Quote and Credit

Quote and Credit


High art versus Low art Witness the Elks RPPC

I had intended to take on the sticky issue of "High" art versus "Low" art today, but I smashed my thumb working in the back yard and typing is more laborious than usual. As such, i'll try to let the pictures do my typing for me.

"High" art and "Low" art is a concept which one may approach from a dozen angles. Economically (art for the rich and art for the poor) Esthetically (beautiful art and ugly art) Intellectually (smart and dumb) Compositionally (both in materials used to compose AND how the object is positioned)...by Audience (art for the elite and art for the masses) Scarcity (rare versus common, or a diamond versus "THE BEDAZZLER") Paintings versus comics, fine versus primitive, trained versus untrained, erotic versus pornographic, insider versus outsider, decorative versus functional, fine versus folk...All those and I'm only starting my coffee.

The concept implies a cultural stratification and indicates social identification. I suppose I lean towards low...being a common man myself. If you've followed the 6 months of my blog, that my taste runs right down the stairs to the artistic basement should be obvious. I like my music scratchy, my clothes worn and my fiction trashy.

A pair of images here to illustrate. Two elks. Both representations of the same animal. Both from roughly the same time period. One is "better" by even the most generous standards of high versus low... and it is most certainly BIGGER...note tiny, tiny fat man in between white elk's hoofs. (he is also an "elk" by the way...in that he is a member of a fraternal organization, hence the title of the card) But is the rag-tag, make-do stump art Elk shown less real? Less valid? Less important? Less pleasing? Nah. They're both great.

The most valuable "non-academic" folk art weathervanes were manufactured and forged. The most "interesting" folk art weathervanes were made by hand from materials around the farm. Both told the direction of the wind.

Comments welcome.

Pair of Real Photo postcards "The Two Largest Elks at Carnival Fulton N.Y." and "The Elk?" both circa 1910-1930. Collection Jim Linderman


  1. Lower one, much better, more creative, more convincing.

  2. that's a huge can of worms your about to open my friend. these are the concepts i wrestle with daily. i've been to art school and gone the academic route, but i'm definitely more drawn to the handmade craftsmanship and raw ingenuity of what many call lowbrow. oh, and the lack of pretension is a major plus.

    some days i feel almost corrupted by my education. like i could never achieve the same purity and spirit found in outsider art without merely imitating it. i think the same arguments could be made about art vs. craft. but then there's fine arts craft vs. regular craft. i know for me, the spirit in which something is made is more important than the skill level or technique... and originality goes a long way.

    i look forward to your future posts on the subject, once your hand has mended.

    take care,

  3. Okay the top one...I have a miniature one in white plastic, early '50s, that I drag out each Christmas. Looks just like this big fellow and I have a fat happy guy in red I stand next to him. I like mine better.

    The bottom one reminds me of the mud flat art that used to be seen on the east side of the SF/Oakland Bay Bridge. Long since gone, but people used to go down and build the most interesting things out of scrap wood that would wash up onto the flats. I distinctly remember my fav was a rendition of the large wooden Trojan rabbit from Python's Holy Grail. The art came and went. People would scavenge from other's work to build their own. It was especially effective at sunset.

  4. A couple more elk views for you: