On Dirty Artists


Among most people, and most circles, artists are seen as aloof and high society creatures. Painters and sculptors lead lives of enlightened and inspired solitude, tucked away in secretive and exclusive corners of the world. Museums perpetuate this idea, and history only honeys the artist’s works through mystery and veiled awe. Artists however, often view themselves as normal people, ones that work in the realm of realism and fantasy, paints and stones. Rather than some glorious visage, artists are often normal people, or the most down to earth people you can meet. I believe that one’s view of artists, is more dependent on the viewer’s position, rather than the artist themselves. For once you cross the barrier, and become an artist yourself, there is a grand lifting of the veil, and you can see artists simply as people in a profession. While many people portray artists as these grandiose beings,  we are truly just people who choose to create beauty.

Creative Arts Group is one example of this, a group of artists that portray themselves as humble artists. They are a small, non-profit art gallery in the hills of Sierra Madre, California. They teach classes to artists of all ages, and all mediums, and simultaneously house a gallery where they can display and sell artist’s work.  In October 2012 KGEM Tv, the local news channel, made a mini documentary on CAG, as it is known locally.  

The primary thing to note, is that the writer of this small film is an artist, and a former student of Creative Arts Group. The people being interviewed are also artists, So this piece of media is made by artists, for those who wish to become more personally involved in art.

I like to think that this video is a very realistic and sensible take on artists. They show artists of all ages, ranging from young children, to aged adults; and also artists of varying skill levels and mediums. There are sculptors, welders, painters and jewelers all working in in one community and within the same space. And while they do emanate professionalism, a clean and organised gallery and well spoken individuals; the video also highlights the rougher side of the artist’s life and work. The clay room is dusty, dirty and loud; and the classrooms are rowdy and filled with laughter.

One of  Creative Arts Group’s featured artists, D. Lester Williams displays this idea quite well: “You gotta get out there and get your hands dirty…” And I think this would be true with all artists. Jackson Pollock worked by splattering paints on a canvas, and most probably himself. When Michelangelo carved out David, he was almost certainly covered in marble dust and debris. And when modern potters shape an elegant vase, their hands are plastered with thick layers of mud and clay.


This concept put forth by Creative Arts Group is directly contrasted by the appearance of artists in Art shows and art exhibitions.  For this comparison I will again be using D. Lester Williams, and his website. The difference here is, that the artist made this website to cater to the potential consumer, those who want to buy or commision his art. So this piece, like the Creative Arts video, was made by artists, but rather than talking to artists D. Lester uses the language expected by the public.

I want to stress that I respect this artist a great deal, more than any other artist I have or ever will meet, so what I say next is not intended to be malicious. On D. Lester’s home page, we see a very clean layout with a picture of the artist in a suit and bowtie in front of one of his works. Adjacent to this the page details the methods used by the artist: “Forming, assembling, fabricating, welding, flame and plasma cutting, as well as using different fasteners, and various patinas, painting, or powder coating. All these processes manage to find their way into (D. Lester’s) creative sculptures.”

While all of this is true, it is far from realistic. D. Lester does form, assemble, weld and plasma cut his pieces, but in reality he is constantly experimenting and trying out new things and methods, often times not knowing for sure if something will work. Many times he has compromised and covered up his mistakes or, as many artists do, integrated these into his designs to enhance their beauty through imperfection. Most importantly however is that this small statement leaves out the humbling and humanistic conditions that D. Lester happily works in.

The artists calls his workspace “The Pit” it’s an old garage filled with scrap metal, dust and tools. No bigger than an average classroom, and with less useable space than an airplane aisle. And Lester does not wear suits and bowties when he works. He adorns himself with second hand flannels with holes burned into them, a decades old leather apron and two pairs of jeans covered in paint and char. While this description isn’t glorious and clean, it is all part of what allows D. Lester to do his work, it is his process and his inspiration.

To remove the ramshackle and chaotic-order that is an artist’s workspace and personality is, in my opinion, to dehumanise them. The nature of an artist, their quirkiness and their charm is what makes it so fun to converse with them, and can be equally as memorable as the works of art themselves. And this is one of the reasons that I encourage people to meet artists in person, you learn who they are and what led them to be the artist they had become. D. Lester for instance, is an excellent speaker, he has stories from his past that can apply to any and every situation. He can give words of wisdom and a laugh to any topic you may choose to bring up.

This lack of humanism in this website is a result of both the audience and the author. By an artist, for the patrons. This Idea changes however, when the producer is a non artist, and is creating the material for other non artists. One of the most famous examples of this is the 1990 movie “Ghost”, specifically the famous pottery scene, talks about pottery in a very demeaning manner, using it as a tool for allegory and then throwing it to the side in favor of romance.

The scene holds a lot of symbolism and meaning, but the art of pottery, and therefore those who practice the artform, was treated with very little respect or thought. The purpose of this scene is to create a sexual moment in the movie. Whether the allegory is on the act of creating something beautiful, or breaking something down into a phallic shape and rubbing on it for a solid minute … It is still considered one of the sexiest scenes in film.

What is perturbing about this scene though, is the glorification of the art and what artists do during their time. While it is true that romance can spark some of the most evocative works of art, in this scene it debases the pottery to a lump of wet dirt. Were anyone to come to a potter and knock over a piece such as the one in Ghost … they would not get a makeout session. The artist would no doubt become upset, it can be equated to someone coming up an executive’s computer, and deleting the only copy of a business report. There is nothing sexy about it, and there is something wrong and disheartening that Ghost would aim to create this sexual scene via the disrespect of an entire artform.

While this is all right and good for a movie, and entertainment; in terms of portraying artists, It is grossly wrong. And this glorification creates the opportunity to hurt the image of budding artists. There is nothing wrong with artists looking put together, but I think we should equally encourage the rough and tough image of artists, that lends an insight into the creation of the beautiful trinkets and wonders that we so appreciate.

Works Cited:

Ghost (Pottery Scene)

Directed by Jerry Zucker, Written by Bruce Joel Rubin

July 13, 1990. Web. March 13, 2017


“Creative Arts Group (CAG), Sierra Madre, CA”

Posted by KgemTv (The local Tv Station)

Oct 10, 2012. Web. March 13, 2017


Lester (November 25, 2015) Introduction


Web. March 14, 2017