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Like A Rabid Dog Waiting For You Outside Your Front Door

Shock Art!! The World Of Tracy Emin

Shock art. Shocking. Absurd. Perverse. Yet it exists and it is a reflection of all of our internal turmoil—the internal world, the subconscious dream world, the very real world of war, plagues, crime. What is art but life replicated or revamped or inverted? And a huge chunk of life is not aesthetically pleasing.

Imagine you receive a newspaper in the morning with the headline blacked out. You open up the page to the crime report and it reads “ ------- was ---------- by---------- in his own-----------.” Silly? Why? Crime reports are an accepted fact of life. They exist as detached, emotionless, objective blurbs on atrocities and no one is that horrified. Not enough to start whiting out words or complaining to the newspaper about obscenities. But add a first person account or use paint to describe a violent theme and poof! Obscenities charges appear. Reflections of the gritty side of life are banned, deleted, removed. Secrecy prevails. The cult of the Polite Society, the illusion of the Mundane.

But out there somewhere is the angry radical feminist, the morbid painter blitzing on his canvas, or the Famous Artist with cannibalism painted on his bedroom walls for only his eyes (Goya).

The unconscious is the Id, is the animal in man, is the uncivilized amygdala. We deny it, we ignore it, we believe ourselves to be above it, untouched by it. Yet it influences us all the while---you dream it, you secretly fantasize about it, you react to newspaper blurbs subjectively. The more you repress something the more it will try to manifest itself in some form.

Tracy Emin, a contemporary Young British Artist, is changing the way we think about art, life, secrecy, the division between the public life and the private life. She pushes us past our decency into unknown terrain.

An example of this is her display of the cigarette case her dead uncle was clutching after a car wreck. By tweaking our expectations: a simple newspaper blurb about a car crash on Freeway such and such, and turning it into something deep, personal, subjective---her relative not just for public consumption, fodder for the masses, but a real person who still lives through his cigarettes---that is art, that is shocking, that is modern.

A lot of Emin’s artwork is rather exhibitionist. Take her piece, “Everyone I Have Ever Slept With”, a tent with the names of her past lovers sewed into a quilt-like piece. We can all agree that quilts are forms of art, folk art to be specific. But add the names of bed partners and you get a controversy.

Image is everything. Andy Warhol was an icon and he fed this by crafting a persona like he would craft a painting or a film. These manicured artists are partially the product of art schools and universities removing the vice from their students. Little tin men of CSU Fresno, something the school can be proud of. Maybe Tracy Emin got sick of this molded and mundane sculpture of what an artist should behave like and what they should produce and label art. Maybe she got sick of pretense, of false aesthetics, of elitism. Out of this came a backlash. A middle finger thrust out to society, to the Institutions, to still lifes of peaches and bananas in antique bowls. Out of this came Tracy Emin’s comically outrageous photography, her callous prose (“Explorations of the Soul”), her crude and daring drawings rendered with a uniquely feminine energy.

Lastly, her art dares to ask the question “Who decides what art is?” and “Who is art for?” and “What do I care what you think?”

Once, sitting in a park with some friends, I got bored and took a thick leaf from the grass and started weaving needle-like plant pieces through it, suture style. When I was done it looked like the leaf had a major wound that had required a suture.

“You should keep that,” said my friend, an art major at CSU Fresno.


“It’s art.”

“Art? It looks like sutures!”

“That could be art,” she said. I relented and took the leaf with me. I kept it in my car on the dash. It took me a while to figure out what my friend had figured out: art can grow in unexpected places, out of ugly things or trash. Beauty out of a tortured soul. A twisted angel. Who knows? Somewhere out there there could be a person who saw my suture-leaf sitting on the dash while I was parked and they could have been deeply moved by it…isn’t that art?

Thanks for reading!


coming soon...a serious blog on mikhail larionov, the Russian painter.

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Comment by Maya on September 28, 2010 at 12:52pm
That would be super! Sorry for the late reply...I've been using the net at Fresno city college.
Thank you for your interest in my writing!
Comment by Victor Ramayrat on September 25, 2010 at 10:00am
Thanks for sharing your piece AP... Would you mind if we feature this post on our upcoming relaunch of FresnoArts (next month)?

Cheers ...


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