Friday, January 04, 2013

Brief Notes about Making Art, and a Digression

In the form of visual memes. Then a digression.

Catharsis in the arts is underrated. Why do people play the blues, or punk rock, or industrial rock? Because it's cathartic. I've played in bands in all those genres, and more, and rehearsals and gigs were almost always cathartic. I was reminded about catharsis a few days ago, when a lot of bottled up emotion around the Christmas holiday season suddenly came spilling out, triggered by a moment of aesthetic beauty. I remembered that I hadn't been making art for the past few days, and had been tied up in knots with the stresses of the winter holiday season. And then I remembered about catharsis, and was forcefully reminded about how making art keeps me grounded, centered, focused, and literally alive. Catharsis is more than just a pressure-release valve, it's a change of being, even if only for a moment. Art gives catharsis to the audience as well as the artist. The aesthetic moment that triggered all this was a sequence in a favorite movie that always, always gets to me on a very deep level, triggers an emotional response, and leaves washed clean afterwards, the way a good weep does.

Too many new age and neo-pagan artists are so focused on the light, on growth and healing and reminders to "keep it positive," that they forget that Shiva is both Creator and Destroyer. Parvati must be given her due, but so must Kali.

Sometimes you just have to get the darkness out of you by putting it into your art. The Wrathful Deities must have their due.

Art needs to be discursive, digressive, and distracted. All the best art takes you away somewhere, creates a new reality for you to wade around in, be immersed in. Art is nonlinear and even irrational. And that is its strength, and as it should be. Because that is what imagination is. Imagination is anarchic, not rational. Making art must be a journey for the artist as well as the audience, a free exploration of undiscovered and unfamiliar trails.

Life is messy, so is art.

Making art requires improvisation and intuition and inspiration, and not being in control, and not knowing what you're doing, or where you're being led.

Life is an improvisation, a guessing game at times. So is making art. Fingerpainting as well as technical pens. Disorder and chaos as another condition of orderliness. Dionysus and Apollo both.

And a digression:

Why do I share some of my art online? I think of it as advertising. Marketing for my arts business, as well as for fun. And I usually share only bits and pieces, and not the actual piece at full size. For that, or a print, people need to visit my online store.

Why don't we respect our artists? Because we have been convinced that art is a hobby, or that we don't need it to survive. Wrong on both counts, of course, but what do you expect from a culture that avoids self-reflection as much as possible, in favor of the loud and brassy self-display of narcissism and mannerism and self-absorption? When was the last time you shared something on your Facebook wall that was for the sake of others, and not basically a form of self-advertising? If you can honestly say, yesterday, then gods bless you.

So why do artists self-advertise online? Finding their audience. Your niche audience can be anywhere in the world, now, and at last you can connect with them. Calling that narcissism seems like a category error, though, because it's about the art, not about you. Note the subtle difference.

Every week I get requests from strangers to use my art for their website for free. These days I mostly say No. Folks, I am trying to make a living from my art.

Can I stop someone from stealing and using an image of mine online? No, but I can remind them that I probably worked as hard to make that piece of art they just "borrowed" as they did to earn their weekly paycheck. Maybe harder, because there's no downtime in art-making, and you never take a vacation. So I can't stop the thieves, but I also won't let them make me paranoid, and I'll continue to share some of my art, to find my audience, to make connections, and to let people know the art is there. Our culture pays lawyers hundreds of dollars an hour, and artists nothing, that's where our priorities really lie, and actions always speak louder than words.

But you can only buy my art from me.

If you like what any given artist creates, support them by buying their art, rather than stealing it or "borrowing" it. I got one of those freebie requests in my email today. I'm thinking about how to respond. I'm thinking out loud.

Labels: , , , ,


Blogger Fluffy Singler said...

So much there to comment on!

Regarding your first digression, that is exactly what my dissertation was based on--the idea that poetry, particularly, has its feet in both the visual and the literary and as such, can be more politically effective when it is nonlinear than so-called political poetry, because it can open up new ways of thinking.

Second, yes, I have had people who work in corporations compare the writing that I do to their gardening hobby.

Three -- it's interesting that you talk about catharsis. Augusto Boal was against catharsis because he felt that it was a release valve to keep people passive rather than inspiring action.

I decided to post here rather than on Facebook, because I know that I so rarely get comments at my own blog, even though I love them. So here you go. Thanks for a great blog and a great read!

3:21 PM  
Blogger Danish dog said...

I agree, Art. Nice post. I've also had a cathartic Christmas break. At present I'm workshopping this sonnet

based on an episode 43½ years ago. And a week ago I reworked this sonnet that I started seven years ago

5:11 PM  
Blogger Danish dog said...

I gather that the image that I based my second poem on is not available for non-members. So here's a link to it:

5:38 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, yes, it is nice to get comments here. I always appreciate them.

I think Boal is making the same category mistake that most non-artists make, by conflating catharsis with something that it is not. Rob Brezsny and Hakim Bey have both said, at various times, in their individual ways: "Art is life. Entertainment is death." Entertainment doesn't create catharsis. The gladiatorial games of everyday political life, the bread and circuses meant to distract people from being active participants in positive change: none of these provide genuine catharsis. The ancient Greeks would laugh at the misuse of the term. In Boal's usage, the term is so watered down as to mean nothing. Granted, I say that without knowing more of the context of Boal's comment, since I don't know his writing, yet I know I'm correct in pointing out that there is a huge difference between the little emotional escape valves provided by entertainment, and the genuine catharsis provided by making art, or experiencing art. For example,why is it that so many people who stand or sit in front of a Mark Rothko painting for a long time report having a deeply emotional experience? Some have even burst into tears. Perhaps it's just a matter of scale, of orders of magnitude, but entertainment rarely seems to provide anything more than superficial release, which isn't what I was talking about here.

9:47 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home