In 2018, Mika Matsuno and I curated the exhibition Bad Art at Brown University’s Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage Carriage House Gallery.
The exhibition featured artist-identified “bad” art, which we accepted by submission. We also organized a life drawing class with dogs. At the exhibition opening, we encouraged visitors to observe through drawing and sketch the installed work. Visitors added their work from the life drawing class and their sketches at the opening to the exhibition.
Mika and I curated Bad Art based on our experiences taking life drawing classes together at AS220, a non-profit community arts organization in downtown Providence, RI.
In my first life drawing class, I stared up at the nude model. Looking around the room at others’ drawings, I saw complex shading techniques and precise attention to detail.
I drew a series of abstract stick figures. My first feelings were those of inadequacy and even a sense of moral judgment: because I am bad at art, I am a bad person.
Sitting with these bad feelings, I thought about negativity as a relational capacity. How can the label of “bad art” allow us to be more creative? How can an immediate disclaimer actually invite further inquiry? Can we make bad art together?
We curated Bad Art as a call to notice, sketch, and collaboratively create, an invitation to make something, even—or maybe especially—if it’s ugly and messy and saccharine.
In his 1980 review of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, New York Times art critic Harold Kramer called the installation artwork “bad art” because of its overt feminist message. What does it mean to reject traditional aesthetic categories and make bad art together?