EMILY HALL: Thank you very much for your article about Pigs on Parade ["Makin' Bacon," Emily Hall, May 31] and public art. The process by which the pigs were created, and the visible results on the sidewalks downtown, make very clear the role that art is meant to play in our society. When you take subject matter--sex, politics, religion, and anything else that corporations might not sponsor--out of art, what you have left is decoration.
Pigs on Parade strikingly illustrates the fact that "art... means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of power which holds it hostage," as the poet Adrienne Rich wrote in refusing the National Medal of Arts in 1997.
David Wright, Seattle
PIGS = SOCIAL DISCOURSE = ART
EDITOR: If art is social discourse, then as the article evidences, Pigs on Parade has succeeded as art. The fact that an organization, whether corporate or nonprofit, is willing to sponsor an artist's exposure may not get the public into the galleries to see artists' subjective creations, but such sponsorship does foster public discourse and give the artists exposure--even if that exposure is a name next to a pig.
Nick Beermann, via e-mail
GEEZ, READ THE ARTICLE, WOULD YA?
EDITORS: Emily Hall's article dissing the Pike Place Market Foundation's Pigs on Parade fundraiser captures the essence of what bugs me about The Stranger's dogged cynicism and elitism. It's okay for public art to be accessible sometimes--it really is. It's a temporary exhibit that livens up the city, amuses lots of people (kids especially love it), and raises money for the homeless. Geez, lighten up over there, would ya?
Megan McLemore, Seattle
DEAR STRANGER EDITOR: Kudos are deserved for your decision to print Emily Hall's intelligent and well-researched analysis of the Pigs on Parade fiasco. As an artist and one of the four anti-corporate-art protesters present at the May 26 event, I would like to reiterate on behalf of our protest group (the Seattle Stuckists) that we recognize the inherent social value of any event designed to help the less fortunate. Nonetheless, as artists, we felt that it was high time someone called attention to the subtle yet insidious corporate nature of the Pig Parade. The Seattle Stuckists are not against worthy causes; rather, we are pro-art and pro-artists. We plan to continue speaking out against the Pig Parade and similar consumer-driven events and artists (like Dale Chihuly and Thomas Kincade), with the ultimate goal of drawing attention to real art, art with value.
If your readers are interested in helping us spread the anti-consumer-art message, they can visit our websites at www.puppetslounge.com and www.stuckism.com.
Jeremy Puma, Seattle Stuckists
AT A CROSSROADS
DEAR EDITOR: I loved Emily Hall's examination of the Pigs on Parade travesty. It was a thorough and thoughtful article about the head-on collision at the crossroads of philanthropy, charity, good causes, and artistic intentions.
The bottom line is that benefactors have been lulled into believing that their act of philanthropy and charity should go rewarded by the exchange of their (tax deductible!) checks for the acquisition of material goods. Meanwhile, the artists (who are the real givers here) generally go unrewarded by everyone else in the good chair--the charitable organization and the well-intentioned, often wealthy benefactors who get the tax deduction as well as the artwork. Further, since current IRS laws make it impossible for the artists to deduct anything more than their costs, the artists get no tax benefit even if they itemize their deductions. And most artists don't make enough profit to bother itemizing their returns.
I love the Pike Place Market and all its worthy components, but the sad thing about Pigs on Parade is that it does nothing to dignify the artists or their endeavors. Offering artists a carrot disguised as a design fee of $1,000 is still an insult, because it effectively bribes them into expending valuable time and energy creating a work of art that is unlikely to be relevant to their ongoing studio endeavors or helpful to them in their careers. Are any serious artists going to put this charade on their resume?
We need to respect artists as professionals by allowing them to pursue their creative work without making them puppets. We need to reward benefactors by allowing them to give selflessly and then reward them with adulation, and not with material goods. Whatever happened to the great idea of giving charitably without expecting something in return?
Greg Kucera, Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle
EDITORS: So the problem with corporate sponsorship is that it turns art into a commodity? Emily Hall, you are turning art into a commodity yourself with your article. You want us to feel exploited somehow by having participated, to feel that we should get more out of it for ourselves, and less for the sponsors. You seem to think that art is only about perceived value; that artists are always vying for positions in the commodity food chain.
I think artists create because we are compelled to create, and that what we create in terms of content is not so important as the act that generates the art. Art is an obsession. It certainly has nothing to do with "perceived value."
Carol Milne, Proud Pig Artist
DEAR EDITOR: I found the whole premise of "Makin' Bacon" irritating, and I think The Stranger's "too cool" negativity has sunk to new levels of ridiculousness. The sculptures are supporting a good cause in the name of FUN! Has Emily Hall missed the point entirely?
I'd like to rebut Emily Hall on several key points: She supposedly couldn't find any artists to speak against the project "on record." Rather than subterfuge, could the simple reason be that we have no complaints and don't feel in the least exploited? Maybe she wasn't interested in positive feedback. Regarding compensation, which I felt was more than fair, has she factored in the actual costs of producing and marketing [the pigs]? Besides the $1,000 stipend, there's the fiberglass sculpture itself; the $500 in supplies; and the resins and epoxy overlays (which can cost up to $300 a gallon). We are paid whether the pigs are sold at auction or not--wish it worked that way in all the shows I'm in!
What about the basic tenets of beauty and pleasure? [Art] does not have to educate or raise consciousness. Did "Pop Art" meet the "angst" criteria? Did Dada? Does most portraiture or classical painting? Pigs on Parade is meant to be enjoyed... a concept that seems lost on the tragically hip.
Kelly Lyles, artist, Seattle
EMILY HALL RESPONDS: I found many participating artists who were disillusioned and unhappy with the pig-making process--but none of them wanted to speak on the record. I chose to respect their reticence. It only contributed to my feeling that artists feel hamstrung (no pun intended, God knows) by the funding opportunities in Seattle. I had better repeat, since it seems that some people became so bile-filled that they didn't make it to the end of the article, that I don't fault artists for participating, and I don't fault the public for having fun with it. The point is the disconnection between what most of the artists I talk to do in their studios every day, and what kind of perception about art this event creates. Once again, I'll ask, "Can we build a better fundraiser, one that doesn't relegate artists to the job of decoration?"
EDITOR: I want to thank Emily Hall and The Stranger for airing issues I've been [concerned about] for years.
Rochester, New York, just unleashed Horses on Parade. I don't paint on fiberglass or on horses, so I didn't get involved. I also don't compete with schoolchildren for gallery space; I don't furnish restaurants and doctors' offices with art work so they can save money on decorating. Last year I was finally able to muster the self-respect to refuse a vulgar woman who wanted a THIRD donation of my art to auction at her charity event.
It's refreshing that two other people in the world, Emily Hall and her editor, understand that artists aren't out of line if they expect to be paid for their work, and that the implications of programs like the animals on parade (in lieu of support for real artwork) are insulting.
Mary Kay Colling, artist, Rochester, New York
DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: In our recent story "Profit and Loss" [Pat Kearney, June 7], we incorrectly reported that Drugstore.com and Greenlight.com went out of business. Drugstore.com is still in operation, and Greenlight.com was bought out by CarsDirect.com. We regret our errors.