... Defining the word art is a pointless task, and frankly Webster should have better things to do. Art’s world has made room for controversial figures and kooky ideas, gimmicks and the gross. “Koons, Hirst and the whole development period after Pop, became a business enterprise, in my view,” Thiebaud says. “It dips in and out of the art world in a way, but for me is often terribly misguided in terms of the traditions that I admire and adhere to.” One of Thiebaud’s favorite anecdotes comes from Sir Ernst Gombrich, a writer and psychologist, who penned Art and Illusion in the 1960’s. Gombrich was once asked why he wasn’t interested in contemporary art. His answer was succinct and interesting, “Because it’s too easy to cheat in that environment.” Art’s tradition has soft borders, and like the United States, that has mostly been a good thing, providing freedom and opportunity for the dreamers. But to be a painter, and to create works of such dimension and interest that they grace the most hallowed museum walls, now that’s one of the greatest achievements in his profession.
Wayne Thiebaud has copied from the Masters because he cares that much about the craft. But in the process, he’s added his own icing on the legacy of painting – or at least, added some spit polish to the halo above its angel food cake. “I feel very privileged to be a part of that whole thing, however small,” Thiebaud says humbly. “The capacity of painters to make a world apart from this world will always amaze me. It’s a parallel world, in a way, which offers all sorts of records of human behavior – what we have been, what we are, what we might be. The fact that you take something that is flat, not moving, silent, and produce a world that suggests all of these records and possibilities – and to have learned how to have done that over a 40,000 year period of time – it’s magical. Just look at the light in one small Vermeer painting, and you can feel it. It really borders on the idea of a human miracle.”
writing in ARTWORKS: WAYNE THIEBAUD
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