A conversation with Sadie Jernigan Valerie

Sadie Jernigan Valeri. What if contemporary music were something only a small wealthy elite could afford to purchase? What if contemporary music was hard for middle-class, public-school educated people to understand or appreciate? What if contemporary music was only accessible by attending live concerts, where everyone dressed up and spoke in an elite code? What if recordings were an afterthought?

In the past visual art was as much a part of daily culture as music is today. Middle class people collected reproduction prints of paintings like they collect music recordings today. In the past all levels of society were able to enjoy art and discuss it, and most people could tell you their favorite artists and favorite artworks, and knew art history.

1.5 million people visited the Paris Salon exhibitions in the late 19th century. Today a blockbuster exhibition at the Met is lucky to get half that number... even though the population of New York is magnitudes higher than the population of Paris was in 1890.

Why did visual art not survive the 20th century the way music did?

John Deckert Compact digital cameras and smart phones, chrome and gadget laden Sport Utility Vehicles and large screen High Definition Televisions were the final nail in the coffin. Most people will have purchased half a dozen vehicles, a couple TVs and a couple smart phones before they're even aware that artists still paint on canvas.  But why do you say "visual art did not survive . . ." I see more now than I ever did. Of course, I'm looking for it, so . . .

John Deckert sorry, I edited my comment to ask why you think this. I don't agree. Surely the art has changed. My son for example, has posters from Miasake films in his apartment and on a recent tour of my studio he was caught between, "I don't want any of this stuff. What would I do with it?" and, "OMG, Dad. Don't throw anything away! This is your art!" and of course, at 71 years, I'm ready to die any old day now . . . LOL

John Deckert my house is stuffed with handmade paintings. And by the way, I combat the "squashed it" culture by being a little generous with my work. Of course, thanks to my dear wife, I am able to do this. However, artists of recent vintage have been clinging to precious canvases hoping to strike it rich. Or they've gone digital where they can give the image without losing any object. When I go into a restaurant, I take a quick snapshot of the server and either by the end of the meal or next I return to the restaurant I give them the drawing, inkwash, watercolor or whatever came from it. I consider myself an AMBASSADOR of the fine art of painting. I want people to have it and many who get this gift are astonished as if I'd given them a pot of gold.

John Deckert student choir from my college in Texas came to California on a fundraising tour. I ain't got no money, but I DO KNOW that they need art. So I took a few photos and gave them this.

John Deckert A friend got married. Then had a baby. I gave them a little painting along with my best and fondest wishes. That's what painters used to do, long ago, back in the 19th century when the work wasn't so desperately precious.

John Deckert back in the 70s in New York City an artist without a selling gallery was looked on as being some sort of a misfit. When I went to Paris for a year, people thought, "Oh, you're an artist. That's interesting." and I felt better for it. And the funny thing is that when I accidentally encountered an American friend from New York, I rushed over to say hello and ask how he was doing and he couldn't get away from me fast enough. So I think it may be a cultural thing. Possibly reaching all the way back to the Puritans.

Sadie Jernigan Valeri Very true. When I lived in Paris I was surprised by the approving looks I got from Parisians when I told them I was an art student, versus the reaction I got from adults in the US. In Paris they'd widen their eyes and smile with approval as if I'd said I was a student at Harvard. It was heartwarming to feel the support if the general population.

In France all school kids were taught to draw just like they were taught a musical instrument. They were taught about art history as part of their cultural heritage. At least in the 20th c, no idea about French education now. But considering how highly the french value their culture, I don't imagine it's changed a lot.

John Deckert Sadie -- you are an extraordinary artist with a unique vision. I can't imagine you ever giving up those skills and that vision. I regret that I was never able to visit your atelier or take one of the classes. But I am certain that I will see your work in the future. I hereby appoint you an OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR of the FINE ART of PAINTING. Spread good will as you can. Forget long term goals with your collectors, focus on the person sitting next to you. Put them in your sketchbook. Even that is considered a wonderful gift to people who may never have set foot in a gallery or museum. Be well. Flourish. Don't wait for people to realize they should buy something. Just do it anyway. Because you want to. Because you have to. Because you must.