Nothing is worse than an untrained artist who copies photos naively. However, a well-trained artist can do anything he or she likes. I know some excellent artists who on occasion use photos, yet I don’t think their work makes one think of the photo because they know what they are doing. One more thing… there is a group of photographers today who make new images with old and demanding techniques such as the daguerreotype and the cyanotype. Artists like John Dugdale, are doing similar things in photography to what is happening in our group.”
It was then decided to omit any negative reference to coping photographs, although it is a shortcut strongly rejected by most of the artists this group, particularly as color in a photograph is never as true and subtle as color from life.
EDUCATION: In his June 2004 address to the Royal Academy, Robert Hughes also observed: “In the 45 years that I’ve been writing criticism, there has been a tragic depreciation in the traditional skills of painting and drawing, the nuts and bolts of the profession.” This brings up the issue of how the artists of the new slow movement were trained if establishment art schools, like the Royal Academy, or Yale or UCLA, had all gone in another direction and largely eliminated serious traditional training from their curriculums. This issue is especially germane as advanced training in traditional artistic skills is so essential to Slow Art.
The answer is that the movement first required several new art schools to be founded. This started in the 1980s. One of the first and most important of these new schools was The New York Academy of Art founded in 1982 in New York City by Stuart Pivar and Andy Warhol. Its stated goal was to revitalize art education by reintroducing traditional training. The next year, two young American painters with similar goals, Daniel Graves and Charles H. Cecil, started an Art Academy in Florence, Italy. Ever since, New York City and Florence have been the center for education for the Slow Art movement. In New York City, in addition to the Arts Students League which began to revitalize itself in the 1990s, Jacob Collins started the Water Street Atelier in 1997, an important new art school which took the seriousness of the skills being taught to a new level. There is also now in New York City, the Bridgeview School of Fine Art started in 2001 and the Harlem Studio School of Art founded by Andrea Smith in New York in 2002. Meanwhile, in Florence there are now three new traditional art schools all run by North Americans: The Florence Academy of Art founded in 1991 by Daniel Graves, the Charles H. Cecil Studios and the Michael John Angel Studio. Elsewhere, Nelson Shanks started the Accademia degli Incamminati in 2002 in Philadelphia, the School of Representational Art started in Chicago in 1992, The Bougie Studio began in Minneapolis in 1988, and on the west coast, there is the Seattle Academy of Art begun in 1989 and the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art started in 2002. These schools are now inundated with young applicants. A good sign for, as in the past, traditional skills needed to be taught to hundreds of artists before producing some really great ones like the artists in this group.
Ironically, while in the19th century young American artists who wanted to learn such skills flocked to Europe to be taught by European artists, in the early 21st century young European artists who want to learn such skills are applying in increasing numbers to these new schools being run and largely staffed by Americans.
FUTURISTS: Finally, consideration was given as to whether there might be any specific reference in the manifesto to its art historical counterpart, the 1909 Futurist Manifesto. Obviously, this group totally rejects the Futurist view that the art of the past is an enemy. In addition to glorifying War and opposing feminism, the first Futurist Manifesto called for the destruction of all art museums. It was concluded, however, that there was no need to mention any other type of earlier art in any negative way. The goal was to raise a new flag in the art world, not pick a fight. Moreover, to a young group of artists who were born into an age where speed is taken for granted, the famous line in the Futurist Manifesto that states: “We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed” just seems old or irrelevant. The same time that the Futurists wrote their Manifesto the Wright Brothers flew their first plane and Marcel Duchamp exhibited his readymade “found” object, a urinal that he called Fountain. All these events now all seem like ancient history to this young group. In New York City in 2005, it seems more necessary to challenge the establishment art world by asserting the validity of a slower, timeless form of art made possible thought the acquisition of the skills and poetry of traditional painting. Like the Futurists, however, these artists also seek to create not only the style, but also the content that inspires the future.
THE GROUP: The manifesto group was largely self-formed as in the past with other movements the best artists tend to recognize each other. In 2001 the Benamou Gallery in Paris had an exhibition of the core artists of the original group Jacob Collins, Patricia Watwood, Mikel Glass, Graydon Parrish, Chris Gallego, William Kennon, and Randy Melick. The title of the Paris show had been New York - Realists Now. The first Artists’ Night critique was on August 14, 2002 at the Hedbergs and was inspired by the visit from Florence of the noted art historian and art critic, John Spike. Since then there have been four other critique evenings as the Hedbergs, while Stuart Pivar, Jacob Collins, and Mikel Glass each hosted a similar event in New York.
The artists attending on January 11th were Jacob Collins, Mikel Glass, William Kennon, Kate Lehman, Graydon Parrish, Richard Piloco, Chris Pugliese and Patricia Watwood from New York. Attending for the first time, although their work was weill known to the group, were Paul Brown an American living in London, Anthony Ackrill from Florida, and Jimmy Sanders an American living in Florence.
In addition, two emerging artists were there that evening, Brian LeBoeuf from New York City and Lisa Sawitt, from Boston. The average age of the artists present was about 35 years old.
Also, attending were Sabina Rewald, Curator of 20th Century Art from the Metropolitan Museum; Morley Safer and Fred Bernstein, both writers and reporters; Susan Farley, a contemporary photographer; Christina Inmann an art dealer from Vienna and a regular attendee at such meetings; Troy Stafford, a framer from Massachusetts; and Shelley Farmer, Jane Safer, Elizabeth Feld, Margaret and Gregory Hedberg all from New York.