do get bad art and enjoy it enough to want it to happen. Some people will get and like bad art, some won’t. It’s all fine. Different (brush) strokes for different folks, eh? I for one can’t get enough of all the weird, weird celebrity art out there. I’ll keep on bad arting for all those who do get it, and even for those who do not.

By Corinna Mermaid

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