I wrote yesterday about a couple of comments left on my blog that took me to task about inappropriately comparing Quilt National to the State Fair. One of those commenters, Anonymous, who apparently was in a crabby mood, didn't stop there; she also was unhappy with my remarks about an unnamed quilter whose work I didn't respect.
She (or he?) wrote: "As for the quilter you have no respect for, why the sudden coyness? Name the quilter and stop hiding behind vague accusations."
Well, I'm not going to. For one thing, 99.9 percent of my readers wouldn't know her anyway, so what's the point? For another, I can't see that the quilter's name was relevant to the anecdote, which simply noted that it's easy to be seduced at first glance by flashy colors, which can distract you from poor design.
The hardest part of a critic's job -- at least, any critic who isn't a sadist -- is to know what to say about work that isn't very good. Movies are probably the art form in which you're most likely to read a bad review, because a lot of people look to the critic for guidance on whether to plunk down their eight bucks tomorrow. Critics are also likely to pan bad concerts or plays, for the same reason.
In the art world, critics in real newspapers rarely review bad shows, unless the artist is famous. Recently I've read negative reviews about shows by Cindy Sherman and Damien Hirst, to name a couple of really high-profile examples. But publications tend not to waste space saying bad things about artists at the lower ends of the food chain.
So what about bloggers, specifically me? I write a lot about work on exhibit, both fiber art and general art; whenever I attend a show or a museum I write about it with as many photos as possible, and comment on individual pieces as well as the show in general. I confess that I am far more likely to comment when I like a piece than when I don't, although that has happened on occasion. When I don't, I usually write in generalities (for instance, too many of the quilts had glitter) rather than in specifics (Suzy Q's quilt was ugly) because that's probably more interesting and helpful to the readers.
I don't think I'm hiding, as Anonymous suggested. I'm not afraid to be flamed, which is likely to occur when you say anything at all negative. A couple of months ago, for instance, I got in big trouble for saying I liked a quilt but hated the way it was photographed because you couldn't see the whole thing. (Good thing I didn't say I hated it!) I'm perfectly willing to speak up when I see things that I consider weak or dumb or thoughtless or whatever.
However, I don't see the point of gratuitous cruelty. To a certain extent, that ties my hands a bit. My comments about crappy quilts might be more interesting if I showed you photos of some, but it's just not worth it. I suspect you readers can fill in the blanks -- when I talk about an unnamed artist whose work I don't respect, just think of some artist whose work YOU don't respect, and see if the shoe fits. Sorry if you think I'm being coy; I prefer to think I'm being kind.
And by the way, speaking of anonymity, I have been told that the Blogger interface sometimes makes it difficult for people without Google accounts to leave comments. Here's a tip, in case you would like to comment without being identified as "Anonymous." After you type in your comment, it asks you to "choose an identity." You can choose "Name/URL" and then type in whatever name you want; leave the URL box blank.