Friday, July 19, 2013

hate mail

I got my first hate mail this morning. What, you didn't know artists got hate mail? Well, yeah! Especially when you make art about sex or religion or politics...or the quality of light. 

Yeah, quality of light gets people all fired up!
I'M FROM Griffith In. now live in N.Carolina. as the saying goes " I don't know art but I know what I like." yah I don't like these examples of your art. my 7yrs old grandson can do better. so here is one "unlike"

Honestly, I did laugh when I read it. I have a pretty thick skin. I have bigger worries in life than what a stranger who doesn't know anything about me or my artwork, or artwork in general, has to say. Not everyone is going to like my art. I had a professor in school who told us: There will always be someone who hates your art. It doesn't matter what kind of art you make or how good you are, there will always be someone who just doesn't like it. And that's true.

I posted over on my personal facebook page, and many friends came to my defense. Several wondered why he even bothered to comment. Hadn't his mother taught him to not say anything if he had nothing nice to say? I also immediately thought of this post over on hyperallergic. When it was first posted, I sent it to another artist friend, because she needed to read it. For the record: a lot of artists pour their hearts and souls into their work. On a semi-related note, we generally don't like to be told that your kid could make that. Because they didn't. And they couldn't. And neither could you. Just as I couldn't make my friend's work and she couldn't make mine. Artwork is the result of your whole life up until that instant that the piece is made. So unless your kid is living my life in an alternate universe somewhere, they really couldn't do what I do, or what any other artist does.

And if your 7 year old kid, is somehow living my life, I have a 10 year old and a 13 year old, so, you know, you should not be worried about art, you should be selling that kid to science. Seriously, make some money on that. Then you can buy some art.

example of artwork unworthy of a 7 year old:
ditch (tiger lilies),
 acrylic on paper, 5" x 7"

or he might have seen this

The more I thought it over, the more I had to reply. Most people said to ignore it or delete it, but that's bad business, as anyone who has ever deleted a comment/criticism will tell you. It asks for backlash. So I tried to play nice. Here is my response:

I would like to thank you for taking the time to offer your opinion of my artwork. So often, people don’t bother to comment one way or another. In fact, you have written my first hate mail, and I do, in all honesty, thank you for it. I understand that you, like many people, are not trained in art. Because I am, I would like to explain a bit about the #art365 series, which you feel is beneath your 7 year old grandson.

The #art365 project was a plan to make art every day, in some fashion of another. I have been working on very large paintings, which cannot be completed quickly due to their scale. I was inspired by the color of the sunrise one morning and thought to capture that. The quality of light was what I was striving for, not a realistic replication of the scene. I have often painted the prairie on the corner of Main and Kennedy, perhaps you remember that location? I found it very inspirational to watch the prairie come alive this spring. Every day it was different. The color of light changes every day, all throughout the day, and all throughout the seasons.  Most people live their entire lives completely unaware of this. I find it fascinating. If your grandson is already aware of this, then he is way ahead of the curve. Of course, most 7 year olds are still full of creativity. Don’t despair, society doesn’t value art and it will soon be beaten out of him.

I am aware, as you mentioned that art is subjective: its beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There is good art and bad art. There is good art that you might not like and bad art that you might love. There is room for all of it. My work, and this series, has been very well received. I am not the least bit slighted that you do not like it. You are entitled to your opinion of it and free to express it. One aspect of artmaking is eliciting a response. The fact that you felt the need to click on a link which showed artwork you didn’t like, then click over to my page and write some negative comments at 3 in the morning, means my artwork elicited a response. Therefore, you may not like my work, but you just validated it. Again, I thank you.

(As an aside, I certainly hope you encourage any artistic endeavors your grandson may have. The arts are so very important, not only for their cultural qualities, but the imagination, creativity and problem solving they bring to all aspects of our lives. We need problem solvers for the betterment of our country and society.) 

...awaiting a response...

Got some constructive criticism? Let me hear it! I am always learning, growing, developing. I don't always give a whole lot of explanation about my work. If you have a question about it, please ask! There are no stupid questions. Got a question about materials or technique or process or inspiration? Ask! There's always a story. There's not always a good story, which is funny and entertaining, but there's always a story. I may or may not be willing to tell you the entire story, because remember: it's often my heart and soul. A lot of my artwork is like a diary. Do you let strangers read your diary? Probably not. And if you like my artwork, leave a comment, or share it, or buy it! If you don't like, you can still leave a comment, although you'll probably be less inclined to share it or buy it. To be fair, if you tell me I hate this piece, I'm going to spend my hard earned money on it! I will let you. Try me. Really. Go ahead. 

update: I got a reply!

I've live in N.W. Indiana all my life. been down here a year. I understand that your or anybody elses art don' do it self justice on a computer. but next time I'm back "home" I will be in to your studio. so keep on doing what you love,as I know you will. thake care. 
I have to say, this was much nicer than I expected. 


  1. Thumbs up for you Dawn! You said it!

    1. Thanks, Karen. This has really struck a chord with a lot of people and artists, even those who are more representational. Art is simply not valued as it should be.

  2. A professor I had once responded to the "my kid could make that," by replying, "and if you don't f*** with them they will be able to when they get older too."

  3. My hat is off to you for replying! And you really did get a nice reply back, which is surprising!

    I've gotten hate mail of major insults before on my blog and my personal FB page. On my FB page I deleted and blocked the person. I was so shocked at what they said, and that they said it out loud to one of my favorite pieces!

    I suspect I get this because I paint representational and abstract expressionist works. It seems that I get more hate for the abstract than I do for the representational which lets me know who has the problem.

    Good on you Dawn!

    1. Thank, Kelly. I remember when you got that nasty post! I think the abstract/non-representational works are easy targets, because they aren't understood by many. You could have a terrible still life, but still be able to recognize it and it won't generate the fear that an abstract piece does. "I don't get it, so I will mock it to feel better about myself."

    2. So true. It makes me sad because I like both and therefore generate a following for both but I definitely can't please everyone! :D