Published quickly on the heels of their book on public scientific literacy, Unscientific America, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum have released their newest book Unartistic America, which tackles the low art literacy in America, it's consequences, and what should be done to change the situation.
In a recent Pew poll, only 73 percent of Americans could identify the subject of the Mona Lisa as Lisa del Giocondo, wife of Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo. Barely 60 percent could provide a succinct definition of "chromoluminarism." And a mere 38 percent-- less than 2 out of 5 Americans-- can name 8 or more paintings by Paul Gauguin!
But even worse for art literacy in America, assert Mooney and Kirshenbaum, are the neorealists, who criticize the "crap that my 5-year old could have painted" on their blogs. By criticizing crap that could be painted by a 5-year old, according to the authors, the neorealists turn off hipster doofuses who like crap that could be painted by a 5-year-old. For the greater good of increasing art literacy in America, according to Mooney and Kirshenbaum, neorealists should accommodate the hipster doofuses by pretending to like and respect crap that could be painted by a 5-year-old.
How did we reach this dismal state? According to Mooney and Kirshenbaum, much of the blame lies with the members of the art community, who do not spend enough time explaining art to a general population. "What we need", writes Mooney, "is a new generation of Andy Warhols, capable of making art seem relevant and understandable to a general audience." Mooney and Kirshenhaum then suggest that art schools require more classes in public speaking and journalism so that artist can better explain why people should like the same things the artists like-- especially their own art.
Unartistic America, along with Unscientific America, together provide a quick one-two punch against illiteracy in America and the complacent Establishment scientists and artists who have let it happen. Only when the elders of the science and art communities accept the seasoned wise council of Chris Mooney (32) and Sheril Kirshenbaum (29) can we truly become an Artistic (and Scientific) America.
Chris Mooney is a professional science writer and co-writer of The Intersection, a blog where he writes about why people should buy his books.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is a marine biologist who writes mostly about kissing.