Monday, July 14, 2008

High versus Low Art

Upon reading the Last entry in my Journal about the art of gay male artists titled Minor White I am reminded that there is another distinction that can be made between photographic work and/or artwork by all artists whether gay male, female or any other category we might choose. That distinction is high art versus low art.*1 For instance in my earlier discussions of the works by F. Holland Day and Baron Wilhelm Von Gloeden, I might have said that both aspired to create photographs that fit into the category “high art,” though from my haughty 21st century view point, I might also question whether either artist’s work fits into that category.

At the same time, the work of a photographer whose work I have not yet examined, “Bruce of Hollywood,” can definitely be categorized as “low art,” because he (Bruce) made no effort and/or pretence to fit his work into any category other than “Beefcake," (Or can it?).
In the case of Minor White, we know that he would have preferred, and definitely his life work demonstrates through the qualities invested in it that proper placement should be in the category of “high art.” That placement creates the seeming contradiction between my own categorization of White’s photographs of male nudes in my first category, “art about the male body.” However, I think it important at this stage of the process to say that gay male artists can create artwork about the male body with the intent that the work be categorized as high art, just as it might be possible for the same artist to create artwork about the relationship between his gay male identity and his knowledge of the world in general (my category #2) that utterly fails to fit into the category of high art, simply because of poor technique. Thus, I am making no claim that there is any relationship between the opposition, low versus high art and my own opposed categories one and two in this extended ramble.


*1 The substitution of the term "high culture" for high art is debatable, though often accepted in academic circles, and debating the conflation of the two terms might be the subject for another paper.

*2 Von Gloeden, Wilhelm, “Two Nudes in the convent of Saint Domingo,” in Wikimedia Commons,, last updated 00:43 November 6, 2006, viewed 1:04 PM EDT, July 13, 2008.

*3 "F. Holland Day: Menelek (33.43.158)". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006), viewed 2:15 PM EDT.

*4 Bruce of Hollywood (Bruce Harry Bellas), “Keith Stephans Reclining” –, , viewed 1:04 PM EDT, July 13, 2008.

*5 “Minor White: The Eye that Shapes, 1989,” jpeg image, Princeton University Art Museum.'s%20webpage/Minor%20White%20the%20Eye%20that%20Shapes.htm. Captured 8:33 A.M., Wednesday, July 2, 2008.

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