Shaw has called them “unquantifiable,” a term that might resonate with the staff of Boston’s Museum of Bad Art. Founded in 1993, the institution avoids collecting the merely incompetent. Instead, said
curator Michael Frank, they seek out “pieces that exhibit good technique used to create images of questionable taste.”
Unlike the artists behind many of Shaw’s thrift-store paintings, the “bad painters” of art history were often technically skilled. They made a conscious decision to ignore the standards of good taste and good style, which wasn’t always intuitive. Jenney, for example, said he used to get the itch to fix his bad paintings.
“In the beginning, I said, ‘Whatever happens, I accept it.’ But I did one that had a little boy, and a big glob of green grass landed right on his face.” The rules, he knew, dictated that it had to stay. But “the more I looked, I realized, ‘Wait a minute, that is out of line. That is too distracting, it’s like losing the mood here.’ And I went over and wiped it off while it was still wet.”
There is such a thing as too bad, after all.