H&M “Your Heart Here” T-Shirt Collection — THESE Are The Winning Designs?!
Call me a snob, a curmudgeon, a sourpuss, or a hater, but I struggle to understand the aesthetic value of a painting centering on a bony white chick with stringy blond hair and her denim jacket-clad male friend, both holding up pizza slices so as to cover their faces. And yet that’s a rather accurate description of Beth Zimmerman’s “Untitled” design (shown last above), one of the five winning entries in this year’s H&M “Your Art Here” contest. Sure, Zimmerman has artistic talent to spare: her oil on canvas painting is a testament to her expert technique, capturing the nuances of the human physique so precisely (down to nubby elbows, bandaged knuckles, and the pale, pruny stretches of skin in between fingers) that it takes a double or triple glance before one realizes that her design is not a photograph but, rather, a painted portrait. Still, can you honestly say that, if you saw the original painting in a gallery, you’d want to display it in your living room? Or would you rather see it wind up in the pages of Vice? How exactly can a woman rock this shirt and feel like more than, well, a one-member goof troop?
Zimmerman’s design isn’t the only baffling choice within the quintet of up-and-coming painters, photographers, illustrators, and graphic artists who amassed the most votes in H&M’s “Your Art Here” contest. The contest’s outcome was mainly decided by votes gathered on the social media site YourArtHere.com which, theoretically, should have made the process more democratic but, instead, seems to have turned the competition into a popularity contest, thereby skirting the question of merit altogether. H&M did, however, designate a panel of “judges” to preside over the contest, but I’m not quite sure what purpose they served (aside from window-dressing the competition by posing as so-called “experts”). The all too predictable “jury” consisted of: overexposed blogger Bryan Boy (who, in my opinion, lacks both writing talent and a true understanding of fashion as art, instead focusing on trivialities and pretentiously name-dropping at every turn); Claire Sulmers, founder of The Fashion Bomb, a celebrity-centric site focusing on urban culture; Alexander Gilkes, a former LVMH executive who recently founded the online art destination Paddle8.com, making him one of the only judges with a background in art; Mark Schoneveld, the founder of the virtually unknown indie music site YVYNYL, whose inclusion in this jury panel mystifies me; and Allison McNamara, one of the more deserving members of the jury given her experience producing and hosting FabSugarTV. As mentioned though, the weight of these jurors’ input remains unknown but, from what I can ascertain, the number of votes received ultimately dictated the five artists selected to have their work printed on T-shirts and sold as part of a limited-edition collection at H&M.
Which brings me to the next undeservedly triumphant design: Rockie Nolan’s “Have Heart,” pictured third from top, a photograph of a ribcage adorned with flowers along the chest region which the shutterbug manipulated by separating its CMYK layers and printing the final effect as a lithograph. Sure, Nolan can wax poetic about how she wanted to play upon notions of life and death, mind versus body, and beautiful versus macabre, but I’ve seen Day of the Dead artwork by grade schoolers with more personality.
One of the only designs with mass market appeal is Jodan Tibeiro’s “Nat in Blue”, pictured above at top, a cyanotype of the photography student’s youngest sister’s best friend. Though not particularly imaginative, this submission at least has commercial appeal (as opposed to, say, Zimmerman’s silly design).
Still, none of the five winning designs even nears the level of creativity and approachability displayed by some of the other submissions — for example, “Freedom” by Dana-Maria Barrios, “Feathers & Lace” by Louan Lin, and “A Kaleidoscopic Heart” by Jason Lau, among others.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fierce art lover and I applaud the goal of H&M’s campaign, that of giving promising artists a vehicle through which to showcase their pieces. What irks me about this campaign, then, is that the final results were influenced by high school-like politics instead of merit, originality, and drive. It’s yet another sad example of how quantity tends to beat quality these days.
Though voting is now closed, you can still check out some of the submissions online at YourArtHere.com and share them with your Facebook and Twitter friends.
And, if for some odd reason, you find one of the above-pictured designs covetable, you can find them at H&M stores all over the US.