Not Art

The times they are a-changin’.

This post seems to be older than 12 years—a long time on the internet. It might be outdated.

Last October, when I was in Chicago, Kim and I1 went to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Something struck me as interesting. While there were some amazing piece of work there, there were also lots of things that were not art2. In fact, most of this “not art” I would call crap.

Some artist has an idea, trips out on drugs, and throws some paint on a wall. Voila! Modern Art!


Perhaps that’s my biggest issue with modern art: anything can be called modern art.

What got me thinking about this again was this photo in FILE magazine:

Photo ©2009 <a href="">Laura Hartley</a> (link is NSFW)

Photo ©2009 Laura Hartley (link is NSFW)

Friends, this is not art; modern or otherwise. This is a blurry picture. And like almost all blurry pictures, it belongs in the trash (literal or figurative).

Or perhaps I just “don’t get” modern art.

  1. Ben didn’t want to go 

  2. granted, this is a pretty subjective opinion 

6 thoughts on “Not Art”

  1. AJ,

    I once took a class on art appreciation (seriously!). The gist of the class is that “art should elicit a response”.

    According to this definition, the picture IS art, due to your reaction.

    Now, does it mean it is “good art”? or “art that you appreciate”? probably not. Remember, not everyone enjoys the opera, classical music, 80’s music or show tunes, etc. That doesn’t mean they’re “not music”. Beauty, etc… is in the eye of the beholder! 🙂


    1. Hi! That’s my art. And YOU, kind sir, or ma’am, AJ, whomever… are, have used my copyrighted photo without my permission. Regardless, for your information, ART is a subjective and wonderful journey of the mind and soul. I agree that a lot of crap exists. But it is still art, by someone’s definition. If you spend the years in school that I have, you may STILL not fully understand the definition of what “art” is. I will say this, though – that shot was taken out of a bus window, so it is blurry. So what? Why does that make it not art? Jackson Pollock splashed paint – he’s in the MOMA!

      To be clear, I have a Master’s in Fine Art Photography, and still use a dark room. I have a minor in art history, so I know whereof I speak. Also, I practice it. I use a medium format camera, a Hasselblad, to be exact. I mainly do B&W gelatin silver portraiture. Here are some other examples of my “art”:

      In the future, GET MY PERMISSION BEFORE YOU USE MY WORK. I don’t care if you like it or not, or what you consider art to be, but don’t take one pic out of my vast body of work and exclude it from your definition of what art is WITHOUT MY PERMISSION AGAIN.

      By the way – what makes you an art critic, anyway? What are your credentials, exactly?

      Laura Hartley

  2. Why Hello Andrew,

    Man, I am almost ashamed to write, since your name implies you are some nature of sweet, Scots lad, and I hate to slam someone from my own gene pool, but you are currently posting one of my photos on your blog without my permission, and that pic, from File Magazine, is copyrighted. You now have my permission to leave it up, IF you post these links to more of my art – yes ART. Real photography – dark room work.

    Links listed below.

    If not, remove my work immediately.

    Son, please forgive me here. I am 48 years old and have two sons in college. I have spent ten years in college myself, including time at an Ivy League School, and have a Masters Degree in Fine Art Photography. I am currently working on my Doctorate. I am a dark room photographer, employing the Prince of Photographic Apparatus, a Hasselblad Medium Format Camera. I KNOW WHAT FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY IS, having studied it and produced it for some time now. But, I must step outside the bounds of my own upper middle class, gentile, Southern upbringing to insult you here, and I will admit, it pains me. Based on MY interpretation and study of Fine Art Photography; I know what it is. As compared to what I have just perused in YOUR WORK, YOU DO NOT. Your work is mundane, banal, soulless and trite, at best. It lacks craftsmanship, depth and artistry.

    Again, please DO forgive me; I am attempting to educate you here. Your work is NOT art.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that a fine mind as your own cannot learn. I am willing to believe you can be taught. I give you MAJOR points for utilizing grammatically correct English and properly spelled words in your blog.

    In the future, should you wish to learn what makes a photo a classic – a standout work of art -do not hesitate to inquire. Should you truly wish such enlightenment, I would happily provide you a few pointers and references. By the way, lad, my work is actually housed in the collections of a couple of museums. Tell me – does that make it art? Scratch that – you have no idea what art photography is!

    I see from your blog that you attend a School of Mines, which implies you are a student of Engineering. My husband is an Aeronautical Engineer. Yours is a great field. The pay is excellent. With his salary, my husband supports my ART and I am privileged to pursue it. I wish you luck with that.

    I am emailing you also, where I shall also attach more of my ART. Take a look. This is what classic, ART photography is.

    Insofar as your photographic career goes? Well, don’t quit school, okay?


    Laura Hartley

  3. To address your first point: it is my belief that I have used your work in a manor consistent with the Fair Use clause for copyrighted work, also known as Section 107, Title 17, U. S. Code (See:

    I also want to make it clear that this blog is not an authoritatize source. I’m not The New York Times, I’m not Time Magazine, I’m not The Wall Street Journal. I’m just a guy with an opinion that I want to share.

    My main frustration with the piece above is that it looks so much like my Aunt Jenny’s pictures (I actually don’t have an aunt named Jenny, this is just to illustrate). She has a digital camera and will take all these photos; and then keep all of them because “she can.” And it seems to be the same everywhere, people take photos, don’t edit them, and then subject everyone else to them during “Family Slide Show Night” or what have you. I once read that the difference between a professional and an amateur photographer is that the amateur photographer will show you all his photos (point being, he doesn’t delete any). I myself was in this camp…in fact, I still may be in it.

    I see the above photo, and have to wonder why it made it past the trash bin?

    And this is my issue with Pollock being in the MOMA (or anyone else being in any other venue, for that matter), what attribute makes his art so great that he deserves to be raised on a pedestal above everyone else who can throw paint against a wall?

    Now, I’m going to take a step back here and point out something that may or may not be obvious, but to which you perhaps eluded to a bit. I am an engineer. And as an engineer, I think I probably look at art quite a bit different than many people.

    When I look at art, I tend to evaluate it based on its technical merit: How was the photograph taken? How was the photograph composed? How was the picture painted? Et cetera. I probably do this because I can create an objective method for evaluating the art. If I happen to like the piece (a subjective opinion), so much the better! There, perhaps, is the fundamental flaw in my ability to appreciate art the way other people do…I require an objective method.

    As for what I do. I am not an artist, in the traditional sense of the word. Nor would I call what I do “art”. I like to take pictures. I like to apply my technical mind to a creative problem. And if I ever did pursue photography full time, I think I would much rather do photojournalism than art photography.

    Is what I do formulaic? Probably. However, I’ve found that the serendipity of actually being behind the camera tends to balance out what engineering/technical approach I bring.

    And if you would be interested in providing feedback on my work (in whatever manor you feel fit) and/or “pointers and references” you alluded to earlier, I would be all ears. I enjoying learning from people who are much smarter than I am. (I’m not be facetious here either, I actually am quite serious. To quote George Steinbrenner, “Always surround yourself with people who are a lot smarter than you are.”)

    It’s funny you should bring up the Hasselblad. I’ve wanted to shoot medium format for almost a year now, although I haven’t had the chance (or the funds) to do so. I also want to shoot at least one roll of Kodachrome before it disappears forever.

    As for being an art critic, I am not, nor do I claim to be one. But I don’t think you need to be an art critic to comment on art.

    And to allay your fears about my future, I did graduate (this past May) and am now gainfully employed in the aerospace industry.

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