Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In the Valley of the Dragons

Hello dear reader,
Pardon me while take issue with society again.
I have noticed that states have been advertising themselves as possible places to come for a visit. I've seen one for Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, IE all the states that border NC and NC itself. I've also noticed that in at least one moment of the blast of images [that are meant to inform you that if you haven't seen this place you can't suggest to anybody that you've lived yet] they advertise how creative they all are. There are pictures of Public art, Galleries, people playing music, people pursuing dance, in fact most of the arts; suggesting that ART is a good thing. That they support the arts. That they think this is a viable reason to come and spend your money there.
I don't have a problem with this, in fact if you ever check out my web site you'll notice that the first thing I state is that society is measured by the complexity of it's art. This is a fact. When we discuss any society that came before us, we contemplate them by what they made and how they made it and why they made it. We measure their complexity as a society by examining how they decorated utilitarian items and how they portrayed what ever Deity(s) they believed in. And yet, our own society rallies against art in every fashion they can think of. When the state needs money, the first cut that's made is schools. The first thing in schools that gets cut is the arts programs. Our own JESSE HELMES (spit) stood up with a group of pictures done by Maplethorpe, and suggested that the American people had funded his pornography...and if it wasn't pornography he dared any Newspaper to print these images. The goal was to cut funding to the arts. What he realized but most people don't is that newspapers would not print anything that might offend anybody in any way. I'm sure we'd all agree that Botticelli's Birth of Venus is ART. For those of you unfamiliar with the piece its a naked woman (Simonetta Vespucci) who is supposedly Venus (who was born of the foam of the sea) standing on a sea shell, attempting to cover her nakedness with her hands and hair, while her assistants rush to put a robe on her. Botticelli was a friend and contemporary of Leanardo, we're talking the end of the 15th century here. Yet No paper will publish a picture of this painting...why? Cause its a naked woman. I saw a famous photograph taken at the turn of the century of a bunch of boys who had stripped down to their birthday suits and were swimming. A bunch of them not yet in the water with their backs turned toward the camera were getting ready to jump in. The area around their buttocks was blurred. Why, cause that would mean that you'd be face to face with a naked buttocks. Not to mention the images that Mr. Helmes (spit) held in such contempt, were not the ones that Maplethorpe produced from his grant, they were private pictures from his own collection that were never to be seen by the public. But this didn't matter. Maplethorpe had taken public money, this was an example of what he created, thus he is a pornographer. Yeah, well Jesse like playing on the fears of the stupid, the uninformed, and the repressed.
To be honest there are some things going on called "Art" that are meant to shock, and have little to do with a creative response to a mundane life. I recall reading about some Italian artist who canned his own feces, and then auctioned off the cans. Over the years these cans have exploded...thus causing the remaining cans to increase in value. I recall the incident at the Brooklyn museum a few years back where a Madonna was rendered with Elephant Dung, and a cow was displayed as being cut in half. I too find these things tasteless, however that is why they were produced...to make people be shocked and thus talk about the artist so that the curious would come and see some more of his stuff. We're trying to get your attention and some of us will do about anything to get it. But that is a tangent. The point is, we want to have people think we support the arts cause that's what civilized people do. But when it comes right down to spending our money, we find art superfluous, we find creativity to be okay as long as it doesn't make us think, we find creative people palatable as long as they're not too creative, the vision of our own bodies we claim as God's greatest achievement is fine, as long as we keep it well hidden. We insist that art is great, but you want to get paid for this?!
I had dealings with a dentist years ago. He found out that I was an artist and took me into his waiting room, there was a light box attached to the ceiling that diffused the light and he wanted some things like plant forms painted along its edge so that it wasn't so glaring as a part of the ceiling. When I suggested that I could do it at night, that was OK, when I suggested I'd have to rent scaffold, that was OK, when I suggested I'd do it for Money, that wasn't OK. "You mean you'd really expect me to pay you for this?" Yes I said, just like he'd expect me to pay him for working on my teeth. "yes, but that's different, that's my job. I was trained to do this..." Yes I said, ditto for me. He just shook his head and told me to forget it. This is typical. Art is supposed to be a hobby that housewives pursue instead of alcoholism, the idea of creating for money is OK as long as somebody else is paying for it. There is one exception to this rule. Nostalgia. If you create something that reminds people of more pleasant memories that they told themselves they've got then you can turn a serious buck at it. I can think of a few people that do this, I won't mention any names, and I haven't got a problem with them doing it. If this is what their vision tells them, then who am I to judge? But it would be a very boring world if that was all that was ever created. Art that makes you think and take a long hard serious look at yourself is good for you. It makes you more then a monkey with car keys...but you'd never spend your own money on it, right? I'll end this lecture with the story of Michelangelo's Last Judgement. Probably one of the greatest murals ever pursued. When I saw it, it about knocked me to the floor. I realized just how insignificant I was in comparison to the universe. When it was first seen, the cardinal's had a problem with the fact that everybody was naked. (Well, duh?) and it turned into a real issue, so after the death of the artist they hired a guy to paint over the naughty bits...fig leafs, a strand of hair...whatever, after all even though God created Naked people, they have so little influence in society. Good luck and farewell.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I, Artist part 2, the echo of an echo

Hello Dear Reader,
As I stated I am from the Magic City. My father who summers there and who has a great deal of free time on his hands reads articles and the obits from the Akron Beacon Journal and passes along any points of interest. A recent email contained notice that a friend had passed away in his sleep. I had not seen this guy since 1975 when 5 deaths in 6 months amongst the small circle of friends I had in High School sent me seeking some form of resolve. I was just sure death was saving me for last...that its' touch would be coming soon and I had some unfinished business in Magic City. I sought him out, and we traded friendly insults, as guys do and briefly got caught up. I had changed and so had he. While in College I went to the Magic City for holiday's and events, a couple of funerals, but never had the time to seek out the people I had been close to. Any more I go there to see family and if I'm in the mood, go and re live some of the happy/horror moments of my time there. I think of Barberton as the crucible of my life.
This guy was pretty typical of the boys around me, wide doughy face, Eastern European ancestry, attempting to understand the changes in the world from our little back water but still stuck in the Magic City. This is the guy that I slept in a tent with in my back yard. This is the guy who helped me refine my kite flying technique. This is the guy who talked me into joining his boy scout troop, this is the guy who dragged me to presence of a girl I was enamored with and introduced me cause he was tired of listening to me moon on about her. This is the guy who helped me get even with a bully that had been giving me a hard time. This is the guy when I dare to remember my childhood, that I settle on. This is the guy that nudged me out of the little circle of my life to attempt and be whatever I was required to be. I know little of his life since we were both on the other side of adolescence. I know he stayed within driving distance of home, where I have moved to locals as far from it as I could get, but always returned to smell the air, see the marks, examine the scars travel the paths. He kept many of the friends he made as a child. I wouldn't know many of these people if they stood in front of me, my friends are ones I have gathered like my tools, what I needed where I could find them. We both were unmarried, although I don't know if he had climbed the married mountain and had tumbled off as so many do. I seem to have been spared that adventure. His obit was brief, leaving many questions unanswered...like an Irish Saga, one ends with as many questions as one began with, it was a simple notice to tell the world that he wouldn't be showing up to work, that his mail would go unanswered, that the phone was turned off cause he wouldn't be answering it. He was no longer in the building. His mark was a small one left on those he encountered. Did he love? Did he dream? Did he go to Mexico to see the butterflies? Did he stand in front of Great Pyramid and see what Napoleon saw? Did he walk amongst the dead under Paris or have his entrails shook when the organ at Notre Dame hit one of the low notes? Did he stand in front of the works of great men and contemplate their lives? Wandered in the footsteps of Da Vinci, Balzac or Aristotle? I don't know, I have done most of these things...and as he was willing to share his experience with me as a child, I guess that the swatches of color that have encapsulated my life must have to color his life too. To make him a part of my life, to share my history with him. Sharing is what one has friends for...to borrow, to lend, to give and accept. I mentioned the girl that he dragged me in front of and introduced me to. She was another one of the ghosts that wander my mind. I found her again, and yeah Joe, this time I introduced myself...You were right. Farewell my friend, the next time I drag out the bottle of the good stuff, I'll drink to your memory, and the adventures we had before we realized that the world was a very big place and that our little magic city was like many. Good luck and maintain.