Production and Consumerism in High Culture

This Eating Duck is included in our Vintage Fundraiser, priced to afford to launch a mug project with an existing American slip casting studio
The Eating Duck is the last sculpture Dad worked on, and the first one in which the subject is involved in an activity as opposed to a portrait in repose. It began as our egg form vase and the sculpture was built around it.

It seemed no co-incidence that the last sculpture Dad created, hatched from an egg, one of my Dad’s elemental forms, suggests a future direction for the company he founded. As I worked with these images I realized that the subject matter calls out to be reproduced as an outdoor sculpture.

The space created by the sculpture is very intimate. One can get very very close to the duck as it feeds. The Eating Duck is a natural subject for an out door sculpture in a rural public square or on a woodland walk, and a reminder of our planetary co-habitants in an urban landscape. It would be striking in a sculpture garden surrounding the Andersen Design Museum of America Designer Craftsmen, when the museum materializes.

This Eating Duck is being saved for reference for our proposed outdoor art sculpture

The first challenge is to find, invent, or adapt the material out of which this sculpture can be made.  The material must be strong enough to withstand severe weather conditions while retaining the beautiful ceramic surface quality of Dad’s brown decorating slip. This is an area about which I presently know nothing. I am hypothesizing that such a technology is possible today. The first stage is research into how it can be produced, and then how it will be funded.

The first images that come to mind of existing outdoor nature sculptures express power and/or aggression, such as the bull in downtown the Manhattan’s financial district and ancient stone lions.

In an article titled 10 Best Sculpture Parks Around the World, of twenty-one images, only two sculptures have wildlife as a subject matter, (excluding the human species) and one of those two is a mythical creature, Pegasus, the winged horse. The other is a Deer by artist Tony Tasset, created in fibreglass, epoxy and paint.

In the article, Jessica Stewart writes “For centuries collectors and artists have brought together monumental sculpture and placed it against nature, with institutions finding the allure of art and environment an attractive calling card for visitors.

 “Monumental” suggests that a sculpture must be very large in size to assert its importance, as appears to be the case with most of the sculptures featured in the article. The Deer by Tony Tasset is “supersized”. The description on the Laumeier Sculpture Park website states;“The surreal juxtaposition of the supersized deer emerging from the woodland dramatizes the relationship of what it means to be human, the identity of sculpture and their respective places in nature. Tasset explains Deer “as a work that represents the highest conceptual ambitions with a delightful populist twist.

The artist. Tony Tasset, describes the Deer in the language of a cultural artifact emphasizing conceptualism, ambition, and populism. Ambition is “the highest conceptual ambition”. Imagining a large scale sculpture is easy, It is in the making of the work wherein ambition lies. The larger the artwork, the more ambitious it is to produce. I wondered if Tasset is himself involved in the making of the work or if he contracts it out. I went through several articles about Tasslet, including an interview but the discussion about how the work is produced is not to be found, and so I concluded that Tasslet has no involvement in the making of the work, for if he did , he would surely have something to say about it. The popular twist must refer to the imagery and the style of the fawn. a subject which engages human love for babies and animals, but the words imply that sentimental love is of the populous, the “low” of the “high and low art, which Mr Tasset says he seeks to merge.The populous are categorically separate from conceptual ambitions. Although Tasset breaks away from industrial and technological imagery in his subject matter, he can not let go in his thought of the cultural elitism so thinly veiled in the simulacra art of the postmodern era. Nonetheless, Tasset has introduced imagery otherwise missing in the sculpture garden portfolio.

I envision the Eating Duck as a larger sculpture than Andersen Design traditionally makes, but not supersized, unless one is considering the perspective of the Duck. I see the Eating Duck produced in a size equivalent to human size amplifying the intimate space created by the activity of eating, an act common to Man and his cohabitating species. The Duck should be on a pedestal so that it is situated so that a human observer can get very close to Duck’s head as it eats and its eyes gaze to the side to meet the human eyes of the viewer.

The text on the Laumeier website says “This cunning work explores how we collectively dwell in the landscape but also celebrates the unique environment created when art frames nature.”  I think of outdoor sculpture the other way around. When sculpture is displayed out doors nature frames art. It would be easier to solve the challenges of creating a large sculpture to be displayed indoors, but an indoor work is not as interactive a part of our everyday environment. An outdoor work becomes part of the passerby’s experience, taken in and absorbed in the course of living their lives.

Doe with Fawn by Elise Isabel Andersen

Andersen Design is proposing self appropriation of original, small scale. popular. niche market art, made large, but since it is a work process rooted in the raw materials of the earth, fashioned by man into an original image, it is not appropriation but rather evolution, and not post modern, but post-post modern, in a twist on Allen Sekula (discussed below) because it does not give image to the void of production but to the anomaly of production in the de-industrialized world. Andersen Design’s process begins in the small scale and that is its importance. In the small scale the work evolves differently. Mind and materiality are inseparabile in the act of creation. My father, who created this business, with my mother, had very intellectual and esoteric mind, but he chose a very physical form of expression.

In postmodernism, conceptualism is realized through making something small, large. In ceramics it has always been possible to scale down a design, but not to scale it up in size. I am hypothesizing that with today’s technology it should be possible to move in both directions, and that both directions contribute to the cultural meaning of Andersen Design’s art. Imagine that our proposed network of small studios includes one studio specializing in scaling up or scaling down designs. It would likely also specialize in making supports for sculptures like the Heron, needed to keep its neck from sagging during firing. This would be a creatively innovative endeavor in a rural community which maintains ordinances encouraging the quality of a rural working lifestyle in which businesses in the home proliferate. This kind of a community would not be your every day megalopolis. Because Andersen Design has an inventory of over two hundred designs, which have maintained marketability since the day they were created, sold not to mass markets, but to niche markets, and so not over produced, Andersen Design can potentially provide the basis for such a specialized studio provided adequate funding. Our Vintage line is continually being updated with new additions and is instrumental in our diverse multiplex bootstrapping financing strategy, Check it out!

Heron Sculpture by Weston Neil Andersen

The Serf’s Story:

Jeff Koons is the reigning star of postmodernism in the eighties and beyond. In August of 2012, The New York Times published I Was Jeff Koons’s Studio Serf by John Powers. Powers was a twenty one year old art student at the time he worked for Koons. He painted the cracked Egg oil paining by Koons. Koons described himself as “an idea person”, The art is in the idea, separated from the act of producing the idea, like the intellect is separated from animals. Powers describes his job painting Koon’s paintings in similar terms used by Amazon distribution workers, describing their jobs imitating robots.

My job was simple: Paint by numbers. The most intricate sections required miniature brushes, sizes 0 and 00, their bristles no longer than an eyelash. The goal was to hand-fashion a flat, seamless surface that appeared to have been manufactured by machine, which meant there could be no visible brush strokes, no blending, no mistakes. John Powers I Was Jeff Koons’s Studio Serf 

 Leaning Mug by Weston, the white glaze falls over the hand carved nautilus as a happenstance of nature.

Andersen Design production work has a goal diametrically opposite that of Koons. Koon’s goal is to create art made by humans that looks like it is made by a machine. While the goal of Andersen Deign’s art is to hand fashion a surface that appears to have been made by nature, human nature. The goal in Koon’s process is to have every production piece look the same. The idea of the Andersen Design production process is that no two hand crafted works are ever exactly alike.

On November 30, 2012, Jeff Koons was awarded the United States Medal of Art by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It is described as “The first Medal Of Arts awards,(by the State Department) granted to five artists.

The main reason, that I could grasp, for selecting Koons, is that he is very famous and at the time his art commanded the highest market price in the world. In my opinion, the message conveyed by Koons is not beneficial to United States diplomacy. I am not alone in my reaction to Koon’s appropriated kitsch, transformed into high art by scale and costly materials, a self portrait of the artist looking, with disdain, simultaneously towards the world and within, while expounding a philosophical view of capitalism which is often protested, across the world, as deplorable.

In the honorary speech, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton recognized Koons for the time in that year when he spoke before an audience of 1000 listeners in China. According to Secretary of State Clinton Mr Koons “inspired cross-cultural appreciation and thought-provoking discussions among the city’s art community“. Inspire he did, based on the content of his work, which speaks of consumerism and capitalism. Soon after Koon’s presentation, the Chinese came out with a lower priced version of Koon’s work.

The Secretary of State characterized the core of our government as public private relationships, without which the Awards program could not exist. but did not explain why one cannot give an award without such a precondition: She cited De Tocqueville, a critic of American individualism, and then spoke of what acquaintance with the awardees would mean for people yearning to express themselves under a repressive regime:

“One of the great characteristics of our country are our public-private partnerships. They are really at the core of how we do everything. De Tocqueville noticed that, but we’ve continued to perfect and increase our extraordinary partnerships between government and business, between civil society and academia. Our partnerships are really at the core of who we are and what we do. And this program could not exist without those partners. So on behalf of the Obama Administration, and especially everyone who works in our Diplomatic Corps around the world, we have been blessed by your generosity……

 [Each of these artists] are living testaments to the timeless and unending human urge to create and connect,” she continued. “So they provide us with another language of diplomacy, one that evokes our universal aspirations as human beings, our common challenges, and our responsibilities for thinking through and addressing the problems that we face together……

Just think of what each of these artists means for people yearning to express themselves, that young artist living under a repressive regime, that budding painter who’s not quite sure where he or she fits in. Now, not all of these people will ever meet any of these artists, but they will learn about them and themselves, maybe even know something of their spirit and tap into a deeper level of inspiration, because they will encounter their works………”.  link to no longer available speech

On July 29 2014, artnet news reported that a Chinese Company is producing copies of Koons work,


Weston Neil Andersen was raised on an Iowan farm in the era before farming was over taken by corporate interests. Weston and Brenda were fortunate in establishing Andersen Design at the pinnacle of the American middle class, when, as Dad often told, the greatest amount of wealth was distributed among the greatest number of people. Dad would often remember the days of his youth as a time when the community spirit was greater and the food was better and one would forget, as he said so, that he was talking about the depression. Even then he was fortunate to live in a town which had two banks with $1000.00 each, but he also told stories of forlorn wanderers, passing through, whom grandfather provided with jobs on the farm. In that simple story is a key concept; We are all humanity’s saving grace, if we choose to be so. We may not be able to deterministically affect the larger forces that create the human condition but within our local environment, individual to individual, we make a difference. My father’s reaction to the changes during his time was to create something which preserved the values, he felt to be inherently better than those being heralded in with the industrial revolution. Today we have moved on to the digital revolution, but the transitional issues of working process values remain the same.

The Leaning Nautilus Mug by Weston Neil Andersen

Hand made production is a mindful work process, the humanistic alternative to the 19th century revolt against the working conditions brought about by the industrial revolution. Andersen Design is a production as an art medium established during a brief historical moment which was a precursor to the cultural movement which began in the 1960’s with Andy Warhol.

Warhol’s “factory” was a hands-on artistic art process in which the subject of art was commercialism and mass culture celebrity. Andy Warhol’s art factory transformed the factory workers into stars, by the mere act of branding them with outstanding names and featuring them in films produced by the factory. Quite the opposite of the next generation of the “production as an art form” genre in high culture. Mark Kostabi and Jeff Koons keep the production of their art at an arm’s distance. The focus was on Koons and Kostabi, while the factory workers were as faceless as the subjects in Kostabi’s art.

In the early nineties a new art movement emerged in the work of photographer and critic, Allan Sekula, who first came into wide public attention in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. Instead of making images of images the subject of art, Sekula’s photographed the effects left by the vanishing of images of production in the developed world, photographing the void within cultural and economic globalisation.

In 2012, the Tate Museum published online, a lengthy discussion of the work of photographer, and photography critic, Allan Sekula, written artistically, in the Mcluhan sense, by Bill Roberts,

Production in View: Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and the Thawing of Postmodernism, examines the occlusion of visual imagery of production in the developed world. Roberts identifies the geographical reorganization of the globe by the industrialization of the south and east and the deindustrialization of the north. The imagery of Fish stories are the oceans and  accompanying maritime industries, contrasting unanchored capitalism with the bulk and weight of the vessels which transport goods across waters from the industrialized zones to the consumer economies. Mr Roberts writing captures a sense of cultural weightlessness mirrored in the trending economic vacuity of American macroeconomic investment strategies examined in Senator Rubio’s report, American Investment in the Twenty First Century.

The overarching subject of Sekula’s material was global maritime industry, and especially its role as the largely unseen bedrock of the worldwide distribution of commodities. Fish Story thus confronted the space-time compression of a consumerist world whose latest buzzword, ‘friction-free capitalism’, conjured images of a dematerialised economy newly enabled by the computer as ‘the sole engine of our progress’, with its own abundant imagery of the slow, weighty transportation of goods across the oceans, a vast water-borne iron and steel infrastructure, and of lives defined, both at work and at leisure, by its shifting global parameters; an affront to the ‘blinkered narcissism of the information specialist’, as Sekula himself has remarked.21 Production in View: Allan Sekula’s Fish Story and the Thawing of Postmodernism

Roberts and Sekula’s work amplifies the lost connection in contemporary western culture to the meaningful value of work and the relationship between productivity and wealth creation, hidden from view, and banished from language in the consumer economies of the North. Mr Roberts echoes Marshall Mcluhan on the role of the artist in understanding the human relationship to technology. Mcluhan wrote “The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness” Marshall Mcluhan, the Medium is the Message

Fish Story’s articulation of the global, macroeconomic scene is not merely that, but also a powerful intervention into precisely this insular artistic and art-institutional picture. If art is indeed situated at the nerve centre of this cultural amnesia as the standard bearer for ideologies of the ‘weightless economy’, Fish Story asks whether the visual arts might in fact be the ideal arena in which to confront this repression, by way of a photographic activism that would disarm art’s First-World ideologies of simulacral self-sufficiency.27  

Twenty-six years later censorship of “production” reigns in art world institutionalism. Throughout its history, Andersen Design has been flaunting categorization by a culture increasingly fuedalized while flummoxed by an American ceramic slip-cast production as the medium for hand crafted art marketed to the middle class. The upside is that exclusion from institutionalism necessitates individualism. There is a system outside the system, where the butterflies roam, flapping their wings and expecting the unexpected in due course.

Andersen Design imagines a more culturally and economically integrated globe, a world where money is not the only organizing factor of human culture, where the work process regains its respective place in nature and humanity.

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