In December, the Redoubt Reporter and ARTSpace, Inc., sponsored a satiric art writing contest meant to inspire purple, pompous prose in response to a variety of art photographs, with tongues firmly planted in cheeks.
The results were as vividly descriptive as they were vibrantly bombastic. In other words — delightful.
Good visual art either works or it doesn’t. Attaching pretentious writing that “explains” the image adds little value. Too often, though, boring images are subject to art “criticism” that seems to bear more resemblance to the writer’s inner projections than to the image itself or the artist’s intent.
In appreciation of delightfully horrid, florid writing, we asked readers to give it a try.
Joe Kashi, local attorney, photographer and the Redoubt Reporter’s photography columnist, provided the images about which the contestants could write.
They are unmanipulated photos of real objects and scenes that appear abstract.
Our submitters chose one photo and skewered it thoroughly, displaying all the elements of satisfyingly bad art criticism.
We salute our winners and are printing their entry, the photo they chose and the “prize” they win for this, most dubious honor.
The entries also will be included in an upcoming community display through ARTSpace.
—Jenny Neyman, editor, Redoubt Reporter
First place: Matthew Lancaster, of Kenai
“Observe closely each rustic contour of crimson hues, bespeckled by a most vibrant and pleasant visual of an apparently violent upchucking. Only the gifted individual can capture the essence of human ill as a commodity to be revered, all while divesting the subject of preconceived undesirability.
“We are drawn deep into the bosom of this photograph and rewarded with an experience of a somewhat mechanic chaos, like being present in a car that has spun out of control and rolled a couple of times.
“This further imbues the necessity of the vomitus allusion that so winsomely provides ad-hoc gradient textures to the context of bruised scenery behind, existing as an analogy to the experience of happening upon a rotted corpse and feeling queasy. Herein lies the epitome of aristocratic, yet underrated, modernism. Among it, the commendably avant garde ataxia of art’s very physique, and a pretense people of all creeds can enjoy.”
This photo is of a crushed F-350 truck bumper reflecting colors of other wrecked vehicles at an auto salvage yard. For his efforts, Matthew wins one bottle of Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, from the heart of E. and J. Gallo wine country. The actual rear label reads:
“Here’s to the vines, and to a LIFE LIVED BOLDLY. These heroic vines produce intense fruit flavors and deeply concentrated wine — matched only by the passions of the people who drink them. Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel is an ADVENTUROUS, soulful choice delivering a rich core of dark berry fruit, WILD SPICE, vanilla, and lightly toasted oak. Enjoy solo or paired with BBQ ribs, steak fajitas, or hearty beef chili.”
We feel this is a fitting first prize for our satiric art writing contest — a wine so satirized by its own copywriter — apparently an underemployed Medieval English major gone bad — that we couldn’t create better satire without at least three months serious effort fueled by too much Old Vine Zin.
Second place: Ron Levy, of Soldotna
“Philosophically, the mechanics elude me. Striving without yielding, they seem to reflect a casual sequence of unending lines in which the true portent is massed and multiplied until it is pushed and penetrated unwillingly into our subconsciousness. The illusion that these points do have a Freudian relationship, when in reality they do not, creates the irony that recursively drives this piece. I am moved beyond nerds.”
This image is an extreme wide-angle elongation of a Vancouver, B.C., office tower. Ron’s entry wins him a copy of the epitome of florid art writing, “The Painted Word,” by Tom Wolfe. Antacids to stomach the prose are unfortunately not provided.
Third place: Hedy-Jo Huss, of Nikiski
“Austerity of Arctic ice. This sheet cracked, a blackish tear line almost separating the flow.
“The future of our carbon footprint is following. Climate change approaches. Man’s first line of victims is wildlife. They are the frontline victims. The photo calls out, “No more sutured slabs.”
This image shows a small erosional feature in brightly sunlit tidal flats near Anchorage. For her fine work reading political pomposity into a nonpartisan photograph, Hedy-Jo wins the only prize that could possibly be better/worse than one bottle of Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin, and that’s two bottles of Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin.
Thanks to everyone who participated!