Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Art Hurts My Head

I'm so confused right now. All last week I felt I'd had a fairly good grasp on art. Now it's morphed into something large and messy and totally suffocating. Ugh, is there never any respite from this stupid "what is art?" debate?

I just watched a few segments of this TV program about beauty in art. I was excited when I came across it, thinking that the host would give me some great insight into the creative process. But about twenty minutes into it, I was livid. This guy, (can't remember his name-- I hope I never do, he made me so angry), is the most narrow-minded, uppity bore I've ever heard! I just couldn't stand him!

Basically, the program was an hour of him whining about how all art after Duchamp's "Fountain", (that urinal created in 1917) was "ugly", useless and a total waste of time. I agreed with his theory that a large amount of art in the 20th and 21st centuries was unnecessarily over the top. I've never been a fan of those weird, naked performance art pieces from the 70's with chicken blood and all that. I tend to think any piece that is created purely for shock value is a waste and a bore (and is very unoriginal at this point in the history of the world). Yet discounting everything that might just happen to be a little shocking as garbage is just as narrow-minded, isn't it?

I think what enraged me was his dismissal of everything that wasn't totally pristine. He focused on the Italian Renaissace, (which is valuable and beautiful in its own right) and classic Greek architecture (very important as well), but totally ignored the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, and everything that came after. Why? Because their subject matter was too ordinary.

Nobody was painted idealistically during this movement. Nobody was very "pretty". The revolutionary thing about the impressionists was that they made the ordinary beautiful. They focused on light, color, composition and brushwork as it could be applied to their everyday lives. I always loved that idea. As beautiful as Neoclassical/Rococco/any other 18th or 17th century movements can be, it was catered to a very narrow audience. Only the nobles were allowed to enjoy all of this beauty. This host also failed to mention the fact that most of the "beautiful architecture" he was gushing about was built by slaves or lower class individuals who didn't get to live anywhere near it. And he didn't even mention South American, African, Asian, or any other kind of art outside the obvious classical European art.

I'm just upset that he was so hell-bent on showing the world how useless all art after 1917 was. Really dude?

I wanted to smack him in the head with a copy of "Franny and Zooey".

What about Andrew Wyeth? Or Ben Shahn? Maurice Sendak? Winsor McCay? Frida Khalo? Diego Rivera? Rothko? Frank Lloyd Wright? Kathe Kollwitz? And why just stop at visual arts? What about all of the fantastic poetry, film, other literature, music, etc. that's been produced within the last 100 years? Has this man never even read a word of Maya Angelou or read Cisnero's "The House on Mango Street"? Or what about "Le Petitie Prince"? There's still so much beauty to be found in art these days that I never know where to start. And what about self-expression??? Not all art can appease the golden mean when conveying sincere emotion! And if all art never evolved from the Renaissance or made any progress, what would that say about the world?

And yet, I can still understand what he means when he moans about the state of the world. I think he's a tasteless dope, but it is a shame that a lot of the good things in this world get overshadowed by selfishness, consumerism, war, poverty, etc. But still, this mortal coil's not totally hopeless, is it?

I guess my question is this: how does one attain that balance? Like how do you create art that you feel is sincere, beautiful and accessible to humanity without being uppity/exclusive/narrow? Or without being so bent on coming across as "shocking" or "cutting edge" that you lose all humanity?

And then there's this other quote that always worries me (I don't remember where I heard it): "Don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out". How can one prevent that? How do you become a filter, not a sponge?

This is my major question for conference. Honestly, the only living people that never fail to bring me some clarity in this life are the general authorities.

I think the most important thing I've learned in my brief twenty-one years on this planet is that I really don't know that much about anything. There's so much I have yet to understand.

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