On Elitism: A Conversation

by Rainey Knudson Christina Rees June 5, 2016
brandon sugar land selfie statue

Glasstire Assistant Editor Brandon Zech poses in front of the selfie statue in Sugar Land, TX (his hometown!)

Rainey Knudson: We had a comment on Facebook last week saying that our use of the term “suburban” in a news post (about a bronze selfie statue in Sugar Land) was elitist and annoying. The commenter likened it to using the term “ghetto.”

Christina Rees: If any kind of publication is going to use the word “suburban” as a pejorative, it’s an art publication. I have no problem with that.  Most people living out in suburban sprawl (in Texas, this is called ‘exurbs’) have little interest in what we’re up to. The feeling is mutual. Why should Glasstire have to make everyone feel good about every decision they make? That’s not realistic for an art publication, and it’s not serving our actual readership very well. We happen to have a point of view. 

Humor comes into it as well. 

RK: Well, I do resist the notion that everything that’s cool is going on in the urban centers. One of the great Texas artists, Charlie Stagg, lived in Vidor. Or look at Forrest Bess in Bay City, or any number of artists today who don’t live in one of the big cities. But it’s true that suburban areas tend to be soul-crushingly dull. I don’t go to Sugar Land because I need something beyond Marshall’s Home Goods and The Cheesecake Factory.

But back to the FB comment, I’m interested in, and dismayed by, this notion that elitism is a bad thing—that wanting to be elite and to associate with the elite is negative. This comes up all the time on both sides of the political discourse in our country, and it’s seeped into cultural thinking as well.

CR: My bait worked wonders.

That’s the point of the somewhat flippant comment I started out with. I don’t think elitism is a bad thing at all, especially as it applies to art or our expectations for it. But we need to define elitism. Elitism for me means knowing enough and being invested enough in something (something with intrinsic quality, like art) as to be truly discriminating. And can you be an elitist if you have no authority on a topic? Where does that authority come from?

How does this relate to the word “snob”? It can mean something similar, but many people (in Texas) might use the word ‘snob’ to define, say, someone who lives in the bigger McMansion in the suburbs who looks down on their neighbor who lives in the smaller McMansion. That form of ‘snobbery’ doesn’t interest me. That’s just insecurity given another name, a misused word.

It might be that the FB commenter thinks elitism and snobbery are just unjustified ways of people defining themselves against others in a bid for ego building. And really, if the FB commenter knows little about art (or Glasstire), how would that person see Glasstire as anything but elitist or exclusive? How would they know that we care deeply about art if they don’t understand that impulse?  

Art deserves elitism. Artists work hard to have their work recognized as worth the time of people who are invested in art being good, in being interesting, in being transformative.

RK: I’ve been reading Robert Hughes and this reminds me of him: “I don’t think stupid or ill-read people are as good to be with as wise and fully literate ones. I would rather watch a great tennis player than a mediocre one… Consequently, most of the human race doesn’t matter much to me, outside the normal and necessary frame of courtesy and the obligation to respect human rights. I see no reason to squirm around apologizing for this. I am, after all, a cultural critic, and my main job is to distinguish the good from the second-rate.”

It’s funny because here we are, a couple of art critics who’ve decided to live in Texas, far from the center of the art market, and we’re looking down our noses at the local suburbs. From a certain point of view, we’re all rubes here. But that’s exactly what Hughes himself dealt with as an Australian.

CR: In general, I don’t think of myself as ‘looking down’ on the suburbs. I just understand that local suburbs aren’t where I’ll go to look at or think about or talk about art. And local suburbanites shouldn’t come to an art critic to talk about, I don’t know, McMansion design. I suppose even that sentence is dripping with disdain? 

Live and let live. It takes all kinds. Etc.

So since I don’t harass the local government of Flower Mound to open a real contemporary art space, I don’t know why a denizen of Flower Mound should come to Glasstire and expect us to speak directly to his needs, either. If there’s some attitude coming off of either party on approach, so be it. It’s really nothing to lose sleep over.

But like the whole problem behind the idea of “everybody gets a trophy” a la kindergarten, it’s just not realistic that an art critic, wherever we live, dumb ourselves down so that people who DON’T think about art can feel less excluded. That’s dystopian Vonnegut territory right there. Break my leg so I can’t outrun you.

And yes, artists are spread out and some of them aren’t in the city centers. But real artists, wherever they live and work, deserve some articulate and knowing people in their audience. I can’t turn off my intellectual curiosity anymore than I can change the color of my eyes. I’d carry that with me to the middle of the Sahara, even if there wasn’t a soul around. Am I a rube for living in Texas? Maybe. But if I am, I am definitely an elitist one. 


RK: What’s funny about elitism-as-a-negative is that it cuts in every direction. One person’s elite is another person’s “authentic” American. The word “elite” just becomes derogatory shorthand for Not My Tribe. It’s hard to defend elitism without coming off like Ayn Rand, but again, I think Robert Hughes and you both do an admirable job of it. I’m with you regarding elitism, by the way.

In the art world, what is elite has become camouflaged by the crappy aesthetic of postmodernism. I saw the Core exhibition last week at the MFAH and while it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe from a couple of people, I left thinking about how this is the present-day Academy. Meaning the Core, and its brethren programs and institutions all over the country, are like the 19th-century insiders who hoovered up most of the patronage and circled the wagons against Manet et al. Elitism in the art world is tricky because the anti-establishment project of modernism has been fully embraced and digested by the powers that be (see Mark Flood’s show at CAMH). At the Core show, the art may be “difficult” in the sense that your average person who doesn’t follow art isn’t going to get much out of it, but it fits easily into the mainstream of what’s rewarded in today’s art world.

CR: Though there’s a big difference between not being able to get something out of art because you don’t understand the vernacular, versus not getting something out of it because there’s no there there. Dan Colen’s paintings are up at the Dallas Contemporary right now and all I can think of when I walk through that show is: This guy is really just taking shots in the dark here. He has no driving impulse: he’s a manufactured bad-boy art star with no compass. I suppose only some of us can see that. (Elitism can be lonely, yes?) And this work evidently makes money (i.e. is accepted by some part of the ‘establishment’) because his work kind of looks like art and smells like art. But there’s very little actual art within it.

Money controls almost everything, including the way art’s visual language and “street cred” trickles up, but money really, really cannot buy taste (and by ‘taste’ here I mean the deeper understanding of the history and value of art and how one applies that to their understanding of art going forward).

The real elitism is happening amongst the real artists and the people who care about what they do. The real elitism is happening in bars and artists’ studios and in artist-run spaces where the ideas haven’t already been bought and diluted by money. That’s a pretty esoteric redefinition of elitism, and it’s steeped in bohemia, but goddamn—that’s where much of the good stuff is. In the trenches. This stuff trickles up eventually as well, but not in the same synthetic way as we see in residencies and MFA programs and mega-galleries; its pipeline is not solely dependent on the flow of money. It’s dependent on a credibility established amongst artists and the art-obsessed.

HGO La Boheme

Houston Grand Opera’s La Boheme from 2012. Photo © Felix Sanchez/HGO

RK: Ah, bohemia. It’s such a seductive and romantic notion. But I would still argue that great art is all about regular people’s everyday experience of the world. Cubism looks romantic today because it’s old-fangled and the collaged newspaper bits have yellowed, but it’s about sitting in a café with your eye moving about and pasting together an image of the world. Which is something suburbanites do in their local Starbucks today.

And I hate this notion of the starving artist, of romantic poverty, being superior to having wealth. I think you get a percentage of poor people and a percentage of rich people who are interesting and intellectually curious. And it’s a pretty low percentage in both cases. Therefore elitism.

CR: I don’t care about how much money anyone has. I just think dumb people, rich or poor, should keep their noses out of art. It drags the whole tone down. Let them collect or pay attention to something else. There’s plenty of shit out there for them to deal with without asking an art world to cater to their stupidity.

I don’t expect the Dallas Mavericks to let me play on their team just so I can feel “included.” I don’t expect a hospital to let me perform brain surgery on a child so I can feel “included.” Why does art have to let everyone in?

RK: Because art is wrongly understood to be an endeavor mainly about “expressing oneself,” and people believe (correctly) that everyone expresses themselves, so shouldn’t everyone be able to make art?

But the art world (which I am increasingly convinced no longer has much to do with art) deserves this “inclusivity” business you speak of because it has allowed artists to get away with terrible, terrible art for a long time. If I never again see a half-baked installation with a little pile of sawdust on the floor and a two-by-four leaning against the wall, it will be too soon. And let’s not even get started on the sea of faux naïf figurative painting we’re all drowning in right now. And it’s everybody’s fault: it’s the museums’ fault; it’s the schools’ fault; it’s the marketplace’s fault; and ultimately, mostly, it’s the fault of the artists.

The elite artists in Texas—the people who are making truly great stuff—all have a high level of skill and robust ideas that speak to people. Difficult is easy. Easy is very hard. It’s like the old saying: drama rides the limo and comedy rides the bus. People don’t value comedy, because it seems easy and cheap, even though it’s a lot harder to make people laugh than to make them cry. It’s a lot harder to make a visually compelling work of art that grabs people’s attention and speaks to them than it is to make a tiresomely opaque one that has little do to with our experience of the universe.

paint party

CR: I agree. Though here’s where I have a strange sort of sympathy for the bad artists. The ones who don’t know they’re bad or don’t know that their ideas are thin or empty. I don’t fully understand how their radar can be so broken as to believe their shit belongs in a gallery or museum. But it happens. I don’t much blame them. I blame their enablers. I blame the people who have figured out how to wring money out of the situation. And there is money in inclusiveness, or it wouldn’t be happening. That’s how the art world is set up, or certainly the direction it’s headed in, through MFA programs and art residencies, through museum programming, through art dealers who know they’re hawking empty work, through “arts writers” who pen gushing profiles of dubious “artists” for glossy lifestyle magazines.

I resent it. It seems no other professional sphere is as invaded by populism as art is. Maybe education.

But in a sense, some of the drivers behind this awfulness are the “art lovers” who are happy to give trophies to anyone who tries. They don’t understand the critical thinking or the consensus building or context that underlines the good art. They really do not understand the qualitative difference between a Thomas Kinkade image and Thomas Kinkade image that’s been very smartly fucked with by Sterling Allen.

I want these people out of my art world. I’m an elitist and I’m happy with that.

RK: Me too. I mean about being an elitist.



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Teri Brewer June 5, 2016 - 14:21

“There’s plenty of shit out there for them to deal with without asking an art world to cater to their stupidity.” = name calling = elitism = bully

Meredith Jack June 6, 2016 - 11:39

Being labled as “Op-Ed” means from the git-go that what follows is an opinion, or in this case a dialog of similar opinions. Opinions are personal positions on a subject & in this political season are proliferating. There are no correct or incorrect opinions, you can choose to agree or disagree, depending how they correspond to your opinions. But realize that when you reject an opinion and therefore choose to reject the purveyor of that opinion in the future, you have chosen to limit your input of information to those that agree with yourself, again an appropriate simile to how politics are conducted in contemporary America.

Alison Jarvis June 5, 2016 - 14:33

Glasstire, I believe you’ve crossed the line into full blown masturbatory prolix that makes your “elitist” sensibilities read as unsophisticated and ignorant. If i were you, Rainey and Christina, I would bury this post deep amongst the archives and hope it’s forgotten in a year or two. Or you could seek anonymity in the unenlightened suburbs. (I live in the Heights, FYI. And I have an MFA. Does that give me street cred?)

Meredith Jack June 6, 2016 - 11:41

See above. No having an MFA or anything else merely makes you a consumer. You don’t have to have an MFA to be an artist, what do you make?

Meredith Jack June 6, 2016 - 13:55

AJ, Sorry about that I got called away & hit the post button in my haste.As to the value of an MFA , there just doesn’t seem to be any, unless yours is from Yale, and in that case why are you here? After all the only thing that makes any one an artist is to be making art & you don’t need a degree for that. The MFA is an invention of the WW2 GI bill, when al these guys came back from the war & used their education bennies. I confess to having drunk the cool-aid too & it hasn’t been all that helpful or hurt-full. I suppose if you had fun it was worth it, otherwise it just cost a lot of money.

Alison Jarvis June 6, 2016 - 15:19

I was referring to Christina’s comment about “how the art world is set up.” It was sarcasm.

Melinda Laszczynski June 5, 2016 - 15:34

This is great. Art is not for everyone. Also, places like Pinot’s Palette make me die a little inside every time I see one.

Susan Schmaeling June 5, 2016 - 15:50

I am just blown away by the selfie statue. Thank you GlassTire for sharing Mr. Zech’s glamour shot with us. I count on GlassTire to keep me abreast of all cultural art topics including viewpoints on elitism and questionable sculptures situated in public spaces.

Horace Jeffery Hodges June 5, 2016 - 16:45

I have no problem with elitism on the part of an art critic. Somebody has to stand up for standards. But I don’t like this sort of elitism:

“The museum’s home of Bentonville, high in the Ozarks (the region is undeniably beautiful), is also home to the Walmart Corporation, and it’s a semi-charming town, but the region feels a little spooky. Its stubborn ruralness has a whiff of meth hillbilly. As I walked and drove around town and dealt with my hotel’s front-desk people and gas-station cashiers and the like, I could sometimes hear the sinister banjo playing in my head.” (http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.kr/2014/09/christina-rees-on-state-of-art.html)

Ms. Rees looks down on the Ozark locals and imagines them to be inbred, meth-addicted hillbillies. I don’t need elitism of that sort from an art critic.

Paul S June 5, 2016 - 17:42

Several times as I read the struggle for validation posted above, my eyes crossed and the page blurred and all I could see was you both almost suffocating in anticipation of your MENSA entrance exam results. You clearly have a lot of feelings about stupid people and are also clearly confident that such a label can’t be applied to you. I have no idea if I’m smarter than you, but I do think I know one thing that you apparently don’t: how utterly unimportant you are to artists.

I’m bothering to write this now in the hope that you won’t further embarrass yourself with similar posts in the future. In my ten-plus years working with artists and organizations in Texas, I can’t recall a single time anyone said “did you see the article on Glasstire about _____” without almost immediately laughing. I never thought about it before, but I wonder how many visitors your site gets when you aren’t so transparently attempting to gin up controversies. In reading a few other articles before deciding whether to respond here I noticed how few of them have responses in the comment section. That can’t bode well.

There’s this overwhelming sadness that comes from watching uninteresting people try so hard to defend elitism while under the mistaken belief that they’re actually elites. I didn’t think opinions could get any more banal than those posts you sweated out about Facebook last year, but you have finally managed to surprise. I guess that’s something.

Lee Hill June 5, 2016 - 18:27

I read this and understand the invasion of populism in art. It’s the same in most creative professions. It seems though there is a tinge of mean spiritedness to the dialogue above. I remember the article about Bentonville and thought the same thing.

All in all the time on the stingy mean girl thing gets old. I would get the point just the same with a little light hearted kindness and humor thrown in or is that simply too hard?

Fred Cerkan June 5, 2016 - 18:49

Dear RK & CR:
I thought it was a great read. You touched on a few items that I had not before considered as being all in the same vein. Like all art, I will have to reread your dialog a couple of more times to totally unpack all its meanings.
That Selfie statue makes me think of a 3D bill-board set out to remind us that, OMG, its time to take another selfie. Hopefully this sellfie statue does not start a trend that will replace the hero-on-horseback bronzes that currently reside in so many big-city parks.

dob June 5, 2016 - 21:31

Rainey and Christina, I am a rube. I don’t even live in a city but instead reside in the country between two smallish south central Texas towns. With this being said I take no offense to your post because I not only get what you are saying but also happen to agree with it.
I look to Glasstire to give me perspective on the Texas art scene. I find I am quite content to keep most of my attention relegated to the state rather than attempting to come to terms with a larger scene which has become more and more a hollowed out shell of something which at its core is a wonderful and much needed part of the human experience.
I do NOT look to Glasstire to give me another sugar coated namby-pamby pat on the back to everyone who is making more money through the recycling of tired outdated ideas and the re-selling of re-packaged art which is in reality nothing more than expensive salves for wealthy egos. If I want that kind of art journalism I’ll read Art in America.
For me I don’t think in terms of being elitist. I believe the term suggests a certain better than them sensibility and my momma warned me not to fall into that trap. What I do ascribe to however is intellectualism. Regardless of where one hails from, what one’s social status might be or even the level of one’s education the world of the intellectual is open to any who would take the time and show the interest. Anyone with their eyes half open can see the art world is at what could very well be an incredibly important turning point. If we all stick our heads in the sand and sing the praises of the emperor’s new clothes the concept of art just might slip to the point of no return, and that boys and girls would be a sad slip indeed.
The only thing that is going to prevent such a travesty is the involvement of people who get it, people who have knowledge of art history along with an understanding of current trends and their significance. That type of specialized knowledge is not privy to the casual observer but if the casual observer is smart they will understand that by paying attention to those who DO have that knowledge, the intellectuals in a given field, they will learn volumes. Do they have to agree with everything being put forth…absolutely not, but I have yet to see a truly intelligent person who believed in their heart of hearts that everyone should agree with them. The truly learned seem to enjoy having others question and offer discourse because that furthers EVERYONE’s knowledge. I have yet to read an article on Glasstire where I felt discourse was not welcome.
I read Glasstire for opinions, opinions grounded in knowledge of a particular field. While I have certainly not agreed with every opinion I have read, I have yet to be left with that nasty aftertaste that follows a dose of pablum and saccharin. Thank you both for having the balls to not only have opinions but to state them in a public forum. The art world is in need of a great deal more of such elitist behavior!

Alison Jarvis June 5, 2016 - 21:54

If the only memorable thing about this exhausting (and wine-fueled?) exchange is the hilarious pic of Brandon Zech with the selfie statue, what does that say about the post and what does that say about the statue?

Jonatan Lopez June 5, 2016 - 22:04

This is fu#kin awesome, I am going to be hooked now to your bold, clear, honest, funny and yeah, elitist work. Both of you ❤️❤️

m June 6, 2016 - 06:32

Mercy but them’s a whole lotta fancy esoteric words!

m June 6, 2016 - 06:38

Dated as it is, Don Thompson’s ‘$12 million stuffed shark’ just might be a recommended read at this point.

m June 6, 2016 - 08:01

Oh, and a critique of the above discussion… one glaringly obvious missing factor is agency. Art criticism often operates within the prescribed boundaries of seemingly elite terminology, much of it bordering on self-adulation (though the term ‘ineffectual-intellectual’ comes to mind). It does so because that has been its training and, as such, is its job/career/etc. As a critic, one is given agency to examine and exalt or deride art in its many forms. So-called ‘ordinary’ people/citizens who are not art critics and do not make their living critiquing ‘all things art’, are no less qualified to critique art due to their lack of agency; their views are no less valid, though possibly less informed/inclusive. To vanquish their insights to the trash heap is to to suggest an elitism bolstered by exclusivity which, by definition, excludes. A more inclusive stance is more exhaustive, by both definitions, but sidling up with the inclusive/exhaustive seems more egalitarian, and people just might find that a bit more to their liking. In other words, let’s not be snobs.

jml June 6, 2016 - 09:22

Many years ago Christopher Knight wrote a piece in praise of Elitism.


It’s a sad fact of life that we often don’t want to admit, but some things really are better than others.

John H. June 6, 2016 - 10:48

Christina: Is Dan Colen’s work populism? I’m comparing your comment on Dan Colen to the statement: “It seems no other professional sphere is as invaded by populism as art is.” Or are you saying there are problems on both ends of the spectrum? Populism vs “aspirational elitism”, perhaps. (Work popular just because people want to believe it’s elite). This question may also apply to Rainey’s “sawdust” work theorized above, and seems to flow through many of the comments on the recent Mark Flood review.

Christy June 6, 2016 - 12:18

Masjid At-Taqwa is a mosque located in Sugarland. In this suburban landscape, it’s architecture and design may seem starkly postmodern. It is, however, an inspiring and authentic God-centered place of worship. Yes, Sugarland is home to McMansions, lots of gas stations, fast food restaurants, banal shopping malls, and now a bronze statue of two women taking a selfie. It’s also home to an incredibly diverse group of citizens. Mind-numbing, it is not. Sugarland’s contrasting aesthetics is completely worthy of intellectual curiosity and investigation.

What are the benefits of elitism in art and what is the standard? From your conversation, it does not include education, having a piece in a show, having a piece bought by a collector or being part of a museum’s collection. I am sure your position as arbiters do not solely depend on subjective beliefs. What objective standard do you use when critiquing a work of art? What are the definitions of good, interesting, and transformative in regards to a work of art? What makes an idea robust? And why should I listen to you?

Recreational art making places like Pinot’s Palace serve a function and allow everyday people to experience the creative process. Do they compete with contemporary art spaces? Do they mock those spaces? I don’t know. But maybe the professional art world can take ONE cue from places like Pinot’s Palace by making its actual spaces assessable to as many folks as possible. That way the work inside whatever space – outside or inside – can stand up to some measurable criteria.

Anthony June 6, 2016 - 12:19

Art inherently is elitist. The elite are the one’s indulging on the faux-intellectualism that we keep serving up on a silver plated plater. Make no mistake, that piece in Sugar Land is AWESOME, and we know it. Does it not illustrate our human experience in the contemporary sense? I wish I made it, and had the stone to push it through the selection committee.

Anthony June 6, 2016 - 12:21


Maybe we call all do this…

Anthony June 6, 2016 - 14:22


Drea June 6, 2016 - 13:05

The best thing about this article is the comments section. Rainey and Christina could’ve started in earnest by silk screening tshirts that read “I grew up in Suburbia and/or my family did, and I hate myself.” Then they could show the tshirts in a gallery… somebody at Glasstire could write an oped about it, and then we could revisit ideas of populism, suburbia, and elitism in art.

lol June 6, 2016 - 15:38

“Art is only cool if it’s a big lawn chair or a tiny church but like just left outside at random” – people from the heights

Dumb dumb suburb mum June 6, 2016 - 18:45

Rainey is also the person that believes poor kids should not go to elite colleges if they can’t “afford” it. She’s the rich girl who married an art guy and started an online journal so she and her besties could sit around macbook pros typing all fancy about intellectuals and intellectualisms us dumb suburban folk don’t understand.

You do realize you two are the girls in the statue except you two use a shitty “art journal” (im no elite but id say art journal is debatable) to fuel your narcissism.

Why would two fancy elites waste their valuable elitist intellect justifying their ongoing issues with being those “beneath” them. As another commenter said unsophisticated and mastabatory at best.

Ddsm June 6, 2016 - 18:56

Also how is this statue any different than the art guys observations of the common and mundane. Oh wait the person that made it came up with it at a Starbucks and not a bohemian cafe or a mushroom fueled nature walk? Get over yourselves really.

Claire June 7, 2016 - 00:52

Wait. There’s an actual TRENCH with my name on it if I just keep scratching at the clay? Ballsy for a swamp.

Julon June 7, 2016 - 03:14

The metamessage is the art can and should the subject to criticism and yes, everybody has an opinion. Who really wants to not discuss art, not state opinions? That wouldn’t lead to anything good! Calling an art critic elitists is just as cool as calling artists elitists or curated shows elitists or gallerists, no point.

Ariel June 7, 2016 - 09:44

Comparing the word “suburban”, a group of people who have chosen to live in a community based on access to low-cost retail and protected enclaves to “ghetto” which refers to a group of people who are constricted by their abject poverty is borderline offensive. Everyone wants to be an underserved population these days huh? It must look really cute from the outside.

I love this post. I’m defensive about people’s right to say that paintings of rainbow parrots and sculptures dedicated to the dream of white girls being basic lacks imagination.

My opinion is this: I respect and understand a person’s desire to raise a family in a place that they feel is safe. You can trick yourself into believing that you can protect your children from sex, drugs, the indecent (minorities, transgender people, gays lol we won’t go there today… sorry I introduced a whole new argument) but in doing so you leave out the discomfort and the challenges that lead to inspiration, growth, expansion and some could argue… good art. It’s not just about being “elite” (although money can by new experiences, but it can’t but a shift in perspective), it’s about confronting an existence or an experience that made you uncomfortable, taught you, stretched you, and then dealing with it creatively. And that confrontation is hard to come by when you have done everything you can to protect yourself from it.

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 10:54

The self appointed elite of FUCKING GLASSTIRE. please.

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 11:11

I’m really looking forward to the Christina Rees and Rainey Knudson exhibit opening. I’m sure the critical elite will have only positive, non-arbitrary taste making comments that will come–and it should go without saying–from the correct and appropriate vantage point. When is that show, by the way?

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 11:49

The self appointed elite of *fudging GLASSTIRE.

*language softened after original comment was deleted by moderator.

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 12:49

The self appointed of GLASSTIRE. please.

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 14:13

I think the most hilarious thing about this is the notion or suggestion that glasstire is elite. It’s also hilarious that if this comment gets added to this thread it will be the fourth time I pointed out that the notion of glasstire elitism is absurd, but my previous attempts were “moderated.” But I guess that’s part of their elite duty; to sculpt perception.

Alex June 7, 2016 - 14:19

Forget elitism. How do y’all feel about free speech/open forums/differing opinions?
Because I think a handful of comments have gone missing here…

Alex June 7, 2016 - 15:07

Wow. Not sure why you won’t let these (rather tame) comments post. But they’ve all been screen-grabbed. So I guess we’re getting some insight into what you don’t want your readers to see?
If Glasstire ever wants to be taken seriously, you may want to change your “moderation” policy.

Rainey Knudson June 7, 2016 - 16:31

Our moderation policy is to read all comments before they post, which sometimes results in a lag before they’re published. This is standard practice on most serious websites. The main reason is to weed out any spam that makes it through our filters. The secondary (far less common) reason is to weed out libel. Profanity and critique are permissible and welcomed. More here: https://glasstire.com/2014/07/14/in-defense-of-online-comments/

John P June 7, 2016 - 17:01

Was mine libel or spam.

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 17:09

That lag certainly seems to prioritize based on content, as some of my comments came and went. They’re all there now though. This is a serious website, and should be taken very seriously.

John P June 7, 2016 - 17:35

While I wait on my previous comment.

You should get my spam filter. It automatically chucks out all the unsolicited Glasstire e-mails I didn’t ask for, but receive almost daily about inane click bait. Had there been a real comment or privacy policy like real organizations make available I would have never used a real e-mail address.

And really what’s wrong with, “https://glasstire.com/2016/06/08/lol-we-were-just-pretending-to-be-retarded/”? You may very well end up writing that piece someday. I thought it was pretty clever, unlike, “Ugh, the suburbs. Plebs.. *fart noises*” That’s just goofy, the burbs are a ghost town 9-5 so the people that own their ass can buy art, rub elbows with you, and snicker how the slaves don’t get it and couldn’t afford it anyway. Disgusting.

Do you really get non-profit tax breaks on behalf of literally everyone in the country just so you can call almost all of they same people stupid when they aren’t looking? Does The Houston Endowment, The Brown Foundation, Inc., the the National Endowment for the Arts, the Greater Houston Community Foundation, the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, and the Texas Commission for the Arts support that position?

jk who would want to rub elbows with y’all

Alex June 7, 2016 - 17:36

Well thank gawd there’s no spam! I wouldn’t even know what to do if I saw spam in a comment section.
And you really see it as your job to “weed out libel”? YES. US defamation laws DO allow for a whole lot o’ free speech. I’m so glad we have art blogs to protect us from that! Both of these excuses seem like a piss-poor defense for something that looks a whole lot like curating the responses to your content.

Justin B June 7, 2016 - 18:19


Jam packed with someone else’s favorite elite hits like:
“You Probably Don’t Know How To Look At This”
“Keep Them Out”
“You’ll Like What I Say Is Worthy”

and the evergreen classic…
“I Sure Do Hope That Less People Learn About Art So That I Can Keep My Thin Skin In The Game Because Seriously What Would We Do If All The Gross Common People Started To Pay Attention To Art? Would They Start Making Art? Would They Dare To Have Thoughts About Art? Would They Feel Something? Wouldn’t That Be Awful?”

And more! All for the low price of clicking your way to a local/regional art blog that sorely mistakes itself for anything more than a handy calendar.

Jimmy C June 8, 2016 - 00:06

someone made a script that feeds the calendar to a tumblr site

Christy June 8, 2016 - 11:49

Art is also about serendipity. Serendipity is the closest thing to an orgasm there is and the obviously the more socially acceptable practice in a public space. Art critics are vital to the autonomy of artists and their art. What I mean by this is that art critics protect art and artists from the whims of the economy, from the whims of collectors, from museums turning into nothing but a tax avoidance strategy. Art critics protect and support serendipity, the ability for the artist to express what is needed, and even first amendment rights. Art critics protect and support emerging artists who otherwise may be overlooked by the public. Art critics also call out artists and institutions when what they are putting forth is unsuccessful. They protect the public and preserve our ability to have that serendipitous moment.

What bothers me is the lack of rigor and thoughtfulness in this conversation on elitism. I find it to be an irresponsible. Dismissing out of hand the suburban landscape is one such example of irresponsibility. That landscape has seen such changes that the old notions no longer apply. Placed in that new suburban landscape, this bronze statue of two women taking a selfie is fraught with the kind of tension worthy of a critical but rigorous discussion, not a discussion about elitism and whatever that means, which, quite frankly, I still don’t know what that means. Descriptors like bad, interesting, good tell me nothing.

But dismissing the art critics because they aren’t artists or by attacking their character is equally irresponsible.

As a reader and as a contemporary art audience member, I deserve better.

Jimmy C June 8, 2016 - 16:36

Locals are angry lol, better throw them a cow painting. Or a horse drawing. Do Texans even know anything about art ?

Iva June 9, 2016 - 22:02

You belong in a museum.

Michael Galbreth June 10, 2016 - 09:14

elite (n.) “a choice or select body, the best part,” 1823, from French élite “selection, choice,” from Old French eslite (12c.), fem. past participle of elire, elisre “pick out, choose,” from Latin eligere “choose” (see election). Borrowed in Middle English as “chosen person” (late 14c.), especially a bishop-elect; died out mid-15c.; re-introduced by Byron’s “Don Juan.” As an adjective by 1852. As a typeface, first recorded 1920. – from the Online Etymology Dictionary

In recent times, the word “elite” has come to be understood wrongly and ignorantly as a pejorative rather than its rightful meaning associated with excellence.  Right wing media, and specifically Fox News, has had something to do with this.  Plain old dip-shitted laziness has helped.

A superficial observation of the history of demographics in America reveals that at least one reason, if not the main one, that suburbia exists is to get away. Post WWII “white flight” is a good example.  Apparently now “suburban” is not only the name of a car wherein one gets around in suburbia, it’s bullying someone if you call them that.   Gracious.

The United States has a very different relationship to art and artists than other parts of the world due to a whole host of complex reasons. (Although because of the homogeneity of communication and transportation technology, that’s changing, albeit slowly. Monkey see, monkey do.) But with regards to this country, there has always been a suspicion, if not outright disdain, for artists.  America’s entanglement with art has a complicated and tortuous history.  For an excellent primer on this subject, I recommend “After the Revolution: Profiles of Early American Culture” by Joseph Ellis. [https://www.amazon.com/After-Revolution-Profiles-American-Culture/dp/0393322335?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0] The reader will recognize that there has always been very little interest, let alone understanding or support, of art in American culture. Call it “art flight.” However frustrating, it’s historically, factually and overwhelmingly true. The elite, the “best part,”  has always been scoffed at by the majority.  Very, very few artists have the desire or capabilities to make the attempted leap beyond the safe confines of “the art world” into this intellectual desert.  It’s no wonder. It’s too risky, there’s very little, if any reward, and it’s rarely welcomed. It’s safer to stay within the tribe, or do nothing at all.

Strangely, the art world itself has begun to mimic suburbia and its rigid ideological structure. It’s become the new church occupied by the clergy of curators, directors and administrators who rule with data studies, educational outreach and economic stimuli for its flock of stakeholders, community coalitions, and cultural sectors. It’s an intellectual gated community. It ebbs and flows, but we’re definitely at low tide these days. Say or think the wrong thing and you’re excommunicated. The profane, always the elite minority, are not welcome. Many of the comments here are proof of that. Fine with me. Outside the church and into the sunlight – that’s where the fun is.

Christy June 10, 2016 - 12:04

This is one of those posts that hits you like a hammer on your head – I appreciate that.. I will check out the book you have recommended. I apologize if any of my thoughts were taken as bullying.

This is an interesting article about the shifting demographics of the suburbs: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/suburbs-and-the-new-american-poverty/384259/
It’s about Atlanta, Georgia, but it applies to Houston and most western cities.

We get a lot of the profane from Fox News. I know it’s a different kind than what you are talking about. But to experience the profound, that’s what I hope for.

Anthony June 13, 2016 - 23:16

Mr. Galbreth-

As you know, economics is what breeds the stratification. As the populous becomes disproportionate so does the intellectualism. Elitism is only a byproduct. The farther the separation the more it will push the discourse to more misunderstanding. People don’t want to invest in philosophical pursuits. They want to be satisfied with saccharin moments. How fitting that a selfie homage was planted in a faux town square. Isn’t that irony right up your alley?

Michael Galbreth June 14, 2016 - 18:28


P.S. Further.

Michelle June 14, 2016 - 12:02

It’s unavoidable that most people will find contemporary art confounding with no foothold into the work. That is not a problem per se but it’s certainly possible to approach this with an attitude of generosity. Most non-artists I know in and out of suburbia are eager for an explanation that allows them entry once the problem of them feeling dumb has been mitigated.

Nestor June 14, 2016 - 22:37

I’m going to put my 15 minutes of silence right hrre.

Iva Kinnaird June 28, 2016 - 16:22

Suburbs have it all!

Now to find the Texas city with best rhyming name

My best friend in school, the undergrad who was by far the most informed about contemporary art, grew up in Perryton. Because there was nothing to look at there, it freed him up (starved him) to focus on anything anywhere else, which he did – through reading and looking extensively at books, magazines, and mostly the internet. He was (we were) totally elitist, art snobs, very critical, and it was extremely helpful. I grew up in Richardson and am an idiot cause I didn’t mind being alone and painting bad paintings in my parents’ garage for 17 years. You’re an idiot ’till you aren’t (and even then…)

Search results when I tried to find art books at the library in Richardson after freshman year:

Hills Snyder November 3, 2017 - 06:58

I like the way Brandon is said to be in front of the statue…

Recommended reading: Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagan.


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