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The Opposite of Good Art 

When I was a student at Herron School of Art, I went to some pretty bad art shows -- shows where the artist seemingly spent more time hanging the art than making it. I would never say that to the artist's face though -- making art is already hard. Even when you know that what you are making may not be up to standard, there is still a glimmer of hope that someone else might see something brilliant about it. Maybe it is not so bad?

If you are a sensitive artist like I am, it may surprise you that there are people in this world who have good humor about the permanence of their awkward artistic efforts. So much humor in fact, that they donate their artwork to the Museum of Bad Art, as local artist Samantha Willson did for the "99% Inspiration + 1% Perspiration = No Sweat" exhibition, which is currently displayed at the Garfield Park Arts Center in partnership with the Museum of Bad Art (July 5th - July 26th).

Elsy Benitez, Gallery Manager for the Garfield Park Arts Center, explained some of the thought process behind the five works of art in the exhibition, which were submitted by the artists themselves: "[the artists] would be working on a picture of a colorful tree, for example, and maybe dropped some water, and then took extra color to add to the background, and decided that maybe the place for that piece was the exhibit." I can see what she is explaining to me, but I cannot picture myself showing people any of my art which I consider bad.

The Vanishing Woman painting by Hanna Hamilton is an 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas that was purchased at Boston thrift store, September 2011. It’s on loan at Garfield Park for the 99 % Inspiration + 1% Perspiration = No Sweat exhibit of “bad art” now through July 26th. - JENNIFER DELGADILLO
  • Jennifer Delgadillo
  • The Vanishing Woman painting by Hanna Hamilton is an 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas that was purchased at Boston thrift store, September 2011. It’s on loan at Garfield Park for the 99 % Inspiration + 1% Perspiration = No Sweat exhibit of “bad art” now through July 26th.

The Museum Of Bad Art began casually in a basement in the New England area when an enthusiast began collecting art that was "too bad to be ignored." The popularity for the collection grew, and there are now a couple galleries in theater basements in the Boston area and in Somerville, Massachusetts.

One of them is "conveniently located just outside the men's room in a 1927 movie theater." They also have a must-see online gallery.

I asked Benitez why they decided to do this exhibit -- after all, who are we to decide what is and isn't bad art? Benitez agrees. She knows the question is subjective. She says, "Sometimes something that is not technically bad is just conceptually bad. It is sincere though, not kitsch." The truth is, as it was pointed to me by the very patient Benitez, that many of the artists who work in the Garfield Park Arts Center are first-time art makers. Seeing art in a museum can be intimidating and the opposite of fun. It can be uncomfortable to only look at art made by people who are incredibly gifted or who have been working on their craft for a very long time. Viewing art that is openly imperfect can actually be more conducive to teaching art appreciation because it is relatable.

As I stood in front of a painting titled Vanishing Woman, it spoke to me. It seems to shout, "I am using vanishing point perspective" in a way that couldn't be considered good, but it seems to work under its own identity. It feels genuine.

I have a flashback of being 9 years old, trying to play Für Elise, over and over again. My parents' faces contorted in agony. I realize that it was art, because it was my method of expression. My skills fell short in trying to imitate Beethoven. Had I chosen to play something else, completely mine, perhaps it would have not been bad.

Learn more about the Museum of Bad Art online or visit the Garfield Park Arts Center by July 26 to find your own favorite bad art.

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About The Author

Jennifer Delgadillo

Jennifer Delgadillo

Jennifer Delgadillo is an artist who lives on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis where she enjoys making art, writing, reading magazines, and drinking wine with her husband and her neighbors. Her work is eclectic and ranges from doing diabetes research to cooking brunch on Sundays at Tlaolli. She writes regularly... more

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