Quiet Desperation

Art becomes something people can really get into


If you own what is commonly called a “painting,” you might want to hang on to it. Someday it might be worth a lot of money as a curiosity.

Paintings, typically but not always, are considered art, and they are achieved with oil paint, acrylic paint or watercolor on a variety of rectangular and square substrates that include canvas, paper and even cave walls.

Paintings can depict a number of things: the human figure, landscapes, animals or, in the case of abstract expression, nothing at all.

Artists have painted works of art for centuries.

Caves in France near the village of Montignac are historically famous because of the interior wall paintings that are thought to be 17,000 years old.

Artists such as Durer, Rembrandt, da Vinci, Monet, Picasso and Pollock have inspired art students and audiences, and their sublime efforts have filled art museums around the world, including our own Denver Art Museum, the Kirkland Museum and the Museum of Outdoor Arts.

While some artists, particularly the once-a-week variety that is fascinated by fruit and landscapes, will continue to paint on squares and rectangles, their numbers will dwindle to next to nothing.

This will have a major impact on future art exhibitions, on art schools, on art museums and on vendors — especially those who currently manufacture pre-made canvases.

One day, finding a canvas to paint on will be as difficult as finding a typewriter ribbon is now.

None of this means the end of art. There’s simply a new kid on the block.

It’s called “immersion art.” Immersion art is similar to entering a fun house at a cheap carnival where things seem to fall off the walls, endanger viewers and provide almost hallucinogenic images.

It’s happening and, most importantly, it’s cool.

Conventional art museum attendance — except for blockbuster exhibitions featuring the work of art history’s Hall of Fame — is in decline, and if the museums don’t convert to immersion spaces, they will be deceased in the water.

New museums, specifically designed for immersion-type products, are sprouting all over the country and all over the world. Likewise: galleries and other venues where art is exhibited.

Think of yourself as Alice Liddell and you’ve just fallen down a rabbit hole. Or going on a date with Salvador Dali.

As many of you know, I am a trained painter. I am retrofitting my entire inventory of paintings with mechanisms that will enable them to spin, move up and down and sideways, and emit sounds such as the roar of a lion and the bray of a donkey.

The art world is a step behind the music industry, where visual contrivances, such as pyrotechnics, countless back-up dancers, and innumerable costume changes replaced valid content years ago.

If your son or daughter is thinking about art school, make sure you don’t encourage them to major in painting, unless the school reassures you the painting classes will discourage static wall art, and encourage paintings you can touch, hear, smell and even taste.

And another thing: Get used to the word “holistic,” whether you want to or not.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for old-fashioned oil paintings to become a thing of the past.

In other words: Don’t just look at a work of art. Become a part of it.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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