an introduction to the CCA Arts Review's Laeh Glenn debate

By Edward Tor

This painting was the beginning of a debate

Usually when people disagree about art, the talent of the artist is the foremost issue. That’s clearly a false one. Almost everyone is talented in some way and deficient in others. It might even be impossible to say what artistic talent is. The next major disagreement circles around the idea of skill and where that’s not as tricky, it poses a number of problems when it comes to judging a work. We can look at a piece of art and can tell if the person who made it was skillful, knew what they were doing or had the necessary craft to fulfill a vision. Still, there are problems there, too. We can all think of unskilled artists who somehow create beautiful work. That’s when we say that they have a vision and that vision overcomes whatever failures of talent and skill a particular artist might have or not have. Of course, what we hope for is the artist with talent, skill and vision—that’s a winning combination and when that happens we can all come to a happy agreement and declare the work to be sublime, magnificent, visionary, a credit to the culture or whatever other accolades we can dream up.

So, we were a little taken aback when two of our writers, Addison Herndon and Mario Miron, saw Laeh Glenn’s “Ordinary Objects” and agreed that she possessed a tremendous amount of talent, skill and vision and yet were at deep odds about the work itself. The argument left the realm of traditional aesthetic judgments and became one of philosophy and the future of painting. The following three posts try to get at what makes Glenn’s show so interesting and divisive, at least for us. The first is by Miron and he finds in Glenn’s work a sharp and powerful attempt to bridge the divide between art and technology; the second is an interview Miron conducted with Glenn and her answers show her to be alert and aware of the various issues that her paintings offer; and the third is Herndon’s attempt to explain what she finds so disturbing about Glenn’s work, despite her obvious talent.

We don’t pretend that we have any final answers, but Glenn’s “Ordinary Objects” offers an unusual opportunity to try to gauge the future of painting and its continuing relevance in a culture driven by technological innovation. Or maybe, in its plainest terms, a culture undecided about what a painting is. Certainly, neither Miron nor Herndon agree with each other and in Glen’s work have found a worthy place to start a debate.

Sometimes we must wait to see what happens

©Edward Tor and the CCA Arts Review

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