Thursday, November 26, 2009

the artist must suffer

The artist must suffer is a phrase I heard as a kid. What are they talking about? First there is the suffering of your life circumstances, everybody has that. Then, suffering is when you take all your skills, training, experiences and realize you aren't that great and your artist desire is a delusional fixation. Then you survey the past, present and up and coming artist's work and find you don't have anything new or significant to contribute. Then after you are totally convinced you are a worthless blob with delusions, on the verge of depression, and ready to get a job like everyone else, epiphanies come out of nowhere. It's like falling/jumping off the cliff and either wings sprout or the cliff is really a short hop.

"Everybody can make art, that's no special skill, that's no earth shaking practical talent, like a doctor or a lawyer." I beg to differ. Learning a skill set is science, applying it is an art. Ask any doctor or lawyer. The two are joined at the hip, art and science. The cloth dyer must know the science behind his/her dyes and the art. Knowing law is meaningless if you can't work the space between the judge and the client. Doctors without patient empathy (bedside manner) make everybody nervous. This is a reciprocal mantra, "art/science, science/art" it applies to everything. It is the process of everything that passes through a man's hands or mind. If it is just science, it is cold, dry, dimensionless, the same with art, it becomes meaningless and there is no art without science.

Art is the process that applies the science. Art requires science, expresses with the science. A drawing of a house, then the stacking of bricks to make the house. The art is the picture and the meaningful composition of materials (roof, walls, windows, etc.), which validates the science of structure, the forces of nature (gravity, load bearing, etc.). So, to be committed to the process of art is a suffering. It is not instant like thought. To get a flash of inspiration or have a nagging concept or a story you must tell and do so through your body's function and the materials you gathered around yourself to communicate to others is a suffering. Why? Because you reveal yourself in your expression and are subject to others. "Hey, you talking to me? What the heck are you trying to do or say or show me? I don't like that! I don't understand that! That is not art! That is ugly! You are a nut! or That's pretty cool!, That resonates with me! That says what I feel!"

Art also illustrates ideas, dreams, visions, conveys mood, emotion. This is the art most of us contend with. The picture that speaks a thousand words, clear and precise or garbled unintelligible banter. From a technical drawing to an endless chaos of splotches. There is a context and a setting and an audience. A Jackson Pollack painting in a junkyard is..............but put it in a different light, context, setting and a magic emerges some can appreciate. A political cartoon generates amusement or death threats depending on the audience. A urinal on a wall but not a restroom wall is not art to me. I grew up with the child potty in the living-room, to put the adult potty there is sick. Sometimes context shifting is thought provoking, challenging, controversial or statement making. Some make their mark with this kind of so-called "art".

What about the art we live with, the furnishings we purchase or acquire for our living spaces? I am an African-American, been here for many generations, yet when I go to the store there are few if any African inspired furnishings that reflect my mythic past. The stuff from furniture stores, department stores and antique shops all reflect other cultures. So, in that light, my art aims to validate and illuminate something that is missing in America and down-played by this new diversity movement. This arena gives a hint at my personal suffering as an artist. How to blend and still have a strong flavor, how my roots are as valid and vital as any other man's roots. And I ask, are we in a competition to show who is more superior, intelligent, creative by category (race, sex, age, social status, wealth, culture)?????

We have ascribed to both evolution and intelligent design and still conclude that the composition of a man's body is a marker of his intelligence and supremacy over/under other men. By composition I mean color, height, weight, center of gravity, physical ability, etc. Today especially in America, the mixing of gene-pools has produced humans of every range and description and yet we battle to label ourselves by national origin, historic past, racial roots, cultural traditions to keep whirling (separated) in the rim swirl and not funnel into the pipe to become just an American. How long does it take to become a native? How many generations? Heaven forbid we become native to the land we invaded or were dragged to centuries ago. Do we keep receiving immigrants to refresh our separateness? This is a dilemma that everybody here faces with no exception. We celebrate cultures to keep it alive, so that we don't forget where we came from. As each generation passes, that past is not so strong and we scold our kids for not remembering and get enraged when they have so much liberty to blend, have kids and blend some more.

The phrase "I am an American" is worn so proudly by fresh immigrants but is bitter mutter 2 or 3 generation later, what is becoming of us? Relax, you are becoming a native to the America you've created. Those whom we have called "Indians or Native Americans" are doubled over in laughter as we are succumbing to our fate, the very thing we stigmatize them for. We are becoming the dirt we stand on just like they did. Maybe if you become a world traveler you can escape being rooted here, or say I'm a citizen of the world, I embrace everybody and everything. Maybe you can search out life on other planets............. to prove you are bigger than any country or history itself. No wonder men buy stainless steel hermetically sealed casket to preserve and keep separate remains that would ordinarily be remixed into the earth they came from. No need for a pyramid, we can can you.

It was said that "the American Experiment" is an iffy situation, it is art. A living art on the face of the earth. It is criticized by ones outside affected by it and ones inside experiencing it. The artist's job is to time-stamp the process so that overtime you can see where we've been. Our successes, our failures, our misgivings and aspirations are all recorded in our art.

I ramble to give you insight as to the questions, observations and considerations I go through, I play in my mind as an artist. Then I use a computer and printer instead of paint, brush and canvas. I use Linux with GIMP, Inkscape and Blender 3d instead of Microsoft or Mac with Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. I target the space behind your living room sofa instead of the museums of the world. Art to me is about making beautiful things instead of laughing at mis-guided and duped art lovers. The killing part is that it is different for every artist and ultimately you are the judge in any case.

This is "Ameba Dance".

This is "Tribal Essence".
And there is more to come.