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Cute is the New Shocking

Having finished my happy frogs, I'm in a pontificating mood, and actually have a brief time in which I CAN pontificate.* Woo!

Cute is the new shocking.

Okay, maybe it isn't yet, but bear with me. Consider fine art. Fine art, at its best, ought to challenge the way you think about the world, oughta stretch your brain a little, oughta make you question how anything "oughta" be, including the above statements about fine art.

In some cases, regrettably, this has devolved into crappy conceptual art and an obsession with novelty to the exclusion of skill, and in a lot of cases, simple shock value. Unfortunately, as we all have the urge to scream at people who want to paint in their own blood from time to time, "This has not been shocking for YEARS," but y'know. Much fine art these days does indeed make you think, but what you think is "Man, that's total crap."

Sturgeon's Law, of course. 90% of everything is crap, and, to use Ursula's newly invented Corrollary, this is not the fault of the other 10%.

You can walk into a lot of fine art galleries armed with Madonna painted urinals and crucifixes in jars of urine, and they will yawn, because it's been done. Shocking, alas, is no longer shocking. Shocking has become tedious.

The following, however, is a fairly accurate transcription of a recent conversation with my mother, (which we have played out in various forms for years on end.)

Mom: "I'd really like to paint these little birds. But they can't be cute."

Me: "But they're inherently cute!"

Mom: (sigh) "I know. I have to make them not cute."

Me: "Is this like the thing with sunsets? You're just not allowed to do that?"

Mom: "Yes. And I LIKE sunsets!"

Cute is taboo. Cute is BAD. Cute is...well, cute is much more apalling to the fine art mind than, oh, mere cannibalism or heresy, which you can get an NEA grant for if you word it right, and which, as stated above, has anyway gotten rather dull and smacks of trying too damn hard these days. Cute is terrible. It's the opiate of the masses. My stepfather, who thought my Vagina Plate in college ceramics was a great idea, once threatened to disown me if I worked for Hallmark. Cute, like pretty, is anathema to fine art.

Therefore, I propose that cute is the new shocking.

Seriously. Fine art embraced outsider art not all that long ago, presumably (I hope) because it was trying to turn itself on its ear, to undermine the whole mystique of art as something created by the elite. In short (and quite commendably) it wanted to challenge itself! It wanted to re-define what real art was, thereby fulfilling the ancient and mysterious Art Cycle Of Life, whereby people rebell against the establishment, are hailed as excitingly avant garde, enjoy brief fame (and hopefully fortune) are accused of selling out, and then become the establishment against which people are rebelling, and the whole scene fades out to the solemn narration of David Attenborough.

So why not cute? If cute's really that terrible and antithetical to fine art, it should BECOME fine art, as part of that mystical cycle.

If I can just write up a good enough artist statement, I'll get my pink lizards and their slugs in the Louvre yet. Damnit.

*Pontification not to be taken really all that seriously.

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Bah to 'can't because'.

...the urge to scream at people who want to paint in their own blood from time to time, "This has not been shocking for YEARS,"

Heh... didn't KISS do a freaking comic book with their own blood in it? I think it pretty much stopped being shocking then. And it just makes me laugh when kids a third my age show off their tongue piercings in an attempt to shock me. "Pussy... couldn't handle a real bodymod, huh? Get it split, if you want to impress me."

I agree, really. Cute may well become the new 'shock'.

Actually, I think bfly and I horrified some youngster despirate to be shocking with their muchly torn, safety-pinned, and skin-baring clothing by referring to their outfit as 'quite cute'.

It was cruel, I know. *rouse*

Pondificate. It fits so well with a pink lizard sage.

Do it! Do it!

Helen Chadwick shocked the world with her "Piss Flower," now urine is the bodily fluid of choice for every controvercial artist (And she didn't even use the actual fluid.)

Messy beds in the Tate Modern? Pfeh! Slaughtered cows on the steps of the Louvre? thbthbthbthb

Remember: Marcel DuChamp shocked the DaDaist world with his painting of a nude descending the stairs. Now is your chance to shock the Fine Art world with cute frogs, fruit and wombats, and sunsets and little birds. And even echidnas.

just picturing some Bottichelli like piece with Healthy women and small Puti with those HUGE (bigger than anime) eyes you see one those sachrine sweet nigh revolting paintings of dogs and children from mexico that were popular in the 70's

Or Jesus on the cross looking heavenward with those same eyes and the crown of thorns looking for all the world like a surrealist ballon sculpture while small angels of the type that could give Hallmark a diabetic coma flit around aimlessly playing fancy imposible harps

Mark Ryden does some pretty cute stuff, and he's all over the fine art scene ^_^

Hooray! Well-said

I was always nervous in college because I liked to make cute animal figures in my hot glass classes, and there was always unspoken pressure from the kitsch police to never do that again.

You have to be careful when doing Cute For Art's Sake, though -- don't slide into the trap of Self-Aware Irony. That's SO '90s.

I'm so glad I changed majors away from fine art, and into industrial design. Now I can flip off those pretentious pricks and laugh all the way to the bank, and still get to draw. It may be other people's ideas, but it's art, baybee!

But the problem of being cute, is that what happens when that is passe'. what then?


Yay, cute! I'm part of the cute movement!

BTW, I love that corollary.

An interesting premise. Not entirely off-base either.

I can think of a precursor, in a place where I often see elitists and self-aggrandising snobs: an animation festival. Ten years ago, the Ottawa International Animation Festival screened something which shocked and reverberated through the audience, and was about the only thing that was talked about after the screening: Janet Perlman's "My Favourite Things That I Love".

I think you of all people will understand this movie as much as I did. :)

I dunno, the cardinals were cute and made a statement at the same time. Maybe your mom could get away with something like that.

>>bows before your brilliance<<

Hmm... I can just see them replacing the Venus de Milo with the Sheep Nun. It's political, you know.

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