Student’s artwork raises controversy
On the same day as the show opening, one of our artist’s work was called into question and displayed in the news! Jake Smidt, whose work is titled The Reality of the Spectacle, was interviewed by 9 News to defend his art against complaints made by students at the Hospitality Center.
We in the Drawing Program agree with Jake’s splendid defense of his chosen subject and were honestly surprised that any controversy arose over it. We were also somewhat amused, because Jake’s carefully thought out concept is based upon the spectacle society creates through media and his art was built around the idea of the media saturating the public with dramatic information and creating identity through the filter of spectacle— which is exactly what happened when the media made a story about his art.
While this event has been interesting for art students at Metro, it is also somewhat distressing due to the lack of respect shown to an artist’s work. When one person had a problem with the work displayed, Jake’s name and title card was torn off the wall and vanished. The school then, under the pretense that the art might be “rogue art” that was not part of the show, literally ripped the work off the wall. The two pieces were torn and damaged, then nailed (crooked and mixed up) back onto the wall for the news interview.
Such a volatile reaction from both the school and members of the public sparked discussion amongst our class about why art can be immediately discarded simply for being misunderstood or disliked. The consensus was that the public is not well educated in art and art history. Art tends to be the first subject cut from education systems and is usually the most starkly taught subject, often teaching students how to make art without giving much background to the history of art. Even at the university level, art is an optional subject and is not often expanded on for students not studying the subject as a major or minor.
The fact is that Jake’s work was meant to question why killers are given so much attention in society for terrible crimes, to question why we are drawn more to horrific stories than to productive ones, and also to explore how tragedy can affect society as it is displayed through media. His work was intended to make people think about how media works and affects their lives. But, when viewed by someone uneducated in the arts, it is discredited and treated as trash.
No art in this world is universally liked and understood, but every work of art should be given the chance to exist and influence people who want to discuss it. Art is at it’s best when it can make people think and feel more than they would alone, and Jake Smidt’s art does that. Hopefully, after seeing how well Jake explained the concept of his art, more people will seek to understand art that might confuse or disturb them, rather than dismissing it entirely.