Periodically, we pose questions about issues artists face in their work and lives. This month, we revisited a question we first posed on 2017: What’s something people often misunderstand about your art?
Karl Baden, photographer
First, I believe that from an historical standpoint, at least since the beginning of modernism, most art, especially good art, has been misunderstood to one degree or another. In fact, if your work is understood by everyone, it’s time to worry!
When Dan from Mass Cultural Council contacted me about this conversation, he mentioned the most recent project I’ve done: documenting life on Massachusetts Ave in Cambridge. Concerning this commission, I’ll throw what may be a curveball into the mix: The greatest misunderstanding I’ve experienced regarding this work is not so much the photos themselves (although there is doubtless some of that as well), but the act of making the photos.
Today, walking down the street with a camera, photographing what you find beautiful or interesting, as photographers have done for more than a century, has become a practice fraught with risk. Technology, without “blaming,” is primarily responsible. The staggering proliferation of cellphone cameras, surveillance devices, the internet and social media platforms have, along with whatever positive effects they’ve effected, increased suspicion, fear of privacy invasion, terrorism, pedophilia, etc, to the point that the purpose of a lone citizen with a camera, the documentary or “art” photographer, is now commonly the object of profound misunderstanding, and can lead to all manner of unpleasantness.
Yu-Wen Wu, interdisciplinary artist
My work is about movement, human migration and displacement, lying at the crossroads of art, science, politics and cultural issues. The artworks take many forms–a ten foot drawing of a full moon tells a refugee’s escape, a sculptural installation of cloth bundles gives voice to individual migration journeys, a grid of gold tea leaves reference xenophobia, and five tents with corresponding video works inside bring issues of environmental displacement to the forefront. Because of the interdisciplinary and transmedial nature of individual projects the interconnected thread of my work is often missed.
An area to clarify in my practice is that community engagement is not necessarily separate from the artworks I create from these engagements. In the Leavings/Belongings project, the bundles made by participants are the material artifacts to create sculptural installations, a video of shared narratives, and photographic documentation.
In a world full of sensory overload, quietude and poetic beauty is powerful and impactful. My work is quiet and a space for contemplation. The work is shaped by research and documentation, by multiple layers of meaning and most of all by poetry. It is shaped by the accumulation of stories and lives lived, of dreams, of mark making, and of art made.
Christina Tedesco, visual artist
There will always be some who misunderstand what my art is saying, or what I hope it is saying. My work deals with the contrast between balance and imbalance, control and the lack there of. My interest in the nature of the human form comes from living with cerebral palsy – a physical disability. It maybe difficult for the viewer to get all of this from looking at my work or taking part in one of my community projects.
This is why a year ago, I started a new body of work that I call The Playground Project. In this body of work I place my caricatures in a playground. Everyone knows that the playground is a place that tests your balance. The viewer knows the feeling they had or have on a playground. I hope they will then start to ask, “Why does the caricatures have no face?” Or “Why is one leg longer the the other?”
When the viewer asks themselves these question, they look more closely for the answer.
Related reading: read responses to a similar question, by a composer, poet, writer, comics artist, and community-based artist.
Karl Baden‘s photographs have been widely exhibited, including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Photographers Gallery, London, and many other places. His solo exhibition Mass Ave, Cambridge is on view at Gallery 344, hosted by Cambridge Arts (thru 2/14).
Christina Tedesco is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited at Somerville Artbeat, Howard Art Project, Samson Gallery, and elsewhere. She is a guest speaker in Brookline schools, and she is Timeline Manager for Somerville Open Studios in May 2020.
Yu-Wen Wu is the winner of the inaugural $15,000 Prilla Smith Brackett Award, founded by Prilla Smith Brackett (Painting Finalist ’12), administered by the Davis Museum Wellesley College, and awarded to an outstanding female-identified visual artist based in the Greater Boston area. Upcoming projects include Lightworks Project for the Greenway Chinatown Chin Park (August 2020), a large scale, site-specific installation at SITE in Santa Fe (March 2020), and a new, soon-to-be-announced public arts project.
Image: Karl Baden (Photography Fellow ’99, Finalist ’17, ’13), photo of man at Out of Town News, from the MASS AVE, CAMBRIDGE series; Yu-Wen Wu (Painting Fellow ’04), installation view of LEAVINGS/BELONGINGS at Pao Art Center (2019); art by Christina Tedesco, from THE PLAYGROUND PROJECT series.
Linda T. Hurd says
I think I have a lack of understanding about my art. Is it illustration? Is it writing and illustration? Is it art or visual therapy? Is it art? What is the difference between art and illustration. My paintings are often metaphorical and have text with them. So I find it difficult to describe my work to someone or know where to go with it.