Monday, March 21, 2011

Photorealism: What's the Point?

A wall-hanging that I wove in college. I love
the colors (not so much the wall color... that's
a different story) and the sheen of the soft
yarn. Makes me want to touch it!
The skill and work it takes to create a photo-realistic image with paint is incredible, and I am suitably impressed with any artist who can do this. I, personally, cannot paint with such precision. However, I don't really understand why a person would want to paint in such a way that their work is indistinguishable from a photograph.

In this day of digital photography and image editing, a skilled designer can easily create an otherworldly landscape or a digital avatar that looks "real," as opposed to "virtual." (No more laughable "Clash of the Titans" clay-mation for my TV. That's old school.) I have, more than once, mistaken my husband's video games for an actual football game, until one of the game screens pops up. And honestly, they can do even better than that now. (Has anyone seen the movie "Avatar"?)

With so much "perfection" in the world (manufactured plastic products, streamlined stainless steel appliances, laser cut designs, etc.), I am looking for something of the artist in a painting or ceramic piece. I want to see the human element, evidence that this object was hand-crafted by a person and not a product of a machine-administered assembly line. I know that a master-craftsman can produce things that look machine-made, and this has long been the desired outcome, but now that we have machines that can make things perfect, I want something else from my art. I want to see brush strokes, finger prints, paint drips. I want to see layers of texture. I want my art to be tactile and gritty, not shiny and sterile. I want to go back to a more primitive time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking sleek design and modern conveniences, I'm just saying I need some balance in my life. I would like to pull an organically shaped, hand-molded ceramic dish out of my stainless steel microwave. Somehow, that makes the food taste better than when it is reheated in Gladware. On the wall opposite my 50" plasma screen, I want to see a woven wall-hanging with hand-dyed natural fibers and uneven edges, the yin to modern technology's yang. I'm a sucker for a craft fair, and with Spring finally here, it won't be too long before fair time. I can't wait!

Detail from the above wall-hanging. "Deep Greens and Blues," 2005


  1. I'm in total agreement. If I'm buying handmade, I want it to have those handmade qualities. Meaning if you bought a handmade clay jar from a vendor, and I bought one right behind you, same color, same size, etc., I should still be able to tell which one is mine just by looking, and not even looking that hard. That, to me, is what gives an object a life of its own, those imperfections that become a part of its character.

    And as for paintings, again, I'm with you on that. I admire the skill it takes to make something look like a photograph, only painted, but give me a painting with natural smears and drips and mistakes any day. If I want something to look just like it does, I'll get out my camera. But if you're painting it? I'd rather see how you see it; that's what makes it yours.

  2. C, I'm glad to find a kindred spirit! That's exactly how I feel about the art I buy, and about the art I produce. The imperfections in a piece are what make them beautiful and unique, and I love them.