Erin Farnsworth Studio



Monthly Newsletter
May, 2020
How did we get here?
Last December, I talked about the Art World's history of making everyday objects into art (spurred on by one very famous and expensive banana). Early "Modern" artists pushed boundaries like never before, making art that until then, wouldn't have been considered art.
This month I want to explain how Modern Art moved from trying to be new and innovative, into trying to be attention-grabbing and sometimes shocking. Next month I'll piggyback on this theme and explain how the pursuit of the beautiful and well-crafted piece of art became not only a thing of the past, but a thing of disdain.

In preface, I present to you a brief walk down the modern art history lane (noting that there is a lot of disagreement within the field about exact date ranges, names, and categorizations of artists and movements):

1. Modern Art is generally accepted to span from the 1860s to the 1970s.
Following are some of the most well-known art movements of the “Modern Art” period, or art made in the “modern” or machine-driven world each along with a well-known artist and artwork in that movement:
Impressionism: Claude Monet
Pointillism: Georges Seurat                       
Abstract: Piet Mondrian
Cubism: Pablo Picasso
Dada: Marcel DuChamp
Surrealism: Salvador Dali
Bauhaus: Wassily Kandinsky
Abstract Expressionism: Jackson Pollock
2. Post Modern Art:
What came after the "Modern" period is referred to as “Post Modern.”
Some new media that Postmodern art generally includes are: conceptual art, multimedia art, and installation art. Basically, these artists pushed boundaries by making art that wasn't possible before, or wouldn’t have been considered art before. They had modern technology to work with, so video art and multimedia installations became the next big thing.
A few notable examples include:
Cindy Sherman
Untitled, a self-portrait photograph from 1981 that was sold in 2011 for $3,890,500. At the time it was the most expensive photograph ever sold.
Barbara Kruger
Untitled from 1987, photographic silkscreen and vinyl
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
“Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991. Candies individually wrapped in multicolor cellophane, endless in supply. Dimensions vary with installation with an ideal weight 175 lbs.
3. Shock Art: On the heels of these innovations came the “Shock Art” of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. I hesitate to even cite a few examples, and I'm only sharing an image of one (a really tame one). I’ve picked some that, if you can believe it, aren’t nearly as shocking as other famous and notable examples:
Damien Hirst
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991. Work consists of a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde.
Chris Burden
Shoot, a 1971 performance piece by Chris Burden in which friend shot him in the arm with a .22 calibre gun from a distance of 11 feet.
Marco Evaristti

Helena: The Goldfish Blender, 2000, a display of live goldfish in blenders which viewers were invited to turn on.
4.Contemporary Art:  Art of the current day is often referred to as “Contemporary Art,” and is defined as art made by living artists (therefore the date range changes).
Art in the last 20 years, all contemporary, is crowned with the new media, digital art. You can see examples of digital art widely in film and electronic games, but also as digital drawing and painting, aided by new innovations in software and digital drawing tools. As this newsletter is getting on a bit long, I'll spare you some examples--but you are already well versed in them, as you see them around you every day!
Here's my point:
All through Art’s history, and especially since modern photography was possible, artists felt a drive to stay relevant—leading to art that has the main objective of being new, innovative, provocative, and sometimes, shocking. If artists were no longer needed to record with their pencils and brushes the important figures, events and histories of their time, what use were they?
Yet, through all of these changes and movements, scores of traditional artists did and still do toil away at their craft—honing their skills, attempting to create something sublime—dare I say, it, Beautiful.
Next month's newsletter will continue this train of thought and explore how the idea of beauty in art changed with the evolving art scene.
(Don't worry, I'm so late in getting this month's newsletter out, it'll be very soon!)
Stay well, friends!
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From the Studio
This past month I started a new series that I'm very excited to share the details with you about (I'll tell you all about it in the next newsletter).
In the meantime, I'll show you some progress images of the first piece in the series: a life-sized painting of my 13-year-old daughter, Katelyn.
In the photos you can see I've pretty well finished the top part of her dress, and I have the lace in her skirt to work on still. After that, her skin will get a few glazes (transparent layers of paint), and her hair will be finished (in these pictures it's just roughed in).
After another week or two of progress on this piece, I'll unveil the finished work in my next newsletter as well as show you a completed watercolor portrait I'm working on right now.
I can't wait to share it with you!

All artwork and text on this website is copyright © 2019 Erin Farnsworth