A Journal of Art Criticism

Published by the South Bay Area Women's Caucus for Art
Volume 4, Number 2, 1997

EcoTech: conceptual drawing by Deborah Kennedy for the
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority


Public ArtWhose Art?

Lori Kay . Sydell Lewis . Robin McCloskey

Glen Rogers Perrotto . Patricia Sanders

Pablo Diego Viramontes

From the Editor:

Public art, like other art, has strands that connect the artist and the viewer. For public art, there are more strands, made up of the many people who have an interest in it. When public money is used, as it generally is, the wider public is interested. The special group which the art honors is concerned about its portrayal. The neighborhood around the site cares. Members of the art community also have their opinions. Any attempt to prioritize ownership of public art would end up in a tangled knot. The intention behind this issue's themepublic art, whose art?is to put this question into your head, reader, so that in reading the articles here, you may establish your own priorities.

What makes public art good? Current advocates for new genre public art believe in turning aside traditional artistic conventions and forms of evaluation. They have strong beliefs in the power of art to DO good. I believe that public art can be a way to ease into public consideration of particularly sensitive social issues, but it cannot bear the burden of too much intention to do good. On the other hand, thinking up new criteria for evaluation may be a way to clear a path through the debris of out-of-date conventions . Of course, the final proof is in the eating: successful art must meet the test of public response over time.

These thoughts have occurred to me as I have reviewed the contents of this issue, as well as questions like, does corporate art have a positive function as public art? Does public art have a special ability to memorialize? Can one's own cultural experience be affirmed by a different cultural experience? What are the pros and cons for the artist who does public art? I hope the articles which follow will spark your mind, too.

With this issue, we introduce a new feature: a specially-commissioned art project related to the theme, this time, of public art. Robin McCloskey has submitted a proposal for a public art work, to be sited in the Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto.

A few words about our cover...Deborah Kennedy's public art work, EcoTech, was recently installed at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's Champion Light Rail Station on Tasman Drive in San José. It is constructed of an eight-ton boulder cut into four slabs. The title, referring to hopes for a biocompatible technology, suggests a theme for a future issue of (detail): ecology and art.

Karen Haas

Public ArtWhose Art?

(detail) gratefully acknowledges support from the Arts Council of Santa Clara County PARTNERS Pooled Funds including support from the City of San José.

Editor: Karen Haas
Associate Editor: Christine Laffer
Art Director: AlayneYellum
Promotions: Sarah Ratchye
Web Site: Saelon Renkes

The South Bay Area Women's Caucus for Art is an organization of 200 arts professionals. Our purpose is to educate the public about the contribution of women to the arts and to ensure inclusion of women in the history of art, while respecting differences in age, religion and cultural heritage. Women and men interested in membership please call 408-266-0650. Please send letters to Editor, 181 South 21st Street, San Jose, CA 95116.