Writing is an art. And writing about art is an art of arts. Like art, it’s hard. It’s complicated. Helk, people make careers writing about art!
On Miriam’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, we are in the midst of a series reviewing Miriam’s still life pieces over the decades. Still life is an art genre that dates back to the earliest of times where the artist depicts objects, usually arranged and inanimate (but not always), that are not moving.
One of the interesting things about still life paintings is that they often tell a story with clues hidden in plain sight, sort of like a photo from a crime scene. The viewer can certainly enjoy the work visually at face value, but to appreciate the piece at a deeper level, one must understand the story the still life work is trying to communicate.
And that’s where writing about Miriam’s art comes into play. If you’ve not ever written about art or been trained to do so, you just don’t have the words to bring to life the story of the still life for the viewer. Even the artist struggles to describe in impactful words the work they have so painstakingly created.
RISE OF THE AI ART CRITIC
Enter the “robots” or AI, Artificial Intelligence, to the rescue?!? We will not go into the details of what AI is or how it works (a great podcast here if you are interested in its origin story). Let’s just say that AI technology is now mature enough and easy to use so you can have an art critic (or a million of them) in your back pocket.
What do we mean? Let’s look at this non-traditional still life of Miriams.
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Here is the description of this piece as we wrote it:
This work, “Alabama Power and the Wasp Nest” by Miriam McClung, 1980, oil on linen, is a favorite. This utility box was on the back of Miriam’s home and studio door. One summer wasps decided to make it their home, so before removing the nest she painted it.
The painting is an excellent example of Miriam’s paintings drawing one’s focus to the uniqueness of everyday scenes that would otherwise be dismissed. Though the wasps are moving, this unconventional still life shows the synergy between two potentially dangerous and even deadly things, wasps and electricity, living together in harmony with proper boundaries.
It’s not bad, but it doesn’t do a great job of helping the viewer connect the dots of the painting’s layers of meaning.
Now let’s look at the same description written by the AI ChatGPT in the style of noted art critic Jerry Saltz:
“Alabama Power and the Wasp Nest,” by Miriam McClung, 1980 is a captivating piece that highlights Miriam’s ability to draw our attention to the overlooked aspects of our everyday surroundings. In this piece, she brings our focus to a seemingly mundane utility box that adorns the back of her former home and studio door. However, it is not the box itself that steals the spotlight but rather the unexpected collaboration between nature and human technology.
One summer, a colony of wasps chose this utility box as their abode. Instead of simply removing the nest, Miriam chose to paint the interplay between two elements that often carry a sense of danger and potential harm: wasps and electricity. Yet, Miriam manages to portray them living in remarkable harmony, each respecting the other’s boundaries. It is this juxtaposition of two seemingly contrasting forces that gives “Alabama Power and the Wasp Nest” its poetic appeal.”
No, it’s not quite as personal, but you can see how much closer it brings you to understand the work at another level, even if a bit wordy and with some over-the-top language.
Here is another example of a ChatGPT AI writing the description of “Orange Marmalade” (see piece above).
Miriam’s 1963 oil on linen painting, “Orange Marmalade,” pays homage to the Impressionist style, particularly reminiscent of Paul Cézanne’s work “Curtain, Jug and Fruit Bowl” and tantalizes the viewer with a deceptively simple subject matter: a table adorned with a bowl of fruit, an empty plate with knife, and an open jar of orange marmalade jelly.
IT’S ONLY GOING TO GET MORE INTERESTING
What if the Tonight Show’s host, Jimmy Fallon, created his opening monologue around describing Miriam’s still life “The Palette and the Paper Towel”?
We tried it, and here’s Jimmy:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a masterpiece in the house! Give it up for “The Palette and the Paper Towel” by artist Miriam McClung from 1973! This painting is like a behind-the-scenes tour of an artist’s studio. We’ve got the essentials: palette, check! And hold on to your seats, because this artist is not holding back on the paper towels. She’s going through them like it’s an Olympic sport!
But wait, there’s more! We’ve got cans of turpentine and varnishes, making this studio smell like an art supply store. And let’s not forget about the paintbrush in a jar, chilling like it’s on vacation in the Bahamas. Right in the center, there’s a bold and beautiful geranium stealing the spotlight, saying, “Hey, I’m here to bring some life and color to this party!”
Oh, and did I mention the surprise guests? We’ve got a budding potato and a folded newspaper making a cameo appearance. It’s like a slice of everyday life right in the middle of all this artistic extravaganza.
Now, here’s the kicker: in the background, we’ve got another painting called “Sonny Asleep.” It’s like a painting within a painting! It’s like the movie Inception, but with art! It’s the art world’s version of a hidden Easter egg.
So, let’s give it up for “The Palette and the Paper Towel,” a funky trip to the artist’s studio that’ll make you appreciate the beauty and creativity that surrounds us every day. It’s like stepping into an art-filled wonderland, where even a potato can be a star. Stick around, folks, because we’ve got a fantastic show coming up!”
“The Laundry Room” by Miriam McClung, 1997. Oil on board. 50” x 46”. Sold.
Miriam loves poetry, so we thought it would be interesting the description of her still life, “The Laundry Room” (see image above), written by ChatGPT AI in the style of noted American Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman:
In Miriam’s Birmingham abode, a humble scene,
The laundry room reveals its vibrant sheen.
A tapestry of colors, a daily symphony,
Where garments dance with grace, a rhythmic melody.
A laundry basket, brimming with clothes untamed,
Rests upon the washing machine, effortlessly framed.
Tide and detergents stand, guardians of cleanliness,
Alongside a hammer, t-square, and paper towel’s finesse.
Upon the wall, a tableau of surprises unfold,
Straw hat and hand saws, stories yet untold.
They hang in silent harmony, tools of a different trade,
Witnessing the ebb and flow, where artistry is displayed.
A vertical dryer vent, reaching towards the sky,
A conduit for dreams to soar, where hopes reside.
Old pipes wind, carrying whispers of time’s embrace,
Connecting past and present, leaving no trace.
And over the curtain, an artist’s apron finds its rest,
A testament to creation, a garment of passion’s zest.
Miriam’s brush has captured the essence divine,
A still life painting, where beauty and everyday align.
In this sacred space, where chores and art collide,
Miriam’s creation speaks, with voices amplified.
A poem woven with colors, a testament to the mundane,
Transcending laundry’s confines, where inspiration reigns.
All this to say we’ll be using AI to help us write descriptions of Miriam’s art in fun and creative ways in the future. We will always tell you at the top if it is AI generated so you know the source. This newsletter was not written by a robot AI!
If you’ve made it this far, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you like these AI written descriptions.
The designers for the HGTV’s “Cheap Old Houses” and Magnolia Network’s “Happy to Be Home” show saw Miriam’s virial video and reached out to see if Miriam’s work might be a good fit for an upcoming season. It is! Both shows feature artists work prominently throughout the home redesign, and both shows are unique in that they work with historic homes. We’ll let you know what episode of the upcoming season her work will be in so you can watch.
We are in the incubation stage of planning show for Miriam’s work. The problem is finding a suitable location in our small town. We don’t know what direction to take this right now but are waiting to see what opportunities arise.
Many thanks to new collectors of Miriam’s work in Spring Park MN, Staten Island NY, Mountain Brook AL, and Austin TX!
Thanks for making it this far and supporting Miriam’s art.
Frank & Miriam