The past three weeks a mystery marker magician has been drawing artistic bits on the whiteboards. Many times the marker magician chooses to draw flowers, but I distinctly remember an ornate Christmas tree constructed entirely from dots. The Christmas tree drawing happened to be at the back of my abstract algebra class. However, that day was presentation day so about a third of the class took up the entire period writing proofs on the board. I clearly remember my professor saying, “I know, I know. I don’t want to erase that either. You can just write around it if you want to”, in reference to ignoring that part of the board while writing proofs. Immediately a humorous thought occurred to me. The marker magician viewed these board creations as purely temporary, but an increasing amount of people in the math and computer science building worked to preserve them. At first it was my professor who was hesitant to erase the board drawings, then even the cleaning people let some of the drawings stand.
This made me think about how people assign value to creations. Focusing on visual art, the age old principle that the common person can instantly appreciate work they are not capable of creating themselves, holds true. The cleaning crew and several professors hesitated to erase the whiteboard drawings because they appreciated the fact that someone had created something worth taking a look at; something quite superior to a chaotic doodle. The value they assigned to this artistic piece was high enough to actually ponder whether it was worthwhile erasing it. On the other hand, the marker magician was creating these drawings left and right, seemingly at will. I eventually figured out the study group the marker magician belonged to and whenever I entered a math room that the study group was leaving, another marker drawing was on the board. I’m pretty sure the marker magician enjoyed some of the finer drawings he/she created, but they didn’t mean much to the marker magician at the end of the day. Even the ornate Christmas tree had probably taken the marker magician about 10 minutes to draw. We’re talking about next level doodling here.
That lead me to consider if effort is relevant to the value placed on a piece of visual art. The marker drawings took little effort on the part of the marker magician, but a lowly scribbler like myself would have a hard time replicating such drawings with minimal effort. Therefore the average person could walk by one of the drawings and appreciate it. To counter that, at almost the same time one of my good friends, who is a studio art major, invited me to the senior art exhibit. Whenever we visit the gallery, my friends and I have a habit of constantly bringing up a scribbly stick figure drawing that previously made it into the gallery, which is very exclusive. Not to be rude, but at the time we definitely got a kick out of the fact that the stick figure didn’t leave any sort of impression and appeared to have been created the night before. Obviously the first novice thought that comes to mind is “give me a paper and some pencil, lemme make you an art piece real quick; I can do that too”. So it has become regular habit at all of these art shows to spot pieces that leave us baffled as to why they made the show. Sometimes the answer is as simple as the entire class was reserved space within the gallery so procrastinators automatically get their works displayed. Other times professors and critics find something within carefully constructed abstract pieces that my friends and I can’t appreciate for ourselves.
It’s a rather startling contrast between the two. I’m pretty sure the marker magician is not an art major and simply draws for fun. But the whiteboard drawings give clear objective to the viewer and present evidence of some level of technical proficiency in drawing. Some of the art majors on the other hand are either highly experimental/abstract or superb procrastinators when it comes to finishing their works for the exhibition. Interestingly enough the marker magician never expected these “works” to be valued and expected them to be erased. The studio art majors put a lot of effort into their work (even the stick figure person too) and sometimes hooligans like me will come along who reserve the right to scoff at their work. If you want to talk about pushing the boundaries of what is considered art, the marker magician never considered the whiteboard drawings as something that would become sort of a public display.
Obviously art isn’t something you can truly compare in absolute terms, but in this case it was rather ironic that whiteboard drawings were getting more attention than actual art in a gallery. It goes to show that a variety of things can be appreciated for their creative value and people don’t necessarily place higher value on professional creations. The label of professional really doesn’t add that much; the value of the piece itself is what matters most. Sometimes the art in the gallery makes me wonder whether the art majors are truly finding a vessel of expression or if they are abusing the tolerance their professors have for abstract pieces in order to get away with less work. The whiteboard drawings, as simple as some of them were, never left any doubts as to their message and objective. I guess that only further highlights that the average viewer (aka me) gravitates towards tangible works.
The featured image is two flowers created by the marker magician. I found them in a room I was studying in today before a final exam. While these are still quite lovely in my opinion, it makes me regret that I didn’t take a picture of the Christmas tree when I had the chance. That was my favorite of all the drawings by far.
Just as a small afterthought: I fully realize that a lot of art is abstract or meant to fully realize the artists personal vision in the best way possible. In these circumstances creating a tangible work of art is somewhat secondary to realizing the original vision. However, I believe I once saw a piece at the Museum of Modern Art titled “Purple Crayon”, which involved circular crayon scribbles all over a large canvas. There comes a point where I’m not able to appreciate art that has the unfortunate combination of “I could do this too” and “I’m not really sure this actually has any meaning”. Jackson Pollock is perfectly fine, but “Purple Crayon” makes me raise my eyebrows.