Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Art History

It is both interesting and a little disappointing reading books on Art History.  It is interesting to see skills and techniques picked up and copied along the way, new methods and new materials to work with, always new ways to express art.  I am a bit disappointed but not surprised to discover the power of money. That has been what has changed and controlled art all along.  Who is the customer?
     I know there are exceptions to this.  There has to be or art would die.  I know there was Vincent Van Gough who only sold one painting in his life and that was to his brother to forgive a debt.  What I am hunting for is art with passion and not a price.  The artist with a burning desire, not how the world has influenced him,
but maybe how he has influenced the world?  I realize that there are artists out there and have always been, who are excellent mechanics, crafted in their trade, who can produce beautiful masterpieces for a price, but there must be others who would do it for a tuppence, who just have to create art whether they get paid for it or not!
    This takes a huge amount of desire and we don't have apprenticeship programs any more.  Oh, we have schools but that is not the same.  They can teach the mechanics of art but where do you learn passion?  I think as children we are born with passion and enthusiasm and from experience we get it beaten out of us.
Funny that, experience which should be freeing and liberating confines us and keeps us quiet.
    On this topic, here is what I am thinking today:  Where is the influence now on the artist?  If you can go back in history and say the Church influenced this and that or government caused certain influences, our attitude toward nature changed and that altered art, what is doing it now?  Sure, you can follow the money and go to Calvin Kline, maybe even McDonald's, certainly Walmart, maybe even the interiors of brand new cars with their sleek lines and smells, French underwear (although I have never seen any!) and the Internet.
That for sure has an influence!
     But if the outside world around us really influences an artist, where is the art from Katrina? Where is the art from the oil spill in the gulf? and now, with the power of Vesuvius, where will be the art of Japan?
Two hundred Billion Dollars and counting, 10,000 dead and counting, maybe nuclear meltdowns and radioactive clouds and sickening rains.  What is the artist to do?  How can we describe this in our art? Or is this a story we would even tell?  What does influence an artist anyway?  The 2006 tsunami took over 200,000 lives and has been long forgotten. 
     Do we want to leave this to history?  Let it be for the Historians to record this? or geologists?  What might an artist say?  Something, I hope.


Constance Stanza Extravaganza Extraordinaire said...

Artists have always painted terrible things Jerry, especially of what man has done to man, but I believe that the painters have been either dispassionate enough to do so, or have found it easy to remove themselves from the true reality. Have a look at this famous painting by Manet (I'm not sure why it is on FAA): http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-execution-of-the-emperor-maximilian-edouard-manet.html
Or have a look at the work that has come out of the violence that has pervaded South Africa to see what has been recorded there:

I am unable to record the acts of hateful violence and suffering that I have seen in my life, either personally from childhood when I witnessed the atrocities in the Congo, what I saw more recently in South Africa during the Xenophobic riots that took place a couple of years ago, of the heart wrenching disasters of Churchill, Japan and Indonesia where I wept because it was all too much to bear.

All I can to do survive is paint my world as I want it to be. It is an escapist route, but insanity lies in the other road for me!

I have seen too much, I have felt too much, I have wept too much!

SooZeQue said...

I agree with Constance - isn't it enough that we see this horror on the news everyday, isn't it enough that we see hate and anger on the faces of war torn countries. I could never be an artist that creates from this misery (just me)I see it, and feel it enough in this world that I refuse to create it and surround myself even more with it. I create my art for me, if someone wants to buy it I'll gladly sell, but if I never sell another piece it doesn't matter to me I will have the most colorful, serene, peaceful and beautiful backyard to sit and enjoy. The world is imploding around us and I just can't contribute to that demise or could I possible have the passion to create from those visions of misery. Just one artists opinion.

Constance Stanza Extravaganza Extraordinaire said...

It's two artists' opinion SooZeQue. I'm very glad to meet you!

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Kay said...

I was shown a book by Sue Coe when I was sketching my chickens. The book had her paintings and drawings of chicken factories and slaughter houses. My poor chicken sketches were happy and fun. My teacher was trying to draw out something dark in me. As I have said before..I have lived my darkness and certainly have had the world's darkness in my face for years. I couldn't do pictures of slaughter houses. Then Sue came for a lecture and slide show..I won't say I wasn't aware of her work..even so..it started out so nice..her little home in New York State, her doggies, her flowers, her strange neighbors.her funny life stories...then BOOM.. painting after painting and story after story of horrible Australian sheep ships, slaughter house abuses, circus elephant abuse.
Now I do understand her passion..it is real and I feel it and I have that passion for animals..she hawked prints of famous circus elephant Topper and I bought one.the proceeds going to the animal charity she supports. Her life is this work..but my life is depicting my love of animals in a different way. My friends knew my feelings and they were worried I might cry but I was brave and took in all the stories.
No head in sand here...just a different way to depict my passion.
I so appreciate artists who depict their feelings and passions about the world's injustices and natural disasters. I also think the world needs happiness, color and light. Can't look at depressing art all the time. I do think that most artists now paint for the passion and joy and not the payday because let's face it..unless you are David Hockney or that bunch the payday is meager at best!

AutumnLeaves said...

Well, I have to say, Jer, that I don't paint or create for money. A good thing too or I'd starve. I do it for the love of it. Just today I saw a piece online that one lady did after being moved by the quake in Japan. And? And I've lost my train of thought. Ei yi yi.

stonepost said...

Wonderful to see such well thought out and written opinions! I agree with all of you! I do the same thing, of course, escape as best I can, on "my island", in my studio with the radio "off", my mind shut down, just me and my art. But I still wonder about art historians of the future and what they will say? Overload? Just too much?So we bury ourselves in the sand? Our art is just escapism?

Constance Stanza Extravaganza Extraordinaire said...

I think we've all missed one salient point here which is that photographers have become the recorders for history in the future. Together with the media like television and movies, nothing is left to the imagination or hidden. If you log on to any art website now, more than 70% of the artworks sold are photographs or those that are digitally manipulated.

I am not and never would knock photographers, most of their work is really awesome, but their art is almost instantaneous and a fairly reliable "eyewitness" interpretation of what is currently happening.

To a large extent, the artist as an historical recorder is now redundant.

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Barbra Joan said...

Jerry, I just saw your blog and I must say ... what are we looking for here..? Art depicting the horror of humans and animals being abused, the oil spill, Katrina? I lived through some very fightening hurricanes, being under the dining room table , petrified that the large oak trees surrounding that house would fall onto it.
My love today is for animals, front and center..
I don't want to paint sadness, and if thats burying my head in the sand.. believe me I'm not. I see plenty of horrific photos every damn day of those things .. look at whats happening in Japan, my heart is sad for those people. there is enough being recorded of that.. Years ago, they didn't have cameras, tv. etc.
I've lived through the shock of the death of my son, more than enough horror for one woman..
Why do I paint flowers, women, animals and pretty things? I paint them because it not only brings ME joy but others too. I actually painted for over 30 years and never exhibited or showed a painting. I sold because of word of mouth. I had commissions because of the same thing but I never cared about the sale or the awards. why? because its my love of creating. and something I must do..I think of creating art every single day of my life.. I never achieved fame or fortune, and won't in this lifetime. Ask me if I care ! BJ

AutumnLeaves said...

Gosh...I've said it before and I'll say it again. I just love Barbara Joan. I'm with you, my friend.

stonepost said...

I love this topic, it got all of you out of bed and talking to me! I agree with Barbra Joan, and Constance and all of you but these thoughts are, as my doctor might say, "contra-indicated" in the world of Art History! Not a single artist is depicted as actually enjoying what they do with some kind of passion for self-expression or even the inability not to do what they do. There is an influence to art, they will claim and everything is done for a reason. Something, someone, somewhere is controlling the artist! Nature, God, Government, the Church, Walmart, McDonald's, corporate accounts, yes even earthquakes! The truth is I don't believe it either. I don't even have a radio in my shop. I make pleanty of noise enough!