A Cruel and Vicious System!

puzzled spirit 001

The deck is stacked against every true artist.  The fix is in.

To succeed, the stars of talent, hard work and sheer blind luck must all align in amazing and confounding ways.

Some of us really have it bad!  We use up our lives in a spin of unending creativity.  We can’t stop, drawing, painting, writing and otherwise making stuff which was not there before.

Sometimes it feels as if we’re truly in the trenches.  Daily, we slog through a thick miasma of ugliness, insensitivity, cruelty, dullness, stupidity and miserabilism. It attempts to injure us, deflate us or drag us down.  Yet most of us strive ever onward.  We deal with the monkey wrenches and booby traps as best we can.

My favorite response to all this is “Ha, Ha, Ha.” and maybe too “Ha!”


October 23, 2014: Here are ten puzzles.  The solutions may be difficult to find.  They’re all things that make life difficult for the industrious and persistent creative human being aka true artist.

1. What is the nature of the space in which art is publicly represented?  Their notions of what’s quality and what really works often seem to be backward or even bizarre.  When this happens, museums can seem to be zoos.  Art galleries can resemble prisons.

2. Some artists make much more money than they deserve to.  The pity is that many of them make just good to mediocre work.  They ride their hype to the bank.  It’s as if they’re eating a big meal in a fancy restaurant.  Meanwhile, the “normal artists” are watching them through the window.  They’re usually hungry, but feel a need to watch the show.  Why is this?

3.  Entertainment and art are caught up in an abusive, exploitative relationship.  This isn’t always the case, but it usually is.  It all comes back to the money.  A top-notch performer can make over one hundred times as much money as a top-notch artist.  One group is overpaid and the other is underpaid.  Then, no one blinks an eye.  Entertainment steals energy and ideas from art and sees no need to pay any of it back.  People get upset about letting the artists have too many crumbs.  A token reward is judged to be “excessive.”  Is this always right and fair?

4.  There are prices placed on art and prices placed on artists.  Often, the work doesn’t really become valuable until after the artist is dead.  Is this in order not to have to deal with a living artist?  Would you like to have one of them for a house guest?  Vincent Van Gogh, Alfred Jarry or Jackson Pollock maybe?

5.  The struggle to both have a good work ethic and to create quality work seems a bit rare these days.  It’s not shared by all.  Can we produce quantity and quality both?

6.  There a constant dumbing down of  both society and culture.  Part of this is attributable to “copyism.”  Instead of knowing one’s history and one’s roots, people start with a tenth generation copy.  Their “roots” are already distorted and diluted.  Good work can be created out of whole cloth.  Yet to do so, one must be a genius or have some sort of fierce talent.  To some people, bad looks good.  Not everyone has a top-notch BS detector.  Why is it that so many artists, curators and critics seem to be out of touch with a true and vital sense of quality?

7.  The most vibrant and essential elements in a strong work of art are often discounted, shunned or just misunderstood.  This is one reason why there is so much bad and mediocre art.  Pure, lucid imagination is essential.  It should flow freely, almost as it does when one is in the dream state.  It is also good to be able to command the magical and mysterious aspects of one’s creation and one’s creativity.  One can be in touch with all this directly or intuitively.  Yet it should not be denied.  For many of us, these things are the fountains or streams that through which art flows.  Why are these elements of art out of favor?

8. Creating art is largely a solitary activity.  This isolation helps keep artists from coming together and fighting for their rights.  There seems to be little or no sense of solidarity.  People are usually too busy living their lives and making their work to get involved.  I was once involved in a seven-year program of visual jam sessions.  No solo work was allowed.  Each piece had to be made by two or more artists.  This promoted one sort of camaraderie.  Yet many types of fellowship are called for.  What can we do to better connect with each other?  Could artists come together as a unified force?

9.  There’s a whole dichotomy between art and social concerns.  The artist often senses trouble first.  They can be hyper-sensitive, or just have some sort of “highly tuned radar.”  It’s the canary in a  coal mine syndrome.  The desperation connected with “thinning air” leads one to speak out or to act up.  People say that politics has no place in art.  Yet desperate times call for desperate measures.  Propaganda always tends to dilute itself.  Yet there are ways in which a socially, politically and environmentally informed art can make a difference.  How do we bring this about?

10. Yet in the end, for the true artist, somehow, love triumphs!  One opens one’s mind and opens one’s heart.  Respecting and appreciating other people becomes a cherished pastime or an unusual hobby.  Love is one of the keys which helps to unlock a whole series of barred doors and worn-out locks.  Will love ever truly let loose and change things once and for all?

August 19, 1997

I will not answer these questions here and now.  I’d like to discuss them with people before I post further explorations.  Thanks to all those who are already in the struggle.  Thanks to all those who are doing good work, holding themselves to a high standard of quality.  Thanks to all those museums and art galleries who do largely get it.  They do exist.  If you falter now and then, we’ll try to let you know.

Yes, it seems worse in the United States.  Some countries have it much better.  They respect and value their artists.  Yet even art-friendly countries could do better than they are.  Then there’s the question of international solidarity and interaction.  Artists of the world, unite!.

Thanks to the Surrealist Movement.  I’ve taken inspiration and solidarity from them since I was just out of college.  Thanks to all those true artists and true startists.  They’re always starting something.  Thanks to my friends at the  Imaginary States of America, the United Imaginations and Dreamers versus Dangers.  You all know the score.  Onward!

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