Monday, March 11, 2013

While Rome Burns

I spent a good portion of the 1990s justifying my work as an artist, especially as a painter, to myself. It was a moral dilemma; a question of validity and purpose. How can I indulge something with such intangible meaning and value? Once I finally acknowledged the value of making art, it became one of the few absolutes in my life. Afterward, I rarely questioned the value/virtue in making paintings, even as cultural dictates changed. Human existence matters and so making art matters.

The continuation of human existence is quickly becoming less of a given. The most recent climate measurements and projections are dire beyond belief. And the worst-case scenarios are looking less and less speculative.

Making art is once again a dilemma. A Dr. Zhivago-like engagement in painting seems ridiculous in the face of world-wide environmental calamity. I won't make environmental art, because that's rarely an effective vehicle for change. And while making non-purposed art is no longer a personal moral uncertainty, it's impossible to do so without making some acknowledgment of broader concerns. All I really know is to acknowledge the situation.

While Rome Burns - I think I've used this post title before. I know it's in a notebook somewhere. I may begin adding an “acknowledgment” of these broader concerns to my paintings - a narrative or emblematic aside that sidecars the primary subject. Artist Randy Wyatt had his “Yellow Man” that appeared in most of his paintings. I want to make a Lane Marker scene, with a sustainable garden silhouette in the distance. Or a Shelter House image with a distant indication of a burnt forest. How would these quietly suggested addenda read in the painting? And in the broader sense? Can I do it without pandering, and does that even matter? It's an acknowledgement that does not solve anything. Again, it's all I really know to do.