Vision of Ourselves

We make choices at every moment. Some conscious, some unconscious. Some informed and others less so. Art is the choice of a conscious aesthetic. It can be a painting that captures a particular moment and place. Music that evokes a feeling or makes our hips move. It can be the black wool sweater that we choose instead of the blue one or the heavy handled coffee cup instead of the porcelain tea cup. Our lives are the masterpieces we create. Why would we not want beauty and grace? Imagine a world without the glorious architecture of a cathedral, devoid of Swan Lake, or missing Mozart. Take away the works of Van Gogh, Rothko, Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplain, or any of a thousand other artists, writers, actors, and musicians. Could you live with no music? No poetry? No stories? How can we divorce ourselves from the creative? From art? The false notion of a “cultural elite” versus everyone else creates a manufactured disparity.

This article in Salon titled “No Sympathy for the Creative Classes” saddened me greatly.

In addition to the Murphy Brown Wars that brought the idea of a cultural elite and began the push to widen the disparity between the right and the left in the US, this notion that everything has to fit a business model is all pervasive. And perverse. Why does a government have to be run as a business? Why is this the underlying assumption? While this notion is directing fiscal choices, it is evident from the following:
1. the mounting national debt,
2. the growing divide between the “haves” and “have nots,”
3. the shrinking middle class,
4. lack of opportunity for younger people coupled with the crippling cost of education,
5. and the lack of fulfillment on the promise that if we give allowances, subsidies, and tax credits to “business” it will benefit everyone,

that running the country as a business is NOT working the way things are defined. Where are our ethics? Regulation is a good thing. Regulation protects people and makes business operate fairly. It won’t kill business as is always trotted out as a false belief system. The working poor are vilified for their lack of wealth and it is often declared that they too could succeed if they work hard. Such a hard edged myth. Perhaps, conservatives are afraid of creativity and working hard and this is why they don’t want a level playing field with regulations that would require creative solutions. Why as a people should we continue to hand the corporate giants and their almost godlike CEO’s the power to rape the world of resources and concentrate wealth into the hands of a few? Why should our people only be measured by their wealth, what they consume, or the manhours they work? Why should we make the assumption that an orchestra is producing a “product” and if the product isn’t wildly supported it should be asset stripped?

The religion of now is economics. Ayn Rand was the prophet and the Chicago School of Economics has reduced everyone. When will we retrieve our humanity? Government is by the people and for the people. Government should take care of people. How will we define ourselves?

Artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors– all the people engaged in the creative fields, work. We work hard. We are passionate about what we do. We lift the minds of others above the anthill drama of the day to day. We make it possible for others to have choices, to experience, to feel, and to dream. We broaden the scope of and enrich individual lives.

What choice as a society should we make? To support the creative endeavors and choose to reinforce that which opens minds and hearts and takes us beyond merely being workers?

Or… should we limit the vision of how we see ourselves.

Artist: Edward Hopper

Reluctant to speak about himself or his art, Edward Hopper summed up his work by stating, “The whole answer is there on the canvas.” Awkward and introverted, Hopper was raised in a female dominated, strict Baptist household. He began his art career via correspondence school and later completed six years of study at the New York Institute of Art and Design. He was shocked when he was expected to sketch live nudes in his life drawing classes. While Impressionism and Cubism were the emerging art movements of his day, when Hopper took three trips to Paris he went to the opera and the theatre. He has been quoted as saying about those trips that he “didn’t remember having heard of Picasso at all.” He was impressed by Rembrandt, in particular “Night Watch”, which he said was “the most wonderful thing of his I have seen; it’s past belief in its reality.” Later Hopper expressed that he felt that there really were no European artists who influenced him.

Because his conservative parents insisted that if he was going to study art it needed to have some commercial applicability so that he would be able to support himself, Hopper became an illustrator. Much like N.C. Wyeth, Hopper came to despise doing illustrations over time. His career did not launch quickly. He had great spells of time where he had difficulty finding inspiration or painting. Another illustrator who knew him, Walter Tittle, described Hopper’s depression as that he was “suffering…from long periods of unconquerable inertia, sitting for days at a time before his easel in helpless unhappiness, unable to raise a hand to break the spell.” Hopper sold his first painting in 1913 when he was 31. He hoped that more sales would soon follow, but it took time for more of his work to be sold.

In 1923, Hopper met his soon to be wife, Josephine Nivison. She was also artist, but after meeting him and marrying him a year later she subordinated her career for his. She modled for him and worked to get his paintings into various shows and galleries. She was able to get his work exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum who bought one of his paintings for their permanent collection. After this his paintings began to sell and he fared much better through out the Depression than many other artists.

Many of Hopper’s paintings depict solitary figures. The paintings’ compositions often hinge on very precise use of perspective and the use of value. Early in his life he painted with a dark palette, then when the lighter palette favored by the Impressionists was in fashion he switched. He returned once more to the darker hues that he was more comfortable with later. Hopper who was introverted and preferred not to discuss his art gave his most definitive declaration of his philosophy as an artist in a handwritten note, titled “Statement”, that was submitted in 1953 to the journal, Reality. It read:
“Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world. No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination. One of the weaknesses of much abstract painting is the attempt to substitute the inventions of the human intellect for a private imaginative conception.

The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm and does not concern itself alone with stimulating arrangements of color, form and design.

The term life used in art is something not to be held in contempt, for it implies all of existence and the province of art is to react to it and not to shun it.
Painting will have to deal more fully and less obliquely with life and nature’s phenomena before it can again become great.”

Hopper’s dark, realistic paintings are often very stark, almost lonely. Despite various art trends that came and went, once his work achieved its mature style it remained very consistent. The last of his life, he and his wife lived in their apartment and very much kept to themselves. Hopper died in his studio near Washington Square in New York City on May 15, 1967. His wife died 10 months later. She bequeathed their joint collection of over three thousand works to the Whitney Museum of American Art. While Hopper may not have personally reached out to many people, his work was very influential.

Alexandre Farto aka Vhils

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Alexandre Farto is a Portugese born artist. Currently he is working with materials and spaces that he finds in situ. By vandalizing buildings he is carving out art– transforming everyday decay into works of beauty. The artist a day website says that he is currently working with a mix of Quink ink and bleach and describes his work as: “Vhils art is poetic, complex, and ambitious, often focusing on the needs we have abandoned in favour of our wants, and the realisation that trading pleasure back in for happiness will be a less than straightforward exchange.”

Please visit Alexandre Farto’s website at http://www.alexandrefarto.com

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