Opinion | Word Art always disappoints

By Ellen Barczak, Senior Columnist

We are surrounded by art at all times. The clothes we wear, the music we hear, the shows we view, the works hanging on our walls. Not all art is created equal, though.

I have long considered “word art,” or as some call it “sign art,” the least of all the art forms. 

One might encounter this specific brand of art on the wall of a white lady’s kitchen: combinations of fonts, alternating between block letters and cursive, painted onto fake reclaimed barn wood backgrounds, saying things like, “Family gathers here,” “Live, Laugh, Love” or some other nauseating cliche.

Oftentimes I’ve walked into homes which find it necessary to label each portion of the house with said word art, detailing the appropriate activity for each room such as “Eat,” “Gather” or “Wash your hands.” 

Other sign art tends to tout the glories of the basic white person’s two favorite beverages: wine and coffee. Or every WASP’s favorite bible verse, John 3:16. 

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

I would say there is no such thing as bad art. But, seeing as this unimaginative and often factory-produced art exists, that would be a lie. The vibe screams, “An influencer on Instagram said this is cute, so it must be!” 

There are real, live, human, starving artists near you. They don’t all live in Soho, New York or Portland, Oregon. Being an artist is a wonderful, albeit tragically difficult career choice in terms of making a living for oneself.

So every time you have a hankering for some fresh wall hangings or household decor and you, instead of finding a local artist and commissioning some original, one-of-a-kind, tailored to you art, bounce on over to Bed, Bath and Beyond or some other godforsaken Mecca of consumerism, you’re taking bread out of the mouth of that artist and his or her family. 

Art produced in factories is cheap. It’s easy. It’s convenient. It’s also incredibly tacky and, I’d venture to say, buff (“buff” is a portmanteau of “brutal” and “rough,” and more people should use it.) It’s not fair to the thousands of people in your community who love creating and are good at it. 

A quick internet search of “local artists” provides one a myriad of options as to how to contact a local artist and purchase their work. Etsy, even, is a proven platform for the small business person wishing to sell their wares to a broader demographic. 

In the days of COVID-19, festivals and other outlets these creative people might use to gain exposure for their work can’t happen. The starving artists are likely hungrier than ever, and they could use your help. 

This art doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, either, and when you consider the durability and possible timelessness of a work of art created specifically for you, it’s worth it to spend a little more to buy less often. If you’re someone who hasn’t been laid off due to the pandemic, now is the time to stimulate the economy with all you saved during quarantine.

Now is especially a great time to redecorate, considering the impending cold and dark days spent exclusively indoors. Resist the urge to purchase bland, unoriginal, tacky art made in a factory. Instead, buy art from a human person who just wants people to enjoy what they create. 

Ellen is a senior in LAS.

[email protected]