An Artist’s Role in Troubled Times

MeinmystudioThere is the idea that art is not a ‘legitimate’ type of work; that it is a frivolity best saved for spare time, etc; or a luxury for the wealthy. But for artists who have a vision that they are compelled to share, art isn’t a frivolity or luxury- it’s a necessity. And for society, art is also a necessity, although this may not be realized by many. We are the spirit keepers, the mirrors, the candles. And we need to become our own best friends- to believe in ourselves and what we do. And stick together, rather than compete with one another.  – Agnes Martin

For those of you who do not make art full time, Agnes is right, it isn’t a frivolity or luxury, making art for an artist is a necessity, a bodily function if you will, like breathing.  When tragedy occurs , especially on a global scale,  artists respond.  It’s what we do.  We make art to express collective sentiment, or to mark the event, or to raise money for those impacted.  Artists are active participants in change.

For some of us American citizens, the results of the recent presidential election is a tragedy of serious magnitude.  People are afraid- of deportation; of destruction to the environment; of violence caused by racial, gender and sexual prejudice; of certain rights in place being repealed; and of having all that our country has done to progress dismantled.

It is a time for us artists to hunker down and figure out a way to respond.  Usually when faced with a catastrophe, my creativity goes out the window for a good long while.  It’s as if all my creative energy goes elsewhere.  Within me is an ominous radio silence, like the quiet before a tornado when all the birds stop singing and the air is completely still.

The day after the election had me metaphorically face down on my shield.  I was devastated.  I felt all the fight drain from me.  Meanwhile on social media I watch all my artist friends spring into action.   There are calls to action, conferences, symposiums, calls for entry for themed shows, calendars for organized protests, all within a week after the election.  I seem paralyzed.  I feel as if I’ve been through so much that it’s taking me longer and longer to bounce back.  What can I do to help support those willing to be on the front lines?

I thus retreat into contemplative mode.  By quiet contemplation and prayer I seek out the small still voice that will lead me where I need to go and tell me what to do once I get there.  And that small voice is telling me right now that alot of healing and peace making is needed right now.  Comfort and healing is a major thread in my work, has been for  years.  This I can do.  As I pray for healing and comfort to those suffering, and for wisdom and peaceful hearts for those now in charge, I leave you with who I am as an artist and how I respond to times like this through my work:  come inside my work and rest.

 

Gallery Crawls, September/October 2015: Chelsea, NYC

Welcome to my first Gallery Crawl installment, Sept/Oct 2015. After spending the summer outdoors it was fun to return to prowling galleries and museums to see what everyone else in the art world is up to. Compared to me, everyone is very productive, creative and innovative.

Chelsea, NYC:

Wearing my gallery crawl face in Chelsea

Wearing my gallery crawl face in Chelsea

In September, I saw 2 bodies of work that inspired me, in particular, Stay Gold, works by Gregory Hayes at Nancy Margolis Gallery. To me, the works had a little bit of influence of Sol Lewitt, a dash of Agnes Martin and a hint of Tibetan sand mandala. Another show that caught my eye was the breath taking large format photographs of cathedrals in Facades, works by Markus Brunetti at Yossi Milo Gallery.

 

In October we were pleasantly surprised by works in several shows. Based on what we’ve been seeing both in Chelsea and Denver, photorealism is making a comeback. I enjoy photorealism, the mastery of the media astounds me. If you get a chance, don’t miss the an impressive show of the incredible soft pastel on paper works in SLIP by Zaria Forman at Winston Wachter Fine Arts.

 

Also not to be missed are the Japanese Propaganda Kinomos from 1905 – 1941 at the Edward Thorp Gallery. We happened upon it completely at random, it pays to go above the first floor in gallery buildings!!! At first I thought I was looking at work by a contemporary artist making anti-war commentary by painting on kimonos, but when I read that these indeed were actual antique kimonos made to be worn I was floored.

Rocking the Roy Lichtenstein mural at the Gagosian

Rocking the Roy Lichtenstein mural at the Gagosian

A huge treat was seeing Roy Lichtenstein’s Greene Street Mural at the Gagosian Gallery. His works have a special place in my heart as I worked for him and his family on 3 projects in my days as a construction consultant. One of the highlights of my career was going to his studio on Washington Street in the West Village and notarizing his signature. What a thrill!