Gradually our world is changed. The old industrial shore is redesigned into a park. Buildings are imploded to make room for space and sculpture. Grass is unfurled. The “Irish Immigrant Experience” becomes a recapture of a Donegal landscape. The winding path takes all comers — joggers, cyclists, the disabled. Gentle, wandering police, in pairs, stop at the trapeze school, the miniature golf, the dog-walking zone. Asians, showing no concern for the crowd, practice T’ai Chi and Tae Kwon Do. Open, double-decker buses and tour-boats are filled with visitors who crane their necks and video the freshly polished skyscrapers. It’s a big parade, a monument, a living circle. It’s a simple memorial in Strawberry Fields that has only one word: “Imagine.”
Musty glass cases are filled with Revolutionary War soldiers’ buttons made from meat bones. Badges, medals, knives, bayonets, the dueling pistols of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. It’s the musket originals and the fighting dinosaur skeletons and the West Coast Indian spears in the American Museum of Natural History. It’s the Big Bang exhibit — the beginning and sixteen-billion-year history of our universe narrated by Maya Angelou — mankind’s place the mere width of a hair.
On busy opening nights one gallery has what looks to me like entry-level abstracts–their oily surfaces scraped and punished. The large ones are hastily stapled to their stretchers, the small ones are done on inexpensive canvas-boards and glued down on home-made chassis. Nothing is framed, named or priced. The painter has a giant CV and is an art teacher in a Florida university. His wine-sippers are mostly mid-career artists and former students who are here to catch up. The sleek dealer stalks, trains young interns in the art, and plays telephone-tag with her clients who apparently buy on their cells.
And then there’s The Lion King — now celebrating seven years on Broadway. It’s a brilliant replay of pride rock and the jungle–stagecraft, dance, puppetry and spectacle. The hyenas are still trying to eat the baby lions. The lead drummer, afro, wired, beams through the performance. (He even hangs up his earphones with a flourish) How does he like his job? “Love it,” he tells me, “It’s the circle of life, man.”
PS: “You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.” (John Lennon)
Esoterica: New York’s Tenement Museum provides a guided tour that gives an insight into the early immigrant’s rotten conditions. Big families in small dark rooms working long hours to squeeze a living out of garment piecework. The metaphor of the artist’s studio is not lost on me. Private enterprise in bloom in lower Manhattan. There will always be some who move up to 5th Avenue. Imagine. Imagine our world as art.
Pain spoils the art of our world
by Charlotte Abernathy, Ashland, OR, USA
With so many different aesthetic events and interpretations careening around us, it does indeed seem that the world is art – except for one irreducible thing: pain. As long as there is suffering from wars, starvation or cruelty, the world is not merely art. It still must be understood and dealt with in terms of ethics. Perhaps some day art and aesthetics will be enough, but not yet, alas.
Beauty and love should reign
by Barb Rees
Great observations on the ‘world as art.’ As you described the different scenes that appeal to different tastes in perceived beauty or art, I got it. Just as there is art out there that offends or disturbs me, so it is in the world. Just as there are artists that inspire me to be all that I can be, so there is in the world too. The old cliché “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” rings true not only in the art world but in life too. Wouldn’t it be a happier place if we looked for the beauty instead of the horrors? There will always be gut-wrenching events on the news, but somewhere in the midst of the sorrow is a beautiful scene of love and sacrifice — just like in an art gallery. Imagine a world where beauty and love reign as King in the circle of life.
Sloppy presentation of art
by Bev Ellis, Abbotsford, BC, Canada
I was curious how you felt or feel when you see art being hung like that in a gallery.
I juried for a show last year, and we had a standard for what could be hung. We accepted some on the basis that they would change certain framing details to meet our criteria. Some we didn’t accept because it just did not meet with our show standards. One artist who is a friend of mine was very offended, even though we took two of her pieces without question. The “rejected” pieces became a bit of an issue. For us, sloppy edges on the canvas would not have gone with the overall image of our show. I have always felt that presentation is almost as important as the image itself. If you show care in presentation, I feel it shows that the artist values his or her work. Any thoughts?
(RG note) Thanks for that, Bev. I come out on your side with the total presentation and professional look. And I’m a bit surprised to see examples of sloppy presentation in The Big Apple. Then I realized there’s a kind of reverse psychology here–things you couldn’t get away with in Sacramento or Seattle. My friend Don Gabor, who lives in Brooklyn and writes best selling self-help books like How to Start a Conversation and Make Friends, and Words that Win, says there’s a wide range in New York. From the very best to the very worst. And you don’t have to look or be at your best to be a winner. Interesting.
Sloppy spelling for commissioned art
by Christy Lennox
(Maria Alquilar was engaged to create a large ceramic mosaic for a library in Livermore, California (the fee was $40,000). When it was finished it was found there were 11 spelling errors in it. The local council voted an extra $6000 for Maria to come back and fix the spelling. She has now received so many hostile emails that she has decided not to go near the angry denizens of Livermore.)
Is Maria Alquilar required to “fix” her art? If art is perceived and there was nothing in the contract about spelling, is she obligated to fix it? Yes, educationally we know the names/words should be spelled correctly (especially in front of a library). I wonder, however, how much more thought and conversation may arise because of the “faux pas”. The city/library officials could always display a plaque of explanation. I would be interested in your thoughts on this. The art, in my humble opinion, is quite spectacular.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” (Scott Adams)
(RG note) Maria Alquilar should bite the bullet, grab her Webster’s, get on the bus out to California, and fix her spelling, for free.
Many Lives, Many Masters
by Linda Saccoccio, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
In response to the comments made that children cannot make real abstract art: I would say, yes abstract art is deep and powerful when it hits right. I believe the abstract work that I do has a resonance and depth because of a lifetime of experience, creativity and observation. Some children’s work is beautiful because of its simplicity and innocence, some may actually have the depth and poignancy that adult work can embody. After all Mozart was composing great works in his youth. It has been done. Many Lives, Many Masters, by Brian L. Weiss, speaks about such prodigies.
by MK Colling, Rochester, NY, USA
What about a “giant CV?” Is that the same as a prestigious CV? I ask because I once read (yep, every line) a CV that listed over a thousand paintings completed and up and hanging in private, corporate and museum collections all over the world. Best of Show 152 times at arts & crafts fairs. It crossed my mind that since nobody cares and nobody can check, why do all that typing.
(RG note) Many of us have noticed that giant CVs can be an indicator of weak work. That’s one of the reasons I’ve never kept track and don’t have a CV — people might begin to see just how lousy my work is. Nicely framed though.
Marla’s work qualifies
by Faith Puleston, Wetter, Germany
I hope four-year-old Marla survives her prodigious childhood! Polly Jackson’s letter offers yet another definition of what art — or at least painting — is all about. If we are talking about “texture, line, shape, exaggeration” and add colour, which Polly didn’t mention, then we have to go back to Marla’s paintings and admit that they, too, qualify. Not least, because people often go into galleries and choose paintings on criteria like: “I’ll have the red one. It’ll match the table mats.”
The question remaining, then, is whether the paintings are selling because they are Pollock look-alikes, or look-alikes of some other posters or prints Marla has been shown, or because they are done by a four year old kid, or because they are art investments, or because they are red, blue, yellow, or whatever.
by B. J. Adams, Washington, DC, USA
Mona Youssef must never have taken a life class or appreciated the many wonderful sculptures and nudes seen throughout the history of art to disregard the nudes of Burton Silverman so quickly. I studied painting with an artist in the ’60s who used his wife as our life model. I still have two of those paintings and prize them highly. You miss a lot of wonderful as well as historic art if the nude is denounced.
More beauty out here
by Linda Anderson Stewart, Twin Butte, AB, Canada
I’m a working painter who lives in a very rural and isolated setting. After doing my training at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta — graduating in 1990 — and now that I have read your letter “Imagine” my only comment is that I am happy I moved — although I always found art openings to be visually stimulating, people-wise. But enduring this type of “leading edge” event on a regular basis was just too depressing. I have experienced beauty out here that is second to none — and I think I’ll stay.
Don’t just imagine
by J. Bruce Wilcox, Denver, CO, USA
The words imagine and imagination derive from the same root as magic, magical, magician and mage. Imagine our world not only as art, but as pure magic, magical in all respects. And no I’m not talking about magical tricks, or a magician’s entertaining illusions. Many spiritual systems suggest the physical world is just an illusion, and I agree with them. The things that aren’t an illusion are love, and creating, and pursuing excellence.
Imagine a world without fear. The only fear is in fact the fear of death, but death is the one great illusion. It exists only from the perspective of the material plane. Once free of the body one can see there is no death, and therefore, nothing to really be afraid of.
Imagine a world where creative expression in all its various forms is the single most important thing being pursued by the entire human race. Imagine a world where there really is nothing to fight for or over, and everyone’s basic needs are met, freeing this creative expression for all time. Imagine a healing of the state of separation between humanity and God. Imagine a new understanding of the nature of reality.
Artists have within them the connections and abilities to transform their reality through acts of creation, and transcend the old dysfunctional ways of being. And the old world is already dead, in that hair’s width, already passing away.
Don’t just imagine our world as art. Make it so through acts of creation.
Art of the Sublime
by Gayle Konantz
What would a master like Josef Albers say to the idea that modernism is easier and faster to make than realism? Would he think his life’s work was shallow and facile? The glorious thing about art is that it is not just about illustration and representation. It is about perception. Art can be visual music. It can engage the mind. It can be a type of poetry without any recognizable forms. It can evoke deep emotions through form and colours at a gut level. You can say, “Ah, yes, that is a barn,” or you can say “hmmm… does the rust bleed into the turquoise, or does the turquoise glow through the grey to meet the rust, when you see Ritual under different light?” You can spend a lifetime studying the interaction of colours, and painting how red can dance, so when the viewer “gets it” and says “Aha!” their way of seeing is transformed. Great art moves you from where you are to a different place. It alters the way you have always perceived your world.
Seeing a roomful of Mark Rothko paintings is a profound experience, bordering on the religious. No wonder they call his work the Art of the Sublime.
Live the myth of our own life
by Peter Ciccariello, Providence, RI, USA
Christopher Reeve dying was a shock — James Joyce would point out that my mind instantly notes and calculates the difference in our ages, Reeve 52, my 56th rapidly sprinting around the track. We are fascinating organisms, isolated, frantically leaving signs, sounds, our eyes always looking the other way. Somehow I thought that since he was suffering so much, here, and living in such possibility, that he would never die. Wandering the empty roads of this life in his wheelchair and his apparatus. I thought that he would not, could not die, this man that became more and more the hero, the superman. We need men of mythic proportions, men that rise above meaningless rhetoric, idle chatter. Men that are resolute in their honesty and their integrity, rather than in their ignorance and their deception. Joseph Campbell said that we need modern myths. Superman died, Christopher Reeve died, as we all, all will die. But something of the life remains, the myth of life remains. That lives on. It is perhaps this we should strive for, to live for, the myth of our own life.
oil painting on line
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2004.
That includes Paula Timpson who wrote, “Yes, imagine our world as Pure Art — silent sanctities of saneness for the sake of saving souls.”
And also Ryan Wollard who wrote, “I’ve subscribed to your inspirational letters for over a year now, and Imagine is by far the best piece you’ve written. I was captivated. Every sentence was an experience.”