Peeks and Piques! Feedback
By Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES Spring 2016
I WOULD IMAGINE that “feedback”, i.e. comments from their readers, is as important to writers as is their incomes. The more formal “review” of a book is assuredly highly valued, if not for the content (it might well be negative), than at the least for the publicity afforded the author for his/her effort. “Getting ink”, as the writing trade often refers to public acknowledgement or notice, is better than “no ink” at all. For now, however, I’m simply referring to letters (or phone calls) to the Editor (who, I guess, deserves the brunt if only because it’s usually the Editor who allows for the writing to be printed). For myself, as Editor and writer, it’s all of a piece…and I do appreciate the ‘back and forth’ that sometimes takes place between me and my readers. So, receiving feedback on my Editorials, Reviews, and/or Profiles is appreciated (much better than not being read at all) since almost always I am getting information and insight into my (or my readers’) opinions. A positive response is, of course, preferred, but one has to admit that negative criticism can often be enlightening — a misguided notion or opinion, no matter how eloquently expressed, is surely better ‘outed’ than praised or promoted.
I have certainly learned over the years, that not all of my opinions are valued — or even desired — and, being only opinions, deserve rectification after reflection or further education. I have always tried to make it clear that my assessments of either art or artists are simply my opinions — ‘biases’, if you will — and nothing more. Artwriting never has been —or ever will be — a ‘science’ — and judgments about either, necessarily ‘biased’ opinions. Opinions, however, biased or not, can (and ought) be value-rated. By this I mean that if I experience a pain in my heart area, I’d rather trust the opinion of a cardiologist as opposed to the opinion of a corporate CEO. So, it most certainly matters wherein one’s education and experience lie before we put too much stock on the conclusions one draws on a ‘this’ or a ‘that’. But how about the manner in which one states an opinion? I have been told more than once by a few of my readers that I—or at any rate my writing—was "pompous". I think about that description every now and then…and still have not decided how to react. Pleased? Or, displeased? I am certainly devoted to my espousals of what I consider “good” or “bad”. But do I sound as if I am making pronouncements from ‘on high’ when I express them? I believe I have always qualified my conclusions as ‘opinions’ or ‘biases’ so that they are not viewed as decrees. They are based on my education and experience (or lack thereof). Incidentally, I was also once told (vis-à-vis my coverage of art and artists) that I came across as a “male chauvinist”. However, by reviewing my past commentary and choices since we founded ART TIMES in 1984, my ‘record’ disclosed more profiles and critiques of women artists than of men. In fact, in our Jan/Feb 2000 Issue I opined (again because of my experience) in my Peek & Piques! editorial that I generally found women to be better artists than men. That statement prompted one woman artist (a ceramist) to write and ask me if I were “trying to get laid”! I have not changed either my writing style or my stance on art since I’ve been charged with pomposity and male chauvinism — does that make me, then, pleased? Or simply oblivious to glaring faults of mine? In any event, at 82 and still writing about art and artists after more than half of that time, I doubt there is any hope of change on the near horizon. As a famous seaman once said, “I yam what I yam!”
Read more from Steiner at: rjsteiner.wordpress.com