Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Defining Genius

This isn't strictly a "literary" issue, but it relates to ideas I've explored before, mainly the definition of genius. Meet Aelita Andre, an "abstract artist [who] has taken the world by storm." She's two.

While this might not seem to be a problem upon first consideration, it is important to keep in mind what Babble points out: "Her parents are both artists themselves, and they have assumed the role of Aelita’s PR people, titling her works and attributing adult meaning to them." Pictured left is Andre's work, "The Eagle." While the color pallette is beautiful and the image is striking, one can't help but wonder what role her parents played in its creation.

For example, The Sydney Morning Herald shows Andre's work to an expert, who
"said his first impression was of 'redible abstractions, maybe playing on Asian screens with their reds.

"'They're heavily reliant on figure/ground relations.' After learning Aelita's age, Nelson said he was not particularly surprised. 'I have kids and when they were little I used to do lots of painting exercises with them. If it is a child's work it's not a child alone. We're happy to credit the child but it begins with a parental concept.'"
This, then, brings up the questions of what it means to be a "genius" or a "child prodigy." Regardless of what one thinks of abstract art as a means of expression, can a child express anything in the manner of a "genius" when she cannot even form complete sentences? According to Andre's father, yes: "Aelita's dad said as soon as she began drawing in her Montessori play group he could see her creations were different from other children's. 'It immediately leapt out as a defined representation of something in an abstract form.'" Hmm, a defined representation of "something"? What could a two-year-old possibly have to define in an abstract form?

Forgive me, but I think that in order to be a genius, or to be great, one must have something to say, something to express. One must not have merely a beautiful palette and pushy parents to be great. Is Aelita Andre a genius? Hell if I know. I probably know less about art than she does, and she's only in Montessori play group.

Perhaps the confusion comes in, then, when people feel something when they look at her art. Even if she has nothing to say, her art apparently does, to the point that someone is willing to give a two-year-old her own exhibition for her fingerpaints. My question, then, is this: does genius ever have anything to do with the person displaying his or her talents, or is genuis only in the eye of the beholder?


Anonymous said...

I think that depends on what sense is used to observe said "genius." Lets say that it's sight, and if we consider that which is made by the hands and visually appealing beautiful, then it would be in the eye of the beholder, due to the fact that your idea of beauty is a result of the past experiences in your life, combined with ideas that we form about different things.

I.E. Lets say there is a giant picture of a beautiful red rose, with such vivid colors and stark contrasts that you can't take your eyes off of it. You probably don't suffer from anthophobia, otherwise known as the fear of flowers. While you might be captivated by the beauty of the picture, and wonder at the time and careful planning of the photographer, they would likely be curled up in the opposite corner of the room screaming.

Anonymous said...

They, of course, being sombody who suffers from anthophobia.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

True, but there seems to be some kind of general standard as to whether or not something is worthy of being hung up in a museum. We can look at a piece of artwork and recognize whether or not it's good.

If it's good, we say the artist is good. But I'm not sure it's fair to say that a fingerpainting two-year-old is good at abstract art when that's ALL she can do. She's two, for God's sake!

Chatty Cathy said...

Most parents think their child is a genius no matter what they do. What I think is interesting is that both her parents are artists and are familiar with the art world. In the art world, the artist has to be a salesman/saleswoman in order to be successful. Abstract art is interesting because it is not really about the art, but the idea behind the art that is so important. Aelita's picture is interesting in form and hard not to look at with those bold colors, such as the red background, but I do not think she is a genius. It is not her, but her parents that are putting their ideas onto her painting. If given those types of colors, I am sure another child could create an interesting piece of artwork. I think the great thing about art is that each of us makes it our own when we take it in. So I am sure there are people that have been moved and impressed by her work. I personally would be more impressed if she expressed her own ideas about her art work...but who am I kidding she is only two.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

See, that's what I was thinking, too. Abstract art HAS to have ideas behind it, otherwise it's just splotches on a page, and a two-year-old doesn't have those ideas. Instead, she has absolute freedom of the canvas, which her parents are taking advantage of by ASSIGNING meaning to it and then selling it for God knows how much.

Hopefully they're putting the proceeds in a trust fund for her so she can pay for all her therapy sessions as an adult.

Anonymous said...

"True, but there seems to be some kind of general standard as to whether or not something is worthy of being hung up in a museum."

Yeah, but what about that blue wall that was in that art museum that had the condom dresses?

Chatty Cathy said...

If you are refering to the Fowler Museum's exhibit "Dress up Against AIDS." The condom dresses fall under the category of the "idea" behind a piece of work. That exhibit was suppose to raise awareness about AIDS and inspire us to use condoms. Condoms are a critical vehicle in preventing AIDS. By her using them to make dresses she refashioned these condoms into objects associated with pleasure...when usually they have a bad rep. These dresses are used to bring sex, protection and AIDS ,topics that people are usually uncomfortable taking about in public, and turning these condoms into something beautiful and something not uncomfortable to look at.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Maybe the "blue wall" you're referring to served to question the banality of the universe... just kidding.

I think this issue really questions the validity of abstract art as a method of representation. If this kid were painting impressionist landscapes, you can bet your ass I'd be impressed. As it is, I'm less than impressed, but mostly because abstract art doesn't really do anything for me in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Well, I wasn't using the dresses as an example, but the blue wall, I was just using the dresses to id the place.

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