I visited one of my old art teachers last month, just to say hi and show him some of my recent work. He asked how Mr. Foo and Kiki were doing and I told him about one of Mr. Foo's projects... making a neon version of a certain famous disturbing image on the Internet.
He launched into a little bit of a rant on how too many beginner artists immediately decide that they want to be provocative by trying to shock their viewers because that's the only way that they know of to elicit a response from their viewers.
I talked with him and tried to convince him that no, Mr. Foo wasn't doing this as a piece of art, but more directly just as a way to shock people and mess with their heads. When Mr. Foo makes art, it's beautiful and thought provoking on a gentler and more sophisticated level.
I was reminded of this by Thomas Hawk's latest arch nemesis, Jill Greenberg and her gallery. See, here, we've got exactly what my old mentor was talking about. Between Maplehtorpe and Sally Mann and Jock Sturges, there's really only so many ways left that nudity can be made shocking that haven't been explored already.
Jill Greenberg is taking kids, all of them younger than three, stripping them, and then tormenting them to provoke a response from them. She calls it some sort of protest art against the Bush administration.
And, in this, we have a great example of somebody who is incapable of making a statement resorting to shock value to try and gain popularity. I'm sure the first thing in their mind while ratcheting up the pressure on Thomas isn't that they want to actually discredit or silence him, but simply to get him to write further on the subject, to get their own particular variety of artistic fame.
Remember, claiming that "they" don't want you to know about something is a potent marketing tool. People have made billions that way.
The problem is that things like this are ways for Jill (and, for that matter American Photo) to get cheap publicity at the expense of others, including people she purports to be or support. She continues the demonization of the modern artist by the average person. If I tell people that I do art photography, will they assume that I photograph screaming naked babies? I already worry if the day will come that my art is declared pornographic, will I have to worry about people cordoning off their children lest I take pictures of them? If one questions the actions of the Bush presidency, will they be lumped together with Jill?
Jill is a sociopath, not just because of the art she makes, but also because of the actions that go with her art.