24Sep/130

Important Personal Reflection “Why Art?”

The things to be learned from looking at all this art,and the past art which is to be found all over Venice, is how intrinsically human it is to make and look at art. All you have to do is see the huge cruise ships and rivers of tourists lined up to see all the houses of art and history. Not for everyone is the current in vogue far out or abstract pieces but every life is impacted and enriched by looking at visual representations of real and imagined scenes. Even puritanical as the US is about art for art's sake, and from their protestant renunciation of embellished churches, every church has some sacred images. Only 1/3 of US homes have original art but almost all of the remainder have photographs of sacred moments and people.
And why any of it? Unnecessary use of discretionary spending! Some people say it's a necessary cultural indication of your social status and beliefs and reflects on the person who shows a daring or realistic or photographic family scene. I'm sure that is true but it seems bigger than the individual,this need for art
I prefer to believe what the Greek Orthodox father who taught me in an icon class said "This is not an art course; we are here to touch the divine ". His firm belief was that icons were portals to the beyond where goodness and forgiveness and salvation lay. And painting them precisely according to time sanctified formulas,much like a mandala, was a meditative path to get in touch with sacred, above-the-madness peace and certainty about what this world we are living in was all about. Some overarching principle or vision about how it fit together- the goodness, greed, cruelty, generosity, boredom, fear,death and drama of every day life and elevated special event life of wars,discrimination, poverty,plagues,floods,mass killings,Mother Teresas, Ghandhis. All our mixed-up, conflicting worlds since time immemorial. And artists seemed to be seers gifted in representing this portal to understanding whether it was divine,ugly,nihilistic,beautiful, rational or maddeningly without order or reason
Each portal created by the artist's perspective on life with his/her particular skill and the tools and expectations of that time's culture. Sometimes temporary, for curing or joy or supplication (sand paintings and our current "installations") or lasting (carved in massive stone blocks meant to stay through eternity). Compass points oriented to what is important in the artist's point of view and/or the culture he/she lives in. Educational portals or portals reflecting anger, despair,joy. All of these have I seen as I've roamed this city and Biennale.
I saw the Doge's Palace this morning and it's crammed full of images about safety and justice and victory and responsibility and wealth and the grandeur of human endeavor and the realization of how precarious life is. Fully understandable even to someone like me who has no idea which battles or saints they depict.

This is quite a long discussion of what I've been thinking. But it's a good summing up of what seems to have no summing up-so many different materials/perspectives/countries/centuries flowing through my eyes into my head. My cup runneth over

And I've been thinking and experimenting in yhis printmaking workshop with why I'm an artist and, importantly, how I'm an artist. The truth is, I have no verbalizable idea of why I suddenly jumped up and became fully committed to making art. A force that was irresistible and continues to shape and inform and rejuvenate and energize my life. An artist friend says that making art is addictive and that is certainly true for me. The journey of grabbing onto whatever the next piece will be and seeing where it will go and how it will materialize is hypnotically compulsively focused-it must be how surfers feel when they ride a big wave, all non-verbal instinct and twisting into and against the force they are standing on and then the final flowing away of it all and you wake up a great distance from where you started. Except when I finish a piece, unlike the wave that's now gone,I can stand in front of it with surprise and delight (hopefully) at how it turned out, almost as if I didn't make it, it materialized in some mystic process other than through me. And I have learned on this trip,as if following a divining rod, that my voice is about 3D object driven pieces and much of what I'm interested in is depicting "innerscapes" or psychological portrayals of things that are hard to understand but reveal so much about humanity. Safety, rape, murder, greed, rage, oppression, racism, love, fear, family,home. They meet on the fault lines of how we live and what is either an adhesive and/or a disruption,the best and the worst-the extreme situations where we see ourselves the most revealed, even if only in how we reject disquieting messages about who we are and have been since we became human and lived in groups.

Anyway, I've now come to the end of what I have to say now. The wave has been ridden out. I'll take a picture of this sidewalk cafe both looking out and looking in at me where I've sat and had espresso and brioche and thought and written about this trip while other tourists from thousands of miles away passed by on their way to see the next pieces of art

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