Wednesday, April 28, 2010

gimmee shelter

Paul Cézanne - Still Life, Drapery, Pitcher, and Fruit Bowl, 1893-1894*

During my lifetime, media technology has brought an ever-increasing flow of information to my attention. As an artist, with a solid Northeastern urban background, cultivating my skill within the NYC community, I was jarred by news of activities beyond my scope that seemed almost alien to me, but at the same time there was a distance, engendered by the notion that while it might be important to understand a wider reality, the fact was that it's true nature would likely never intersect my life or that of any of my friends, family or associates.

New media challenges that notion every day. Why? Because now, we can interact with virtually any issue that comes in to view, and create content for so many, many others to interact with in turn. And with so much novel and often disturbing information arriving from so many different directions - the past few days alone for me it has included climate change legislation in jeopardy,  St. Vincent's Hospital closing, restaurants in the city serving live animals (via PETA), attacks on schoolgirls in Afghanistan, USMC Lt. Col. (retired) Allen West's ominous insights into how we are NOT dealing with the threat to America from Islamic extremists, the Supreme Court's rejection of the first legislation banning animal "snuff" films...sometimes isn't it necessary to strategically retreat just to keep a creative life in order? And is it even possible?

Jokingly, in a Facebook post in response to hearing on Tavis Smiley's radio show that America is home to a significant population of science deniers who don't believe in climate change or even evolution (remember "Inherit the Wind"?), I wrote "I will simply pretend they do not exist." Which, maybe, is what I do when I sit down to draw or write about art. Yet I can't help but wonder how the age of information has influenced my body of work, and the art of others around me. 

As yet untitled work (c) 2010 by the author

Perhaps the answer lies in studying history, looking for the deepest differences between work created by those living in "smaller" perceptual worlds, who, sheltered from the day-to-day struggles of almost all of humanity, had more time and focus to create their visions, and what we make today. And, while studying history, it also couldn't hurt to re-visit HL Mencken and Clarence Darrow...

Strawberries and Cherries by Margaretta Angelica Peale (1795-1882)*

*public domain images via Wikimedia Commons