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Expanded hall brings revenue to Baltimore While we...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

June 15, 2002

Or, to paraphrase Mr. Sartwell, can and should public art create the opportunity for people to feel something, see something or do something?

I am charmed by the idea of Mr. Danilowicz's project, and applaud his imagination, intelligence and ambition. I would even venture to say that I wish all public art were as engaging.

But this is not uncharted territory young Mr. Danilowicz has ventured into. So why not offer us all a more thoughtful and, dare I say, useful exegesis of the object and its artistic antecedents?

Ellen B. Cutler

Aberdeen

The writer is an art historian and a free-lance writer.

The headline on Crispin Sartwell's article championed Nathan Danilowicz's front porch as "A new direction for public art."

I would suggest that the direction is not new at all.

The real porch was always there in its original context of rural Pennsylvania - and in its new context, the porch has become an abstract, contrived icon - just as an abstract sculpture in the form of a twisted girder at a contrived arts festival becomes an icon of its former context at a construction site.

Indeed, as a formally instructed artist working through a process of curatorial selection, Mr. Danilowicz is right in the middle of the old, worn path of public art.

And, deep in its foundation, all art in America is public art - art created by some segment of the public or on behalf of some segment of the public.

There are many different colors in the spectrum of public art -or, one might say, many flavors of ice cream.

The trouble is that all the flavors don't make it onto the ice cream truck and the truck is driven and managed by two select groups - artists and art curators - not the public at large.

Mr. Danilowicz has created an abstract icon - an icon of the rural. And, like artists who came before him, he is a specialist (an artist) whose work has won the approval of another specialized group - the curators. And that is why his artwork is on the truck.

If this is not a new direction in public art, where might one be found? I would suggest the solution is not to create public art but to instill art into the public. All of the public.

This means that artists could discover new roles. They could teach the public skills and techniques to do art but trust ordinary folk with the execution and composition.

The curators also might adapt to this new direction. This would mean trusting ordinary citizens, rather than just the "artists," and putting any flavor on the truck.

Mr. Sartwell does raise an interesting concern: Why is it that public art follows trends? Because those consulted in its production are a narrow segment of the population, and trends within groups are a human trait.

To truly change the system and blaze a new direction, we must begin to trust the public at large with decisions about public art.

Maybe the ice cream truck can start letting us do the scooping, without the dominance of the artist or critic.

Conrad Bladey

Linthicum

The writer is a visionary artist.

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