ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 1: Eric Fischl

These days, prestigious artist Eric Fischl paints what he knows


ARTICLE LINK: Artist Eric Fischl on art education priorities

The current status quo of the art world is dysfunctional and unsustainable. Aspiring artists are indoctrinated into the belief that path for advancement lies through the minefield of dogma higher education has been reduced to.

The reality of the situation is that the assumptions and biases of the elitist academic approach probably did more to create and sustain the crisis of relevance the arts are undergoing than any other factor.

The end of the current system is inevitable. What will take its place will be determined by those who can see past the dreary conformity that inflicts the credentialed creative classes.

Eric Fischl got his schooling during the hippie-dippie days of the deconstructive 1960s. As he puts it, “There were no classes that taught techniques, no classes focusing on the business of art, no financial counselors.”

However, he managed to overcome the obstacles of such experimental academic shenanigans to become one of the most noteworthy and successful artists of the 1980s New York art scene.

Coming up in an age dominated by abstraction and minimalism, Fischl managed to rediscover the power of human drama inherent in figurative painting. He specializes in the dark, seamy and sexual, but hey: there’s lots of drama to explore in those recesses of mankind’s frailty. His artistry punches through the tawdriness; he makes epics out of fallen humanity’s misadventures. He’s a very bold and generous artist.

Now Fischl has commented on the newest forms of higher education trendiness, and he sees the path of destruction they are on.

“…do you acknowledge that the nature of art making has changed, the pressures and expectations on young artists are different, so you adjust your methodology to address their reality?

“No, no, no, no, no, NO!

“Art education should not be a degree program. It should be dropped from colleges and universities—or at the very least, the tuition should be scaled in such a way that students are not burdened with debt in a field that cannot in any way guarantee an income commensurate with the ability to pay it down.

“It should provide a student with space, time, techniques, and critical standards, in a safe and competitive environment, so that they can handle and profit from being constantly challenged, broken down, debased, and ridiculed. Make damn sure that within this structure of frustration, confusion, and humiliation, they are nurtured by your profound sense of purpose, wisdom, experience, and your unshakeable belief in the meaningfulness of art.

“Art should be embraced as a journey. Result-oriented, not product-based. Understood as a process and a dialogue with history, culture, and time.

“For what it’s worth.”

-Eric Fischl

Just imagine the if the cry bullies of today’s college campuses ever found themselves in a challenging and competitive environment. The hysterical stampede for their safe spaces would be highly unsafe. Cue the helicopter parents, the SJWs, and the partisan hack media to launch their rituals of shaming and outrage.

It seems these days University art programs are more geared to training future cogs for the elitist sycophant combine than to teaching students the craft to express a personal vision. There’s already a legion of dolts out there that can’t tell the difference between a marketing scheme and a work of art; every year more graduate into a world that shrugged off contemporary visual art as useless long ago. The priorities  learned in these cloistered environments will work only in other cloistered environments. The goal is keep the art world small, isolated, and easily controlled.

This toxic combination of an extremely narrow niche field of endeavor, unethical professional cronyism,  hair trigger emotional status seeking, and rigid ideological conformity is just the way the arts establishment wants it. It plays into their status as power brokers. But it’s really no good for anyone else.

It’s entertaining in a way to watch the ivory tower crumble. Once we get the rubble of fallen reputations and squandered credibility cleared away, humanity can re-engage with the true purpose of art: the skillful communication of spiritual states and realizations that unite, not divide.

“Remodernism is inclusive rather than exclusive and welcomes artists who endeavour to know themselves and find themselves through art processes that strive to connect and include, rather than alienate and exclude.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please see other articles here for more commentary on the state of the arts.


27 thoughts on “ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 1: Eric Fischl

  1. […] MUCH OF THE SAME APPLIES TO WRITING: In fact, I’ve told several people the worst thing you can do if you want to become a working, selling writer (as opposed to an academically feted, non-selling one) college degrees in literature or writing might be counter-productive.  It took me years to get over “all the cr*p I learned” in college literature programs. ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 1: Eric Fischl. […]

  2. This Saturday (April 16th 2016) I am presenting the body of my painting work exhibited at my current art show to Fellow – Artists, curators and press. After my lecture a discussion will follow. I am setting right now to translate this brilliant article in Greek, and distribute it to the audience along with my “Romantic Anonymous Manifesto” (the Remodernist Manifesto for Greece). Source of your article will be fully quoted of course.

  3. Looking forward to this happening in music as well, but I’ve been waiting a long time. Left a DMA program in disgust back in ’96 because the faculty hated the fact that I could compose real, actual music. You know, fugues, suites, and sonatas. That sort of thing. They wanted me to write ugly pretentious garbage like they did, or I wouldn’t get the degree. All art profs today are morally insane hacks who are truly anti-art.

  4. You did the right thing to resist their agenda. They can only survive as a monopoly, that’s why there is such an effort to suppress dissenting views. Well, we won’t be quiet anymore.

  5. Eric Fischl went to “California Institute of the Arts” and got his BFA in 1972. There were some other notable contemporary artists coming out of there, including David Salle and Julian Schnabel. I thought of going to that school after dropping out of my ass-backwards school but couldn’t afford it (ended up going to UCLA which was rather happening at the time anyway).

    “Just imagine the if the cry bullies of today’s college campuses ever found themselves in a challenging and competitive environment.”

    Art school, in my experience, had no “safe spaces”, all the challenges you could handle, and plenty of nastiness. Movies like “Art School Confidential” and “Ghost World” capture art school in a comic way, but the ridiculousness isn’t really exaggerated. I attended 5 different colleges with art departments, and through the Masters may have had a handful of good classes. Most were perfunctory, boring, or barely instruction at all.

    Fischl seems to think that there’s a place for “being constantly challenged, broken down, debased, and ridiculed”. That is the worst element of art school, and precisely why so few painters or traditional image-based visual artists survived.

    A teacher should have the breadth and wisdom to find out what the student wants to do artistically, and encourage that, as well as provide appropriate skills. Ridicule and debasement are for ideologues to use against people, like painters, who are at odds with the dominant art paradigm of the moment.

    I did very well in art school, ultimately earning the respect of my teachers (I got a $10,000 fellowship), but overall I hated it and wasn’t allowed to do what I really wanted. Most the times I was “challenged” or “debased” or “ridiculed” were in serious error, and by the time I left art school I’d given up. I started a temp job and was overjoyed to be in an environment where if I worked hard it was appreciated. Took me a couple decades to get back into art on MY terms.

  6. He’s got some funny ideas about solutions, that Fischl guy. I wouldn’t trust the direction the indoctrinated clowns would try to badger students into these days, more of the same failing ideas no doubt. I’m glad you found art on your terms again, that’s how it has to be.

  7. Incidentally, I like some of his early work, which was pretty good for the time. I have a friend who is in grad school for art right now, and its doesn’t sound like a very hospitable environment. There is that tendency to adhere to one paradigm or another, and if you don’t believe in that paradigm and don’t fit in, it’s going to be hell, because you will be outnumbered. Grad school, for me, was the worst, because, well, you just couldn’t be a straight, while, male and justify having an art career – you didn’t deserve it – and your only option would be to “deconstruct your white male privilege”. It’s not really a topic I was ever passionate about making non-paintings about.

  8. It reminds me of the old guilds, organizations that once had a good purpose evolve toward rigid exclusiveness and not just restriction of individual freedom, but the complete abolition of personal freedom. I believe you see this in all types of human endeavor. They will fall (actually they are the agents of their own destruction , they just can’t see that) as you say. We are probably going back to some form of the apprenticeship system in the arts and many other things.
    Organizations should exist to teach technique, but not inspiration. When they start doing that they get into trouble ideologically, esthetically , and philosophically.
    I’m more than likely preaching to the choir here, but I need to say it.

  9. There’s a difference between people who “want to be an artist” and people who want to learn how to make art. Some people think a credential is magical. Today because of the cost of university education and the poverty of university art programs, I think any student who goes to college to learn drawing, painting, design, sculpture, etc. might as well just flush their money down the nearest toilet. You can call that gesture “conceptual art.” Start flushing.

    There’s a simple calculus. You look up the university’s art faculty on the internet. Ask yourself if you want to learn to do art the way that faculty person does it. If you do, go throw $30k or more a year into the venture and good luck to you.

    Or if you really want to learn skills, you can buy a dvd by artists like Robert Liberace, Quang Ho, Lori Putnam and numerous others. The dvd offers ideas about how to acquire essential, foundational skills. Of course an aspiring artist has to work hard, practice, put in the hours of trial and error, but the information is available for usually under $100 per dvd. Find one of these people and you tap into their whole network. There are some amazing artists working today.

    I’m guessing that the people who will spend thousands of dollars on Professor So-n-So that no one has ever heard of whose artworks are easily confused with the kindergarten art that mom put on the refrigerator door probably need to study Econ 101 before making a single artistic decision!

    But if you want to learn — really to learn. It has never been easier in the history of Western civilization because many wonderful artists have written books, produced dvds, have posted their works in step-by-step stages on the internet and so the information is THERE! And all the artist aspirant needs to do is to work. I’m talking about buying dvds, but it’s astonishing how much free information is available on the internet.

    Walter Foster books are better than what you find in contemporary university education. A trip to Michael’s Arts and Crafts to survey their instruction books is better that the vapid university offerings.

    Artists of the past learned much of their craft through copying and now every world class museum displays its collections on the internet. Many museums like the Met and the National Gallery of Art have zoom features that let you see details of paintings and drawings. It’s not the same as seeing the real painting, but these reproductions offer an astonishing amount of information. You can be a thousand miles from NYC and yet can still study the works of great artists.

    What you do with what you learn is another thing. Becoming MODERN using artistic skills that are of a caliber of the great artists past is a marvelous and nebulous unknown field of possibility.

    I know whereof I speak. Jane is a pseudonym but I am not any of the people whose dvds or other products I recommend above.

  10. I love your insights. I agree the current system is broken. Why in the information age are we dumber and less skilled than ever? But speaking out like this is the necessary first step for change, thanks for sharing.

  11. Excellent article. I was lucky to have had excellent mentors when I passed through my college and graduate art programs in the sixties; yet even then, what was taught in the programs a mere two to five years earlier was superior.

    However, there is a vast difference between what is taught in the ivy league or true art schools and the lesser programs. I think that the second tier and lower schools simply don’t give a damn as they count on the fact that 99% of the graduates do not continue in the arts once they graduate. The instructors are just picking up pay checks waiting for retirement.

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