COMMENTARY: The Rotten Apple Didn’t Fall Far From the Tree-The Obnoxious Art of Lena Dunham’s Father (Sort of NSFW)

Daddy’s Girl: Lena and Carroll Dunham 

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“I’ve looked a lot at Picasso and read a lot about him, and I think he was having a good time at different points. There’s humor in that work—there’s no question—but to me it’s a byproduct of something else that’s much more ruthless and cold. Like the humor of a psychopath [laughs].”

-Caroll Dunham

 

I know about Lena Dunham against my will.

I’ve never sought out information about this marginal, unstable pop culture player, and yet at least every couple of months Lena Dunham floats to the surface of the news stream, and I have to hear more about her. The establishment media needed a role model to codify the Millennial generation as feckless narcissists and vicious virtue signallers, and Lena fits that job description perfectly. One of the latest breaking reports about her involved how she broke a fingernail while doing some intimate grooming. I resent that my brain was forced to ponder how such a thing could even happen.

My rejection of her ongoing presence isn’t about her looks, although a big part of Lena’s shtick involves a weird blend of exhibitionism and a push/pull of inadequately repressed self-loathing. It’s Lena Dunham’s character that is concerning.

She follows the Postmodern prescription that untalented celebrities can polish their resumes by strident political posturing. Pretty much no one watched her main claim to fame, the cancelled HBO show Girls. As Entertainment Weekly noted in 2017, at the beginning of its poorly rated last season, “Girls is basically the quintessential media bubble show — hugely loud in pop culture chatter compared to its actual viewership.” The reason an unpopular show like Girls gets hyped is because the parties involved can be counted on to broadcast the approved partisan agenda.

And yet away from the predictable policy positions and politicians she monotonously and shrilly advocates, Lena Dunham makes an effective case for leftism as a mental disorder, a justification for some reprehensible behavior. Lots of Dunham’s press coverage is actually negative fallout from the latest landmine she stepped on. Dunham has tried to fire up internet hate mobs by making dubious accusations about thought crimes by a couple of airline stewardesses. She smeared a former college associate with groundless rape accusations, then went on to publicly betray the #Metoo movement when they came at one of her pals. She abandoned a pet and then followed up with a borderline bestiality tweet. Perhaps most notorious was her “comedic” take on how during childhood she molested her younger sister. “Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying,” she joked. Ha ha.

How does her sister Grace respond to the disclosure? She insists there was no problems. Oh, and by the way, Grace is now a non-binary gender identifying queer activist and performance artist, because of course she is. Sounds like the outcome of a totally healthy upbringing. Which brings us to their daddy: aging New York hipster and painter Carroll Dunham.

My wife Michele Bledsoe often states the art an artist makes shows who they are. So who would you say Carroll Dunham is, after looking at a few examples of his art?

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In 2010, the critic David Pagel summed it up in a review:

“Carroll Dunham makes paintings that not even a mother could love. Vulgar beyond belief, his super-crude depictions of a naked woman crawling through a cartoon landscape border on vicious.

“It’s easy to see why many people find them offensive, demeaning and disgusting, as well as mean-spirited, malicious and horrific. They are all that and more. Much, much more.”

But this is the establishment art world we’re talking about here. Pagel clarifies the approved response in his next sentence:

“Dunham’s new oils on canvas are the best works the 61-year-old New Yorker has made.”

As I state in my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,  

“Behold the moronic masterpieces selected and elevated by our utterly corrupted and compromised institutions. This list could go on and on, full of examples of irrelevance, carrion, excrement, pornography, and debris.

“This is the elite’s idea of what is significant in our culture. This is what the establishment is stocking our museums with. This is our self-aggrandizing ruling class’s tawdry and nihilistic vision of life, being inflicted upon us all.

“They are trying to remake the world in their own rotten image. They’ve weaponized art into an assault on the foundations of civilization itself. We can call this assault Postmodernism, a philosophy which is explored in detail later in this book.”

I wasn’t talking specifically about Caroll Dunham in the quote above, but the shoe fits him like he was Cinderella.

Now I have no issue with art taking on intense subject matter and mature themes. It must. Contemporary painters like Eric Fischl may specialize in the dark, seamy and sexual, but skilled artistry can transcend the tawdriness.

Nor do I have an issue with extreme stylization in artwork. It was one of  Modernism’s powerful contributions to art’s expressive power; as far back as the Nabi art movement of the 1800s, artists experimented with flatness and simplification as a means for conveying an otherworldly experience.

No, the problem with the art of Carroll Dunham is its poor quality. It’s a Postmodern mishmash of graffiti, dehumanizing identity politics, emoji style perversity and  predictable coloration. I’ve seen more effectively rendered scrawls in public bathroom stalls. The paintings of Carroll Dunham are unfocused, sloppy, cheap, and redundant. Despite their brazen imagery, they are so poorly realized I’m not even sure they count as “not safe for work.”

The existing establishment is well stocked with sociopaths. Perhaps no where can we find stronger visual confirmation of this than the contemporary art market. For the Dunhams, producing lousy art propped up in the service of  pathological elitist oikophobia is the family business.

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Say Cheese! Carroll Dunham Exposed 

 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Check out other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

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An Artist Against the NEA, Part 1: The Case of Karen Finley

Karen Finley: This is what you get when art and politics mix

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“All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

-Benito Mussolini

The wailing commenced as soon as the numbers appeared. After decades of threatening noises from concerned conservatives and fiscal hawks, a Federal government budget was produced that eliminated funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

As an American artist, I think this is a wonderful development, long overdue.

Defenders of the NEA make the usual accusations, conflating being anti-government intervention in the arts with being anti-art. They justify the expense by pointing out how little the expenditures are out of a budget now reckoned in trillions. And they make the great leap to define withholding state funding of the arts as censorship. All of these assertions dodge accountability for results. How has the NEA improved the artistic life of America?

The NEA was the creation of the corrupt President Lydon Johnson in 1965. One quick measure of the program’s success is whether the visual arts are in better condition now than they were then.

On the contrary, contemporary art is undergoing a crisis of relevance, with hardly any interest and engagement from the public. I would suggest it’s the top-down direction of arts development encouraged by the NEA and its fellow traveler, grant-giving foundations which have helped cause this great alienation. Far from encouraging a vital, thriving culture in the United States, the handout and non-profit mentality is propping up a sick and decaying model of art as an elitist virtue signalling endeavor.

Make no mistake, the cultural institutions supported by such programs hold the values and founding principles of America in contempt. It’s key for acceptance. The long march was so successful that the entry to the establishment now requires allegiance with globalism, Post Modern relativism, and Cultural Marxist deconstruction. It’s the partisans of these ideologies that get the funding and support.

The art world has been warped by the priorities of the subsidizers. If you want their checks, better get on board with their agendas. Leftists have to taint everything with their politics, their own petty little version of God, and their fantasy of the all powerful state as a benefit dispensing Utopia. There’s no way I want anyone subject to such delusions in charge of recognizing artistic achievement.

Many years ago, I had my own special encounter with a NEA star, a typical example of what elitist culture has to offer.

She’s nothing but a historical footnote now, but in the early 1990s performer Karen Finley was big news. She was one of the so-called NEA Four. These controversial artists were up for the federal agency National Endowment for the Arts grants, and came under intense political criticism. The artists had their grants vetoed, although they eventually won a court case about it, and got paid.

However, as a result of the firestorm the NEA ultimately stopped funding individual artists. At least Finley can take credit for helping end that particular abuse of tax payer resources. But at the time I encountered her all the legal maneuverings were still in flux. When she came to speak in Richmond, at Virginia Commonwealth University’s  sculpture building, Finley was still notorious as a casualty of the Culture War.

Finley is a performance artist. Her claim to fame was hooting obscenities while smearing her naked body with yams. I wish this was a joke or an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Of course it was all about gender roles and social critique and whatnot, so that made it Serious Art.

We students didn’t know what to expect. Would we be spattered with tubers? Should we wear raincoats like we were going to see a Gallagher routine? Anticipation ran high.

As it turns out Finley kept her clothes on, and no vegetables were applied anywhere unusual. I suppose a group of mere students didn’t warrant the full Karen Finley experience.

She addressed the standing crowd gathered around her from a podium. I can’t tell you anything she actually said, as nothing she said was memorable. But we weren’t there for an insightful or intelligent lecture, we were there for a Serious Art Performance. And after her remarks, still standing behind her podium, Finley let us have it.

A Serious Art Performance, to Karen Finley, apparently meant yodeling, rolling her eyes and whipping her head around for a couple of minutes.

It was an annoying and mannered display. I felt the burning sensation of folly receiving the institutional stamp of approval. If that was art, then I’ve seen plenty of schizophrenic meth addicts hanging around convenience stores dumpsters that must be undiscovered geniuses.

Coming from her, it was all so phony. Her actions didn’t seem passionate or intense at all. It was clearly a ploy, a unconvincing simulation of being in a shamanistic frenzy.

My problem with Karen Finley’s art wasn’t because it was immoral; it was because it was stupid. There wasn’t an issue with obscenity, the issue was the failure to present a genuine and creditable work of art. And this is representative of the cultural experience our Washington elites wanted to throw money at.

As a bit of compensation for the dumb histrionics, Finley did show us a few nude video clips. She apparently liked to strip down in museums and pose next to actual art. That was kind of funny. The University was obviously putting all our student fees to good use, bringing in talent of such caliber.

During her fifteen minutes of fame, Finley got to play cultural martyr. She became a symbol, the fulfillment of the art world’s conceit of itself as an oppressed band of brave rebels.

The fact that what she called her art was a contrived, pathetic display was overlooked in the rush to the barricades. Her stated political agenda trumped any concerns about quality.

Finley has drifted into obscurity now, safely cloistered away  in New York City’s Tisch School of the Arts (annual undergrad tuition over $53,000.00), still trying to spark some interest in her sagging shock art. Museums are willing to throw her an occasional opportunity. In 2014 she did AA one better, and came up with a 13 step program for artists whose “lives have become unmanageable because of art.” Here’s a helpful hint: I wouldn’t blame art for the need to seek attention through grotesque displays.

Finley serves as a nice bit of trivia and nostalgia, a walking wounded veteran of the culture wars. The establishment takes care of its own. What they haven’t been taking care of is our society’s need for real art.

The NEA has failed in its mission. They’ve squandered their credibility. We will be better served by trying to find new ways to express an authentically American culture, one than the bureaucratic ideologues of the NEA never believed in.

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“It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto

“I was not expected to be talented.”

Karen Finley

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