Sundays with Clyfford Still: Elemental Magic (10)

Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still.  I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This is number 10  in the series.  You can read the other posts here.

1950-M No.1 by Clyfford Still

Jagged orange stalagmites are submerged in a blue haze that turns them violet, as if we have stepped into a cave in the gloaming, or are underwater.

The best works are often those with the fewest and simplest elements… until you look at them a little more, and things start to happen.  — Clyfford Still

So you don't forget what he looked like. Clyfford Still.

In last week’s column I linked to some pages from regular people who visited the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.    By regular people, I mean people who are not officially part of the art world.   They ventured opinions about what they saw, but qualified them with statements like, “Art experts would probably think I’m an idiot for saying this but…”

This saddens but doesn’t surprise me.  We’ve been spoon-fed “expert” opinions for so long that many of us don’t trust our own judgment any more.  We have been conditioned to sit passively and wait for The Man (it’s nearly always a man)  to tell us what things mean.

Don’t let the art world intimidate you.  Curators, critics and historians may have the educational background it takes to view art in a broader context, but that’s not what they spend most of their time doing:  mostly, they show off their vocabularies,   bitch-fight with their colleagues,  suck up to anyone with money or power, and shore up their self-importance by putting on snooty airs in  public.    They are just as silly as the rest of us, only more articulate about it.

Clyfford Still was only too well acquainted with human nature.  He despised elitism, and if he were here today he’d be the first to tell you what I am telling you now:  your opinion is as good as anyone else’s, whether you can express it in the right language or not.

The art you see belongs to you.  Whatever meaning you find in it is yours.   The artist puts the elements in front of you, but when flung into the cauldron of your mind, you will come up with your own unique magic brew.  That’s how art is supposed to work.

No one can tell you that you’re wrong, because art isn’t mathematics.  In art there isn’t any right or wrong answer, and anyone who tries to convince you that their opinion is more valid than yours just because they have a fancy degree,  is a wanker.  Feel free to quote me on that.

Questions? Comments? You can reply to me in the box below, or tweet on Twitter with the hashtag #clyffordlove.

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3 thoughts on “Sundays with Clyfford Still: Elemental Magic (10)

  1. We are as one.
    That is one stunning painting, Cap’n. Still is one of those artists – for obvious reasons (himself) – that it’s easy for folk to kinda overlook when doing the whole Abst Exp ‘glamour’ thing, but I’m learning here that he was probably the greatest of the lot (tho’ I have the softest of spots for de Kooning; Pollock was in every sense a dead end.)
    So thanks for these, and thanks also for the link! 🙂

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