Art: Meant and perceived

This is another excerpt from Betty Spackman’s A Profound Weakness: Christians and kitsch. This week I started chapter two entitled “Re Worded.” Some of what she’s talking about in the last two chapters hasn’t resonated with me all that much (and doesn’t seem to relate to kitsch at this point either), but the following excerpt was a powerful story with respect to the different meanings of art to different people.

    When I was doing my undergraduate studies in art and art history, I made two large realistic drawings of ears. They were about one metre square and had taken several hours each to produce. I hung them up temporarily in the studio and left to get something I needed. When I returned, they had been ripped off the wall and stuffed in the garbage.

    I was shocked. Why would someone do that? There is an unwritten law in art schools that even if work is very bad, you do not dispose of it until you have found out whose work it is and whether they still want it. My instructor was outraged and went to find out who had done this.

    She discovered that one of the staff who worked in that part of the university was partially deaf and when he came into the room he thought someone had put the drawings up to make fun of him! His aggressive, “irrational” act was a response not to what I had drawn but to how he had interpreted what I had drawn.

Spackman goes on to say how this experience was more powerful than any of her learning in formal class settings. What she “spoke” and what this staff member “heard” were very different things. “I have never relied since on art as a tool to communicate a predetermined message. Only propaganda can come close to doing that.”


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

One Response to Art: Meant and perceived

  1. katrina says:

    Funny I have forgotten about this book. I used it in grad school I mean seminary to write on Religion and Kitsch along with the quest of Thomas Kinkade. Interesting Chap. That is a conversation in and of its self. Check out Odd Nerdrum he is a norwegian fellow, who is kitsch as well, but he goes about it a totally different than Kinkade.

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