NORMAN J OLSON
I read an article last week by a California art professor which argued that contemporary art education involved “de skilling”,
teaching the would-be artist to make conceptual art or if they must make paintings and drawings, make ones involving no art
skill whatsoever… like handing someone a violin and saying 'play this in total freedom'. Okay, well, I guess that may be true
to some degree, but I am so far outside the mainstream that I don’t even know what goes on in Museums of Modern Art these
days, or in art schools either. I had a very negative experience in art school back in the 1970s much like that the author
related where teachers denigrated the kind of representational art that interested me and tried to make me into an abstract
expressionist. Well, that did not work out too well for them… lol.
I generally believe that the so called “art” world can do whatever they want to as long as they leave me alone; I have gotten
to this ripe old age without any gallery shows or art career, I guess I can make it a few more years; but, one thing that was
in that article got me thinking.
Apparently either the writer of the article or one of the commentators on it, I can't remember which, was told by a professor
that the nude was no longer a subject for art because all representations of the nude were by definition soft pornography. I
guess that the part of this that bothers me is the implication that there is something terrible about pornography.
Eeveryone who knows my work knows, my subject is the nude figure. I don’t think it is sexist as there are about as many
nude men as women in my work and, although sex comes into the picture pretty much whenever the nude is represented,
my work is sensual, but does not actually portray sexual activities. Furthermore my nudes are not done with the specific
intention of arousing sexual feelings in the viewer.
I think that to be properly called pornography an artwork should have both specifically sexual content and an intention to
arouse the viewer sexually. Yet, I really have no objection to pornography; adults are free to do to themselves and each
other whatever they want to do sexually as long as it is all voluntary on everybody’s part. But to call my art pornography,\
is, I think, simply a misnomer.
Though it is vitally concerned with portraying nude figures, I think that what I like about the nude is that it focuses
attention of the art directly on human beings; and, I find it endlessly fascinating that human beings come in two physical
varieties, male and female… and how these varieties of humans are together and apart, interests me. But who really
Perhaps I just have a desire to see what people look like without clothes; and, my art is simply voyeurism. I would like to
think that the art comes directly from my subconscious and has some relevance to other people. But, I seem to keep doing
nudest whether the wider world has any use for them. I am glad for those of my contacts who take an interest in my work.
I am glad for those who tell me that they find it interesting.
I don’t need to sell my art; I don’t need to have it praised as great art; I don't need the powers that be to recognize it as
ART at all. Bbut I do seem to need some audience… to have a feeling that somehow this work is more than a personal
therapy for me… and exists in a public way… as a communication of some basic sort.
So thank you to everyone who has supported my art making over the years. As the gangster hillbilly rapper said, “I love all
you fuckers / you the ones who set my soul free…”
peace: Norman J. Olson
John Horvath Jr
The Editor Responds
I recall an old story of an artist being brought before a judge on charges of “pornography”; when asked if he created
pornography the artist answered, “No way, your honor… I don’t even have a pornograph!” I also recall a complaint
that I received about a poem of mine: “I can’t read this to my four-year-old son.” To this I responded that I do not write
POETRYREPAIRS states on several pages that our “poetry is for a mature audiance” and implicit in that statement is
the notion that all the arts are for mature audiences. [Samuel Taylor Coleriidge opined that “all the fine arts are species of
An immature individual, a child – if you will – cannot appreciate and judge fairly the glass pyramid outside the Louvre.
Nor can a child appreciate the design of the Empire State Building. Architecture – whether of a building or a poem or
a nude in a work of art – is simply beyond the abilities of an immature mind.
If one is aroused by drawn or painted nudity, look inward for the problem. If aroused by words on a page, look inward.
A sunset might move you, attach to your emotions, even your memory. For the reason, look inward. Ask yourself what
the words or painting means to YOU, not what it means to the artist. Many artists, even poets, do not see what they have
created as others see it. They are pleasantly surprised – or aggravated - by some interpretations of their work (I seriously
doubt that Fenimore Cooper consciously made Natty Bumppo and Chingachgook into a gay couple in the wilderness.)
Avoid judging the artist; rather, judge the milieu which preceded the art. And judge your own purposes for the enjoyment
or repugnance you feel. You might assk, how did the artist/poet know that was in you.
poetryrepairs #204 14.09:108
I have many things to write unto you but
I will not write with pen and ink
--JOHN the theologian
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