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May 16, 2006

Echoing Peck


I have to agree with Claude in general on the 'hard to find artists willing to write' argument -- with this proviso: In my experience, it has been hard to find artists and musicians willing to write who can articulate what they're doing well, given the time and space restrictions and given the idea that the article/essay isn't simply an ad for their institution or work. The lack of good writers among painters or theater people or musicians may seem odd, but -- to return to the dread world of sports analogies -- athletes often can't explain what they do. That's what coaches and managers and agents and TV sportscasters are for.

Over the years, we've approached artists and area arts groups for this or that reason, and we often found that the temptation for them, especially if they're arts administrators, to turn instantly into cheerleaders was a struggle for us to counteract. Instead of insight, analysis, even the promotion of a particular argument or idea, we got boosterism. Folks, writing intelligently and cogently about culture is a set of skills , ones that may be cheaply discounted in the current market, but nevertheless, not everyone has them. I'm sure there are artists who can do this, and I'm not saying we shouldn't try. Frankly, I think it would be great. But consider it seriously for a moment: In your direct experience, just how common is the artist-writer-intellectual-journalist?

Posted by at May 16, 2006 10:19 AM


Let us not return back to the dreaded sports analogies since it is by no means an equivelent. Artists must be able to articulate their objectives - it is critical to the development of our work. There is a long history of artists who are very active as writers - early photography, surrealists, minimalists, New Wave Filmmakers, and New Media Artists. The Huffington Post is amongst the most well read web publications there is, and artist Jonah Pereti is a co-founder. I think the artist-writer-intellectual-journalist
is a lot more common than
critics think. Constantly being told that it isn't your job as an artist to "think" while publishing opportunities disappear, goes a long way in explaining why artists have been so inactive in the field. And this btw, is changing with the growth in popularity of blogs. Nobody seems to be noting the number of really excellent artist maintained blogs out there, so let me name a few:


I will also note that there are a number of female bloggers are mentioned here. It has not gone unnoticed that while the panel may consist of a fair ratio of men to women, the number of female bloggers mentioned thus far has been none. What's more women don't seem to be commenting. Blogging is not a field that is dominated by men (art blogs notwithstanding), so it would be nice to see a better representation here of the work women are doing in the field.

Posted by: Paddy Johnson at May 16, 2006 11:33 AM

In your direct experience,just how common is the artist-writer-intellectual-journalist?

Are you kidding? Or is the "journalist" part the key term? Uh...pretty common:

Michelle Grabner

Joseph Beuys

Gavin Wade

Temporary Services

Instant Coffee

Marisa Olson

Ted Purves

Jeffrey Vallance

The list goes on and on...

Posted by: LeisureArts at May 16, 2006 11:56 AM

Thanks for your comment. But I notice in your posting that the artblogs you list are all primarily based in New York City. Meanwhile, your own blog contains an extensive list of links -- for New York City artists, art groups and other Manhattan art blogs.

Nothing seems to be from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so little of it is of use to me. In short, my points about the difficulty in finding articulate intellectual artists still stand. I love Manhattan, but in my experience, New York-centric thinking is not a particularly useful model for much of the rest of the country.

Posted by: Jerome Weeks at May 16, 2006 12:14 PM

No, I'm not kidding. As with the ArtFagCity posting, you don't cite a single artist from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I realize that this will only confirm your view of the benighted cultural atmosphere here, but a New York-centric view is not particularly applicable to the folks out here on the prairie.

Posted by: Jerome Weeks at May 16, 2006 12:20 PM

For someone dercying the lack of cogent writing, you really should be little more precise when you write. You never specified in your question that you were seeking Dallas artists only. It's not even implicit by context. For the record, the people we mentioned are from Chicago, Oakland, and Toronto among other places. And talk about "boosterism," or to be more precise - provincialism, why should your readers be limited to only reading about Dallas based artists?

By the way, try figuring out who wrote what before responding...

Posted by: LeisureArts at May 16, 2006 12:35 PM

I cover New York art news, so it stands to reason that the majority of my links are going to be New York based. There are plenty of excellent artist critics working in your area, so I can't agree with you on this. Here are a few:

GlassTire is an excellent online publication, and if you don't know about it I highly recommend it. Some artist contributors in your area are:

Catherine Deitchman
Maria Sheets
Johnny Robertson
Noah Simblist


Ryan Fitzer is located in Dallas and maintains an excellent artist blog.


Artist Laura Lark in houston maintains a blog also worth your attention.


Posted by: Paddy Johnson at May 16, 2006 12:46 PM

Let me see if I have this straight: You accuse me of not tracking down all the names in your post, for which you didn't supply links. Yet you also ask how could anyone know I was talking about just the Dallas-Fort Worth area -- betraying the fact that you did not bother to read my bio, which is supplied on this very blog, no need to go elsewhere. Nor, if you had read my earlier postings, the fact that I have continually used the word "local."

Well, thanks for the opportunity to move from sports analogies to pots and kettles.

As for my provincialism, if you think we would ask a Chicago actor to write about his rehearsal process or an Oakland painter to write about the nature of the art biz today and not rightfully get an outright rebellion from area artists and equally rightful irritation from many readers who obviously cannot see the Chicago actor's performance nor the LA painter's gallery showing, then it's plain you are not a local arts journalist. That's our job.

Finally, for the suggested local blogs from ArtFagCity, much thanks. Actually, I've stumbled across glasstire, not the others. But then, I'm the book critic. My interest in the visual arts scene is friendly, not professional. We have had local author/bloggers write for us.

Posted by: Jerome Weeks at May 16, 2006 1:00 PM

We knew you were from Dallas, but your question didn't specify that you meant only Dallas artists. You might think we'd assume that based on your "local" perspective, but we happen to believe that people in Dallas can actually learn something from the activities of artists and critics living elsewhere. You certainly know your readers better than us, so if you say that they can't, so be it. If true, it is a sad, sad commentary on your community. And you're right, we're not "local arts" journalists if that means we cannot look to a broad, international sampling of art discourse as it intersects with local activity. Maybe we should only write about people in our apartment building to be truly "local."

Posted by: LeisureArts at May 16, 2006 1:25 PM

Ah well. This is descending into that fine exchange of pointless sarcasm for which bloggers are justly celebrated. But my points still stand and very little you've written addresses them -- unlike ArtFagCity who kindly suggested some area arts blogs.

There aren't that many articulate artist-writer-intellectuals in the area who could do what we'd need -- even ArtFagCity cited all of three blogs, and one them is in Houston. As I noted, we have had local authors write.

The fact is the Dallas Morning News covers arts in New York, LA, DC, London and even Paris. Why the locals and not someone in New York, you demand? Local artists know about the local scene, local problems, local legal issues, local clubs in trouble. Anyone can access what you have to say on the web. But if they want to know about what's happening here then at some point, they will have to come to us. Regardless of what you may think about my ideas or writing, the local daily paper, if it's doing its job right, is doing a lot of the nuts-and-bolts, unglamorous things bloggers rarely bother with: listings, advances, charts, maps, reviews not just of the in, hip stuff but a wide range, the great mass of stuff.

That's the franchise, that's what we do. You want to sneer at it, go ahead. But that's why city papers exist.

Posted by: Jerome Weeks at May 16, 2006 1:43 PM

That's not fair. I think the commenter had plenty of smart thing sto say. His (?) responses were much more thoughtful than they were "pointless." They also got at a key issue: local vs. national.

Posted by: Tyler Green at May 16, 2006 1:59 PM

I have to point out that I listed the three I knew of off hand. My understanding is that there is a lot of artist activity in the blogging world in Texas, and I hear all the time that artists are very active in these communities. Dallas is admittedly outside of my area of expertise, but I do not doubt that there are more articulate artist-critics than you think. It's just a matter of looking for them.

Also, I have to say your response to Leisurearts, is full of assumptions about artists and bloggers that are simply not true. The idea that we bloggers are not interested in listings, reviews etc is false. I maintain the listings for a local zine in brooklyn, many of which are not hip, but are listed because I think they are interesting and/or important. Also, freewilliamsburg (http://www.freewilliamsburg.com/)
is a local brooklyn blog that reports on local news and does from time to time report on local legal issues. I understand your frustration that it is difficult to find artists who are willing to cover what your paper needs in what is not a major center like New York, but the point is they exist, you just have to take the time to seek these people out. The reason the net is so effective is because networking tools such as myspace and friendster (for all their hipness), craigslist, yahoo, all provide an excellent means of doing so. I would issue you the following challenge: Type the names of the artists I provided above into myspace, and see how many more artist-writers *in your area* you found based on what I gave you alone. I would be floored if you came up with nothing you found interesting.

One final point on the pointless sarcasm that bloggers are known for: Bloggers may be known for sarcasm, but to call it pointless is very dangerous, because it dismisses very valuable work that is being done in the field. Many critics are not fans of Gawker style writing, but I happen to think this kind of work is really important. The influence of entertainment is such that many people don't pay attention unless you can say something, witty, caustic and smart, and for better or worse I base my practice on this premise.

In anycase, enough using that turn of phrase as a platform for my own ideas. Leisurearts comments are not at all pointless, and it seems to me that the idea of international art discourse as it intersects with local activity, is something you would probably have interest in.

Posted by: Paddy Johnson at May 16, 2006 4:05 PM

Last I looked, I was a woman. I am a blogger. And I am (if my comments are posted) commenting here. But I do feel somewhat marginal.

As for local vs international. I write from Melbourne (yes, near Antarctica) but my blog is read by people all over the place, though most readers are Australian. (Americans are about a third of my readership.) My blog allows me to discuss local work in an international context and in real dialogue with practitioners and critics elsewhere. This reflects the reality of the culture I am discussing. Many contemporary theatre practitioners here travel and work overseas, especially in Europe: I can think of two Australian directors, for instance, who work in German theatres and have brought that work back here in the past couple of years, and quite a few young playwrights who base themselves in London. One thing the blog permits me to resist is an artificial parochialism that is often assumed by the mainstream press.

Posted by: Alison Croggon at May 16, 2006 6:20 PM

So LeisureArts responds to my original post with sarcasm, a way of dismissing an argument a priori, while demonstrating he knows little about Dallas arts or our coverage of it. I respond in kind, and am called unfair by Mr. Green and receive a sweet, sensible lecture about the Purposes of Sarcasm on the Internet, as if I hadn't encountered it before. OK. Thanks.

As for my take on the role of local vs. national vs. international, Mr. Green, I thought my reply made it plain: We cover national and international when we can, as it matters -- obviously, electronic popular culture crosses almost all boundaries. Who doesn't cover mass arts like film, TV, music, books, etc.?

But the local remains our bread-and-butter. And yes, Ms. Croggon, your physical location in Melbourne and your digital blog permit you a greater leeway than we have. You're a blogger and one of the facts about bloggers is they can cherry-pick. As I noted, we're a local city paper, and any big city newspaper journalist who tells you the local isn't his medium's bread-and-butter is either fooling himself, fooling you or doesn't understand the economics of his medium.

Unfortunately, this thread must come to an end. I've been responding while both of my hands have been on another keyboard, doing my job, and on yet another keyboard, filling in for my editor, and doing both our jobs several days in advance so I can squeeze some free time to go to Philly. I'm headed for the airport now, which means I won't be available to OK responses to appear here. Yes, I'm using this opportunity to free myself from my laptop.

Au revoir.

Posted by: Jerome Weeks at May 16, 2006 8:10 PM

Damn, Jerome, this means that I can't point out that "local" and "parochial" are different things, nor that on my own blog I do pretty good review coverage of local Melbourne shows, thus demonstrating my very practical commitment to the local in an international context...

Posted by: Alison Croggon at May 18, 2006 11:46 PM

im going to disagree..when you say most athletes cant explain what there are doing...i disagree...as an athlete i can explain very well what i am doing

Posted by: b baller at September 6, 2006 6:14 PM

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