I started not liking Christmas back in 2018, what a horrible Christmas that was. Looking back, I’ve had different kinds of Christmases in my long existence: warm family-oriented celebrations with gifts and all sorts of food, depressing Christmases spent all by myself, saucy Christmases similar to those found on Internet videos, but Christmas 2018 truly ruined Christmas for me. It was the worst. I don’t want to dwell too much on the details, but it started a miserable trend to which I’m not sure I could recover from. And now every Christmas, I get reminded of that horrible night. Ever had that happen to you? A holiday you’ve cherished since childhood has been turned into a depressing reminder? Well, that’s me. So yeah, I’m really in no mood for trees, decorations, and presents.
And now it’s 2020, and it seems like the rest of the world is catching up with my feelings towards Christmas. Everyone’s sentiment towards the holidays is just a little bit closer to how I feel about it. It’s a day where you’re supposed to find joy despite everything in your life being miserable and hopeless.
In any case, I hope you’re doing better than I am. I hope your holidays, your year, and your life is better than mine. Smile and be happy. Things can only get better, count your blessings, someone else’s situation is always worse, etc. Etc.
Let me continue my depressing rant with what I imagine is an unpopular take: photorealism is not art, at least most people’s take on photorealism is not art. It annoys me how people are too focused on the initial shock at the skill of rendering an image with an almost photographic precision when the image itself is not saying anything that the original photograph already said. It doesn’t matter whether I see the works on galleries or on Instagram. They are not art. Simply, they are an exercises in meticulous reproduction. Re-drawing a photorealistic image of a beautiful woman by hand doesn’t change nor add meaning to the original photograph. It’s merely a change in medium. If anything, it just tells me that the artist spent an inordinate amount of time staring at a picture of a woman doing something a colored printer can easily do. Photorealism is akin to having great penmanship and re-writing great literary works. It is re-writing, not writing.
Steve Martin said that the joy of looking at Edward Hopper paintings, or many other paintings for that matter, is figuring out the meaning of the work. Why are elements of the work placed in a particular way? What are characters or objects in the piece meant to tell the viewer? This is why some works can endure being seen once or twice, like a long game of chess. And once you figure it out, the work is dead. It is very easy to lose interest in it. This is why most photorealistic pieces don’t work for me. The one thing that most viewers try to figure out is, “How did the artist do this?” and “How long did it take?” And the answer is already in the questions. With enough time, practice, and even techniques like tracing or drawing grids, I believe anyone can duplicate photographs. And once the viewer comes to that answer or has recovered from the initial awe of realizing that, “it’s not a photograph,” then it’s just a quick stroll around images that don’t say anything beyond the original.
This is not to say that I don’t enjoy photorealism. I do. I actually like the works of Torlakson, Blackwell, and others, as well as the hyperrealist movement as a whole. But most photorealist works that try to pass off as art, in my opinion, is not really art. They are bland exercises. Photorealism is often craft disguised as art. And even that comment is doing a disservice to many people who do crafts because some “crafts” could very well be works of art. I cannot say the same for the many of the photorealistic works I see. I’m sure the artists themselves are very talented and are demonstrably quite resilient and patient, but they are better served doing other types of work. The real tragedy in all of this cuts two ways. Talented people are spending too much time making art that is shallow and not really art, and people are actually taking the time to look at and admire “art” are not getting anything out of it other than, “wow, the artist is really talented. He didn’t say anything, but he is really talented.”