Being an image maker or thought presenter wields great power as history has shown. Generations have been defined by the images and ‘sayings’ that each has produced. Who doesn’t remember ‘where’s the beef?’ or ‘make love not war’. Think of the peace sign and people like Milton Glaser, Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Ferlinghetti, Robert Indiana and a host of others in all mediums who were masters of this skill. The arts have always reflected the society in which they have lived and have simultaneously responded to and led generations.
Contained within an artist’s repertoire are tools of seduction as well as meaning. We can very easily tickle the eye with color, shine, glitz, novelty of all sorts and give the impression of art while in fact it might contain very little of that. There is the appearance of art and then there is art. The modern day world contains both and is sometimes hard to distinguish. The art fair has taken on the modalities used by malls and retail philosophies for the ultimate goal of the sale. Of necessity the best galleries have mastered this form of influence.
But a little beyond that there is an enclave of something else that might be a bit more challenging in both its craft and intended meaning. To me this is the arena of the beauty of soul. It tends not to fit into the accepted showrooms of art but breaths its own life in its own way. While it may challenge and test the limits of our own understanding of meaning and beauty it contains traits and emotional content that is undeniable. I have seen from the gallery side, with my experience with the viewer or collector, that most aficionados of art are looking for something specific to fill a need within themselves. ‘This disturbs me, I could never live with that!’ is one familiar comment. ‘I have blue drapes and this would just fit so well in my room’ is another. ‘I really don’t want anything sad around me so these pieces definitely don’t work for me’ is another. So every exhibit or work of art has filters applied to it. YET when we go to the theater or read a book or listen to music the challenging elements and the fullness of the contrast enhances our experience.
So artists tend to adapt to the market seeking approval, which is a human need, and then develop mechanisms to feed that craving. The beauty of soul disregards the tendency of approval and imposes its own will on the world. Take it or leave it. In this ‘letting go’ is where I have seen the most moving work and in actuality the best people. It takes some effort to find but it is there alongside all of the other stuff we have come to call art. In a politically correct world where authentic ideas can be crushed for not following party lines I find originality and courage of high value. It takes courage these days to be true to yourself knowing that if someone is offended by your work all hell can break loose. But this might be the new price we have to pay for the Beauty of Soul.
image: in my ongoing quest to include notable work as the blog image I have focused on Mexican artist Javier Marin this week. I find his work amazingly compelling both from the making point of view as well as emotional content.