Art Dirt 9: Please Stop Painting the Electrical Boxes (a discussion)

by Glasstire August 13, 2017

In our latest Art Dirt podcast, Rainey Knudson and Christina Rees discuss the response to Rainey’s article about painting electrical boxes as public art. (To play the podcast, click on the Soundcloud logo below, and then click again on the orange play button. You can also listen to it here.)



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Nana August 13, 2017 - 10:26

Everyone that I’ve heard from likes the random artwork.

Robert Boyd August 13, 2017 - 12:24

You had me until you defended the Jehovah on Fannin. I have to see that piece of crap every day. It’s worse than any decorated electrical box.

Rainey Knudson August 13, 2017 - 16:12


john August 17, 2017 - 15:00

I like them. lets look at it this way, it makes some visual material evident and visible to general public that doesnt go to art gallery. Perhaps more oversight could be done on selection and curating. But then again, that
issue is with the entity who is making the project happen.

SSharma August 17, 2017 - 22:31

I have to take exception to the ideas about art in the public realm needing to be great and what is derided as elitism is merely expecting excellence. I am an artist (sculptor, so not one that painted an electrical box), and this idea of there being a universal high standard of artiness is one of the biggest problems I have with the establishment art world. It’s as though the art world has forgotten Duchamp (and his contemporaries), except vague recollection that he was important.
Art is a combination of visual stimulus (visual art anyway) and the thoughts about it. One can like or dislike an object, have personal reasons for assigning a particular value judgment to it, but having done so does not make one’s opinion more valid than another. The only way for that to be true is for there to be objective criteria, the kind of thing art has thankfully moved past long ago. The elitism is in the idea that there is some arbiter of the legitimacy of an object being considered worthy of the title of art. This is the biggest problem with the exclusionary nature of the art world.
A 1997 Dodge Colt is a piece of art. It may be considered an ugly piece of art by most people, perhaps offensive (I consider it an insult to my visual cortex personally)by some, but it’s art because it can be looked upon and thought about. The thoughts don’t have to be pleasant.

Regarding the mediocrity argument, there is absolutely mediocrity everywhere else, including the practice of medicine and sport. Maybe one can’t play in the NFL, but that doesn’t mean that is the only level of football being played by human beings. There are mediocre accountants, programmers, construction workers, news anchors, etc.. The mediocre news anchor gets the weekend job in say, Tulsa Oklahoma (or the electrical box of network news as its known), but he/she exists. You can watch them give you the news and hate their grammar, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t give you the news.

Dave Hickey August 26, 2017 - 13:10

These things are middle-class graffiti.

Mister56 August 27, 2017 - 08:47

I have you agree with the above reply. It’s totally middle class, it’s very self-conscious and afraid of slipping down a rung. They glare at you as you pass by, just wanting to be noticed and appreciated for what they are and that is what? I know these pieces feelings are tender; they feel like James Dean in rebel without a cause.

mike kirby August 29, 2017 - 10:07

Leave electrical boxes in peace : ) Art for everyone all the time = no good.

JohnDeParra November 24, 2017 - 21:22

This website is middle class graffiti.

Gerry Melot November 26, 2017 - 15:49

To state that “art” is only about ideas is an extremely narrow view of “art” both historically and geographically. There are many types of “art” ranging from Aunt Tilly’s dreadfully painted vase of flowers (yet beloved by her family because the “idea” of that piece is their Aunt Tilly enjoyed herself painting it and loved them enough to gift it to them) to museum quality esoteric pieces beloved by the few with the artistic backgrounds needed to decode the various layers of meaning and have an appreciation of the technical excellence of the work. Perhaps if the boxes were viewed not through the narrow “fine art” lens of the artistically educated (of which I am one btw) but viewed for what they really are which is a visual distraction in what is basically one of the most visibly boring large cities in the country. I have a formal art education in addition to being the child of two professional artists and know “good art from bad”. However I have lived in visually boring mid century ranch burger suburban neighborhoods for most of my 67 years and I welcome the slight visual jolt ( good or bad does not matter) these crazy boxes afford me. Are they tacky, yes. It’s a painted electrical box on a street! No one actually expects ” high art” on an electrical box! But is it fun, colorful and most importantly different from it’s deadly boring surroundings? Yes and for that reason I personally love and welcome them. Maybe if they were called decorations everyone would be more comfortable with them. They might be lousy “art” by professional standards but they are perfectly fine decorations and distractions in what most of suburban Houston is, cheap, visually dead environments meant to kill one’s soul. Don’t let semantics blind you to the value of “other visual options” around you.

Rainey Knudson November 28, 2017 - 11:13

First off, thank you for this thoughtful comment.

Respectfully, I disagree that Houston is visually boring. I also disagree that the environment of Houston is “meant” to “kill one’s soul.” You’re assigning intent to something that is random and quite common: people not paying attention to aesthetics and/or not having a strong aesthetic sensibility. It happens everywhere, all the time. Why this happens, and what kind of visual environments mushroom up when people have no sense of what they’re doing, is fascinating to me.

Here’s a photo I snapped recently on the corner of Rosslyn and 43rd street:

Look — nature!!! I like to believe this artist is in on the joke. I hope so.

Again, the whole point of this article was: ASK THE ARTISTS WHAT THEY WOULD DO. The good ones have way better ideas than painting electrical boxes.

Rainey Knudson November 28, 2017 - 11:26 Reply

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