Who’s Afraid of Modern Art by Daniel Siedell
Chptr 5, “The Art” (all quotes, unless otherwise indicated, are from the book)

Modern Art Book CoverFrom a previous discussion:

“…I think an artist should seek to be understood but on their own terms, not the terms of the other people viewing or partaking in it. The audience and non-creators have a responsibility, too; otherwise it’s far too one-sided…”

“…all art is both accessible and coded. The amount of it that is accessible is what varies. Think we should be generous. But not too generous.”

Response to an question of whether an artists’ art should be accessible by the audience


“For some reason we demand that our paintings be ‘realistic,’ that is, that they offer recognizable and familiar imagery. We demand visual imagery that conforms to our (distracted) recollections of what we think ‘reality’ is, even though we spend so little time actually looking at the world around us. We want art to comfort us, to serve our needs, to add a little visual seasoning (but not too much) to the gray world in which we live out our daily lives. (This is even the case for those of us who are fond of talking about the goodness of the physical world.) Perhaps we go even further and claim to affirm and celebrate this world as God’s good creation, but have we ever spent five minutes looking at the stem of a rose or the deep red of a pomegranate?

We want our artists to keep us distracted by producing images that reaffirm our disenchanted, ironic, and pragmatic view of the world. Give us stuff we ‘know’, imagery that conforms to how we already use the world. We want art to tell us we’re ‘right’ – right about our presumptions about how the world works. The Getty Research Center in Los Angeles has discovered that we spend an average of thirty seconds looking at a painting. Thirty seconds? However, for what we usually want from it, perhaps thirty seconds is more than enough.

This is often what we mean when we claim to like our art to be ‘realistic.’ But it is not realism. It’s a delusion, a reflection of our unwillingness to see in nature or the world more than merely convenient tools for our physical or emotional use.” p92


Is Siedell too negative or on point as to how the general culture desires to receive its art? What does that say about our discussion last time about the artist making their art accessible or not?


“I was reminded of something cultural writer Andy Crouch said at the “Transforming Culture” conference in April. Well, it was actually something he asked – ”Why do we put paper on our walls or paint them in colors?” There seems to be no apparent need for us to do such things. Does it really advance our personal health to pick “Tangerine Orange” or “flocked” wallpapering (which Sarah really likes) to put on our walls?

Good questions. Stop and take a look at your walls. Are they all the same color? Do you have stuff hanging on them? Why?

…You need beauty. Imagine if all our walls were the same color? We need to get away from what author Robert Barron called ‘our beige existence.’”

Kirk & Sarah’s “Bird & Key Blog” from 2008