|Saturday Evening Post covers|
by Norman Rockwell
(from notes on Form & Void, Cerebus #253, April 2000)
Let's say someone is holding a gun to your head and he tells you that you have to do an exact copy of one of these paintings in a week. And one of the paintings is a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover and one of the paintings is a Picasso. It doesn't matter which one, as long as the Picasso is one of the ones that is just a geometric patchwork of painted shapes. So, any Picasso from Cubism onward. The Rockwell can be any Saturday Evening Post cover. Now, with a gun at your head and your life on the line, which one are you going to copy? Exactly. Because pretty much anyone can do it. It takes no talent. It is the Emperor's New Clothes.
...I have no problem with people who like what Picasso did and who call them paintings or art with a straight face. Some people eat peanut butter on pizza. What I do have a problem with is equating what Picasso did with what (as a fine example) Norman Rockwell did, since what one did was easy and stupid and what the other did was difficult and admirable.
...I have an even bigger problem with those people who try to equate Norman Rockwell with Picasso-from-Cubism-onward as if there is any foundation for discussion for anyone with two eyes to see; a still bigger problem with those people who take the concession that Picasso-from-Cubism-onwards might be creativity as well (albeit on a much lower plane of creativity) and who then reciprocate by claiming that Rockwell was a "mere commercial illustrator" and who attempt to elevate whatever it is that Picasso did not only above its sensible place in the artistic pecking order, but also and as well above Norman Rockwell; and a still even yet bigger problem with those who attempt to elevate a floor-to-ceiling canvas consisting of nothing but a giant orange rectangle with a white dot in the middle also as well above Norman Rockwell's pictures. To me, anyone who is that stupid is not worth discussing art or Art with. When you are willing to talk sensibly... about the finer distinctions between the British Academy's idea in the Victorian era of what constituted a good painting and how they were foolish to reject the Impressionists' paintings out of hand as "unfinished colour sketches" and "ideas for paintings" and to discuss Ruskin's "libel" or libel or Libel in accusing Whistler with his Nocturnes of "flinging a paint pot in the face of the public", then I am willing to see where and what you place higher or lower than I do as to what constitutes art and what constitutes Art in the world of painting. However, if you want to talk to me about Cubism and floor-to-ceiling canvasses that are one big orange rectangle with a white dot in the middle of it, then, excuse me, but all I can do is laugh and turn away after telling you to go and waste someone else's time, because, to me, you are like a drunk in a bar or a feminist: "It is not that I do not understand what you are saying. I understand what you are saying. But I think you are wrong and I will continue to think you are wrong no matter how many times you repeat the same stupid things that you keep repeating."