"Bad Art"

My day job is framing, I enjoy it for the most part, I get to look at art all day, I work with my hands, and I don’t have constant interaction with the public like I have had in the past. People are still exhausting, retail is a wild ride, I’m sometimes kind of a jerk but I’ve got it pretty good. I adore the good pieces, and working with people who love the good pieces. I’ve seen some cool stuff. Originals are the most fun, because then I get to pick another artist’s brain while I design for them, especially when it’s done in a medium in which I have no experience. Then I’d say it’s seeing artwork from all over the world and hearing the stories about those pieces and where they were collected. Seeing artwork with names I recognize is also pretty cool, I framed a Banksy once, it was a road sign from Britain with one of his monkeys on it. I looked it up, it was worth more than I will make in my lifetime. No pressure.

I learn the most about art from the badpieces though. There’s something that switched in my brain about three months into starting this job. At first when I saw an “objectively bad art piece” my art school brain went into critique mode, thinking about things I would have done differently, or things that would have been pointed out in critique as formal no-no’s. Things that would have gotten not great grades in my courses at school. Also note that I’m not talking about poorly executed art here, I’m talking about conceptually weak pieces with strong technique. Art done by beginners or people who are learning their technique is a very different thing, and most definitely should be framed nicely at least once during one’s artistic journey.

The current shop I work in I physically frame 10-20 pieces a day, as well as taking the orders of anywhere from 20-100 clients each week, and it has made me think differently about how I see critique. I still think it is the most valuable tool an artist has to get better on an individual level, but I don’t think it should ever be used to judge people’s taste in work. Having to work with work that I don’t appreciate has been an awesome challenge, because having to design something nice for a piece I don’t like has taught me a lot about making work myself. I often fall flat, much like I do in my art practice, but when I nail it it feels really good. It’s slowed my judgement because it doesn’t matter what I think about it, I still have to make it work. It’s made me realize that I might feel a little bit gate-keeper-y about the art world and I should work on that, because I don’t believe in doing that when it comes to politics or any other intellectual pursuits so I should check my privilege on that one.

Mostly the “bad art” has made me kinder, don’t get me wrong I still raise my eyebrows every now and again, we once framed a 30x40 inch spring break themed porn poster signed by the actresses. I also recently framed a knife that had definitely seen some shit. There’s a lot of weird weird images that I can never unsee. I’m nicer in my head about it all now and that makes my day much better. I think we learn more about art from accepting a thing that we don’t like than we do from enhancing a thing that we do. Both are valuable, but as a human I think I learn more from the former.


until next time