There was an article in the news recently about one Frank Calloway: artist, 112 year-old man, and schizophrenic. While it’s interesting to hear about this man and his history, and to hear the praise of his art, there are other sides of the story that are more important to me. These do not relate to the nature of his character, which by all accounts is lovely, or to the accuracy and length of his memory, which is substantial and easily seen in his art which exemplifies turn-of-the-century rural life in the south. More, I wondered what these pictures (obviously serious to this man) on huge sheets of butcher paper might look like. Here are a few examples that I could find quickly of both the man and his work.
The art itself I’m not sure I would actually qualify as art. Sure, this guy was entirely self-taught. Sure, his subject matter is the simple objects and scenes of a bygone age. There is true worth in that. Still, I hesitate to cal it ‘art’. It doesn’t do anything for me. If it is art, I feel like it’s art that’s not trying – it doesn’t accurately portray a scene, it doesn’t relate to mankind in some way, or convey emotion or an idea. it doesn’t have a message and doesn’t try to break conventions or perceptions. To my eyes, it isn’t even attractive.
What does this mean? Does this mean what this guy is doing is not art? Is it just a type of art I don’t personally relate to? Is it just something this guy does that has merit for other reasons? And who am I, really to judge? If these works have aesthetic value for any person on earth, does that make them art?