The ruminations of an artist on art & quilts, beading, knitting, drawing, painting, printmaking, bookmaking are all my passions, I love to explore creating....

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Personal is Political and Vice Versa

"I don't think artists can avoid being political. Artists are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. When we stop singing, it's a sure sign of repressive times ahead. "--Theresa Bayer

An artist friend said to me the other day--"You can use craft as fine art--but you have to make it cutting edge--and have some content to it." I sure don't want to get into the "is craft art? " debate here, but this comment did make me think about whether I was making art that is "just pretty" or art that somehow comments on our culture.

I have a quote on the wall of my studio--I have had it so long that I'm not sure who said it--"The reason to pick up a pen or paintbrush is to fight back." I keep it there to remind me that what I'm doing should matter, that as an artist my task is to imagine new stories--new myths--for our society to live by, and maybe also to deepen the mystery. At least I used to think the mystery part was important--but I am beginning to have this urgent feeling that my art needs to be about our gigantic crisis--the global crisis of climate change---which is finally getting some (much needed) attention from the press. Because, what else is there? what is the point of creating more art if the planet is dieing or in grave danger ? is just going on with my life as usual just fiddling while the planet sinks---?

Everything I think about lately keeps coming back to this topic (thank you, Al Gore!). I used to think that making art with positive messages about animals and humans as the content would help change attitudes, but now I find myself wondering if that is enough? Do we need more biting commentary to jar us out of the "cultural trance" we habitually inhabit?

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."---Bertrand Russell

1 comment:

Mandi said...

This is a very interesting post and I am thinking about the same types of things. I want my art to make a statement. One of the ideas I had was after I saw the documentary "Invisible Children." It is about children in Uganda that have to walk 5 miles or more to find a safe place to spend the night for fear of being forced into the rebel army and becoming child soldiers. I wanted to take a teddy bear and bead a mask of camo across the face and arms and then bead something special for the heart. They're innocent children on the inside, but they've had to grow up fast to face their environment. Modernists used art and literature to make a statement about disillusionment after the Great War, and the Beats did the same to make statements about Civil Rights. I hope my art can make a difference the way their's did.