OSP: Slowing the Process: A Response to “Slow Criticism: Art in the Age of Post-Judgement” by Anya Ventura

I read about art and other things often. The reading is usually what inspires my artwork and it is a major influence in this blog. Reading pushes my thinking and processes in new directions. I enjoy thinking about what I read, in my mind there is always a dialog. I thought I would share that dialog with you here.


On February 15, 2016 I read the article “Slow Criticism: Art in the Age of Post-Judgement by Anya Ventura on temporaryartreview.com. Since February I have read the article several times including the day I wrote this. Furthermore, I have watched or red other video and articles mentioned in this essay.

Ventura explores the state of art criticism today in her article. She explains that on the one hand, there are few paid critics remaining. On the other hand, critics are everywhere via the internet (I guess I am included in this group, however, because I am educated in art, I consider my thoughts to carry more weight than the average guy with a blog). Beyond this discussion, Ventura talks about art historian Jennifer Roberts and her process of slowing down the process of looking. Roberts is a professor at Harvard Univeristy, she has her students look at a single painting for three hours (harvardmagazine.com/2013/11/the-power-of-patience, accessed 4/27/2016). This is a radical act for the students, for anyone really, including an art critic. While reading the article, I was not only thinking about my own investigation into the photographs of others, but how the slowness could translate into my art making process.

In the business sense of art, we feel like we need to always be producing and always showing our work. It is a business and it is about money. Art can be about money for the artist or not. Even when art is not about money, which is the case for myself, we feel other pressures internal and external to create work quickly and methodically. At times this pressure can create interesting results, however, it can also create results with less technical sensibilities (crap in other words).

While teaching college photography classes, I found it almost impossible to get students to slow down. There photography assignments were just one more thing to turn in and be graded. I often felt as though students were not interested in learning the craft of photography. After all, it is just photography and anyone can do it. But can they do it well, is the question. Getting the students to analyze there photographs and go re-shoot for better results was a challenge. So, at one point I made the act of critiquing ones photo’s and re-shooting them the specific assignment. This seemed to help. However, I do not think this is limited to the student. After finishing graduate school I felt a real pressure to keep pushing hard. It left me paralyzed. I was making work but it had no direction.

Graduate school was my most productive time as an artist. I did not have to worry about much else. I worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant and pretty much everyday was about art. I worked on my final thesis work for a year and a half, the longest I have ever worked diligently on any project. I have made a few small projects since graduate school, however, they have gotten little notoriety.

Last fall, I made a real effort to get some structure back into my art making process. I attended an artist residency and it was amazing. I worked on my photographs everyday for over a month. The work evolved as I worked on it. The idea behind the work stayed steady but the aesthetics and construction changed. However, I am not sure if the idea’s approached during the artist residency had enough time to grow into more work. I do not want to continue making digital compositions (which is what I did during the artist residency). But the idea’s could potentially turn into something more. So, where to go from here, how to find the happy medium between producing meaningful work over a period of time and steadily showing the photographs.

Another topic Ventura addresses in her article is objectivity versus subjectivity in art criticism. She praises the art critics of the 1950’s before Greenbergian analyticism. “They were writing about their friends and why not? They were operating in the gift economy and made no claims to objectivity, their reviews not the artifacts of reason but experience” (temporaryartreview.com/slow-criticism-art-in-the-age-of-ost-judgement). As artists how do we just live the experience instead of anticipating the outcome. A line on the resume is great for business, but the experience of art making enhances your life. It is why I got interested in art in the first place. Infusing the experience of the process into the final piece is a place I would like to go. Perhaps, I have been there before while in graduate school and I would like to find it again.

To take time. To slow your thoughts. Not to slow production, but be more thoughtful with the final outcome. To look long and hard. Be subjective instead of objective (what do I want to make, not what will show). These are the thoughts mulling over in my brain.


By |2016-11-10T19:17:54-06:00May 6th, 2016|On the Subject of Photography|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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