29 March, 2012

Is it important to fit into a Genre?

Recently, RedBubble.com had a blog post on pop surrealism and lowbrow art which got me to thinking about genres again.

When I was drawing creatures and strange scenes as a kid I had no idea there were any terms to describe my kind of art.  Or any kind of art! Later, in high school, some people began telling me my work was "surreal." That was when I first learned there was a genre called surrealism and felt a connection with it.  But it was never a perfect fit.

Throughout college, "surrealism" was the closest thing to what I did but the word alone wasn't sufficient.  My work certainly didn't fit into other well known genres like impressionism, landscape, still life, abstracts, etc.  Even if elements of existing styles and genres were in my work, no term ever captured it so that I could easily say, when asked what I do, that I was a surrealist or whatever.  It did and still does feel clumsy to say I do humorous surrealism. That still doesn't conjure up in anyone's mind a clearer picture, not without visual aids.

I was well into adulthood when I saw magazines displaying a more modern type of surrealism called pop surrealism.  Stylistically, I felt that might be closer to what I do but the themes seemed more removed from my concepts.  Soon, magazines existed to promote pop surrealism and other relatively new or perhaps renewed genres like raw art, art brut, outsider art, and lowbrow.  When I saw these last few I perked up.  But then, sadly, I learned that I could not be part of outsider, raw, or brut art, because I had an art degree. These genres were for the non formally educated.  Another blog at another time may be for my opinion of the nonsense about self-taught vs formal education, but long story short, lowbrow seems to fit what I do better than surrealism, at times, and yet it's not a perfect fit either.  I don't happen to believe an art degree has a bit to do with one's genre, but if technically I can't join the club, then I can't.

And my search for a word or short phrase that describes my work goes on!

Is it important to belong to a genre or movement?  When it comes to trying to describe what you do, yes.  Otherwise, no.  I don't think about it when I paint or draw, nor do I try to mold my work to fit a category.  My bio would be a bit shorter and clearer though, if I could find a better word for it.