I stumbled on some of the typewriter artworks of Jeremy Mayer yesterday and found myself as obsessed with his artist statement as with his work. Yeah, right— Art is a a disease and a curse?

Any long-winded tirades about recycling or nostalgia for mechanical machines would be absolute bullshit, and I’m renowned for bullshitting . I was broke and bored when it all came to me. The romantic high ideals that people have about art are moronic. Art is a disease and a curse if you do it for the right reasons.

I try my best not to fill the world with more contrived and saccharine shit.

The standard bio from 2004 is pretty humdrum:

Jeremy Mayer’s artwork is inspired by humanity, specifically our potential.

“I think we’re better than we think we are,” Mayer says. “[I like] Nietzsche’s idea of the Uberman, the Superman. It’s doable, but it’s just boring. It’s just not fun. It’s fun for people to make a bunch of money and have nice toys and big houses … It’s very childish, and it’s not the best we can do.”

Mayer, 32, grew up in rural northern Minnesota. The son of a railroad worker, he was the only artist in his family. But, says Mayer, “I was that kid”–that kid who could draw anything and did, from cars to cartoons. Mayer is a self-taught artist. From a young age, he would perform rigorous art exercises, a habit he employs to this day.

“I’m very serious when it comes to art, using the very best materials, taking as much time as it takes no matter what it costs,” Mayer says. “It’s the one thing in my life that I do the best, and everything else in my life falls into place. It’s my evolution.”

The connection between typewriters and making money seems to be impossible to sever; Mayer is blatant about that in an interview from 2002. I can respect that a lot more than the idea that art is a form of “exercise” that leads to “evolution.” Feh. That is a sort of phony and saccharine spiritualism that the world could use much less of.

“I was and still am fascinated by the intricacy and efficiency of the strange little Rube Goldberg contraption that is the typerwriter,” Mayer explained in a statement about his art. “There is no good reason that I can imagine that the machinery of the typewriter had to be engineered to be so beautiful and organic, as it would function perfectly well without being pretty.”

Mayer, 29, grew up in Minnesota and started drawing in high school. The first pieces he sold were things like cars and wildlife scenes, anything that would sell. He’d place his work in galleries around the North Shore of Lake Superior, where tourists visited.

“I made enough money to buy clothes, a car,” he said. “I failed art in high school once, so I never cared much about the institution. Any technique I was interested in I mastered quickly. I did not like to not know what I was doing.”

After graduating high school, Mayer moved to Lake Tahoe in 1990 to snowboard. Influenced by American Indian spiritualism, his art work became more mystical.

“But I figured out somewhere that I’m a white guy,” he said. “There was not a lot I could do except be respectful (of Indian spiritualism) and what I was doing was not. It was becoming a commercial form of expression.”

Spiritual snowboarding is just about as understandable as this “commercial form of expression.” People like to buy things that look cool. Damn that cursed art that makes money. Sometimes it really seems like artists should just keep their mouths shut and do stuff. The world would be filled with less contrived and saccharine shit.

Update: The Star Tribune (free, but registration required) has a wonderful review of the Minnesota Biennial by Mary Abbe that repeats much of this sentiment:

Enough with the playpens. Artists have been wallowing in them for decades, encouraged by art schools, galleries, museums and collectors to release their inner child, to express their wanton wills and to liberate whatever little thoughts and emotions might flit through their little minds and souls. Well. Enough about you and your whims, your neuroses, your flights of fancy, your scribbles and drips and fun-with-the-trash.

Let’s declare an end to navel-gazing, sophomoricism, banality and self-indulgence. Let’s move on to something — anything — more visually engaging and intellectually stimulating than the dismal dreck that’s showcased through Feb. 3 in the Minnesota Biennial: 3D II at the Minnesota Museum of American Art.

I haven’t seen that show yet, but now I really must go to see if it is as terrible as she says it is. There is also the glowingly reviewed Kahlo exhibit at the Walker… damn this holiday traffic!

4 thoughts on “Masks”

  1. Hi Jeff,
    As someone who submits my endeavors for public approval, sometimes I’m asked questions about why I do this.
    I don’t like to answer. Not even a little. I did the work- the reasons are quite obvious when you think about it. My answers are often evasive and not well formed, only because I hate to do it. My skills in communicating, in my mind, are more refined in object making than in written and verbal communication.
    I wouldn’t feel any need to explain myself to you if it weren’t for the fact that your post comes up when people do a search for me, so I figure since I’m being criticized I’d steal a little equal time.
    A few years back I had a business card that said,”Jeremy Mayer- Sculptor, Illustrator, Hypocrite.” I don’t purport to be anything that I’m not. I don’t mind being a hypocrite. Hell, just writing this in reaction to your post is utterly hypocritical, as is the next sentence. I don’t feel any need to come up with any coherent statements about what I do because I don’t have any responsibility to do so.
    When one is a self-purported rhetorician, however, there might be a little more pressure to write eloquently. When one calls themselves a photographer, there may be a little pressure to take a good picture. We all put ourselves out there in ways that threaten to expose the extent of our own delusion.
    Maybe you’ll have better luck reconciling the act of creating and the completely redundant act of talking about it afterward than I have.
    Thanks Jeff,
    Jeremy Mayer

  2. Jeremy, I haven’t had any better luck than you have. That’s why I became so obsessed with piecing together those statements.
    The implicit contradictions of humanized machines and the incoherent statements that one might make about what is essentially life, or at the very least a habit of making things fit together, fit poorly to a posthumous critique of the objects that resulted. My rhetorical questioning has as much to do with my own thoughts on pieces I’ve done as the work you do. The ill-fit of the answers is part of a larger problem that fascinates me.
    Rhetoric is simply the field of study in which I’m being certified in at the University of Minnesota. There isn’t any “purporting” going on there. Rhetoric is a techné, a craft of making things– in this case with words– which shares an affinity with making things out of other raw materials. It would be “moronic,” as you say, to claim it as a fertile ground for “romantic high ideals.”
    I’ve written my share of moronic artist’s statements, when I was exhibiting as a photographer. Initially, I really admired your candor in the first statement I quoted. I’ve been the victim of interviews, such as the second quote, where the writer constructed a neat package from what is really a fairly complex activity. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that artist’s statements in general are condemned to be saccharine bullshit.
    It wasn’t really my intention to pick on you, but rather on the genre of the statement/interview in general applied to artistic products. They always fall short, or worse, run-over the work under consideration.

  3. Jeremy, your work rocks big time. Having worked with Jeff for many years (but not discussing your work with him *yet*) I can guarantee you he likes it as much as I do. Thanks.

  4. Hi Jeff, and Rex,
    I got defensive, obviously. Sorry.
    It’s something we all have to think about now isn’t it? Wrangling our own data trails. I’m really bad at it so far.
    Here’s a link to an art statement generator:
    That pretty much sums it all up.
    I have enjoyed your posts, and I apologize for having sullied your pages with my tantrum.

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