In talking with Barbara Mink at her opening last Monday, the subject of my art blog came up. (Also blogging more generally, but who cares about that?) Mink likes my writing, comparing "The Thinking Eye" favorably to the general glut of online journaling. Somehow during this discussion, the notion of "pedigree" (her term) came up.
I'd like to make it clear, if it isn't already, that I don't have much of one. I have an undergraduate degree in studio art from a credible institution, which is about it. I've never written about art for money in my life, (although with any luck this will change soon). I don't have a degree in art history or art theory or anything like that. That may change as well, but not soon at all. I've also never formally studied writing beyond the usual college freshman level.
It may be worth pointing out that Mink herself lacks much of a pedigree when it comes to painting, at least according to this sketch of a resume. On the other hand, her formal qualifications as writer are considerable. Among other things, she lectures in management communication at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management. Many (perhaps most) of the people at the opening were her students or collegues. She has also been involved in a wide variety of local politics and other social organizing. More interesting for me at least is her job as director of Ithaca's yearly "Light in Winter" festival. (Last January's festival included the lovely Laurie Anderson.)
So anyway, I was wondering about the relative value and merits of a (strong) pedigree in the visual arts and writing (critical, journalistic, etc.). How do we know when to take artists seriously if they don't have a BFA or MFA? If these credentials are unnecessary, what (if anything) is their significance? On the other side of the fence, what is the value of "uncredentialed" writing in this age of specialization and expertise? The internet, and blogging in particular (I didn't want to bring this up, sorry) seems to be a hotspring for the do it yourself ethos. I think that this is largely a good thing; (how) do we get this across to ivory tower communicators? Finally, how symmetrical are the two sides of my metaphorical fence? Is writing inherantly more formal or technical or serious than painting? Or is it just a matter of entrenched institutional habit?
Labels: barbara mink, blogging, metacriticism