Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sue Coe, Not so Bad

I read the article LaValle posted yesterday. Judith Brody makes some points that definitely re-routed my thinking about Coe's work. In the first place, she points out that all art is porpaganda, it is impossible to remove the artists' feeling of what is right or wrong from the work they create, how can one fault Coe for that? Propaganda is natural.
Secondly, regarding critics, it is comical that those people who use propaganda themselves can possibly criticize o thersfor doing the same, and if you read the criticism of Coe's work with that in mind it does sort of make it all seem like hogwash.
I think the biggest success of Coe's work is the title. She calls this piece Greed and it does capture the feeling of complete desolation and loss-but like an arrow that hits the wrong target, I don't think the images themselves describe greed, or that it is even fair to categorize these images and sk them to find reason when the cigarette could be a cell phone, the gun a car, the blood could be oil.
I think the truth, which is that the darkness inside that causes greed, is not really formed by the instruments before us in the image, but by our deeply ingrained desire to live and fear of death. A greed for life is the only thing that can cause the darkness seen in Coe's image.
The title might make one assume that consumerism, guns, drugs, fast food- these are agents of destruction and cause the outcome seen in the image. I think these things come later, and are the effect of greed. The greed as the hunger to control the outcome of our lives and the ones we love causes suffering you can feel in the painting by Coe, but she has used images to get us there which I dont think are really responsible. Or at least not more responsible than everyday things like ipods and lattes. Why alcohol and not coffee?
If we've turned to these things, out of bleak and hollow eyes because we can no longer stand to live our lonely lives, we cannot turn our garbage cans upside down and say "this is because of you- empty hamburger wrapper, gun powder, bloody gloves, this is because of you- that I look this way!"
I think the real problem is the immediate association one makes when encountering a work of art like Greed, that by association to particular objects you have figured out the work, and that it is really too disgusting to stay with. And though you don't like it, there is the critical next step, to form an idea as to why you don't like it. This may be too much to ask, and for that reason I am not completely sure her use of imagery is successful, but maybe it's just not always successful, and in that way it truly resonates with life.
Like greed itself, Greed the painting is demanding, with no payback. It shares no heart and sheds no light, but if you stare it down you can see the comical.

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