Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Waking up

Lately I feel that it is my responsibility to make artwork the addresses current socio political situations. Specifically pertaining to the War in Iraq. I have been ignoring any sort of heavily weighted work having to do with the war in my work over the last several years. My work has tended to be more personal and introspective since 911.

Do any of you feel the same urge to make work that addresses specific current events or situations? In a sense I do feel as if I'm waking up out of a fog. I'm hoping others are ready to wake up too. Or maybe I'm the only one who has been asleep?


Roman Bradley said...

I think the best of artists wake up alot faster than the rest of us.
It takes alot to project the present or future. the past is so much more distant, and fantastic.

with this new series you have a work that cohere not only in subject matter and subject but something that works on a more intimate immediate level. the scale and materials use seem to inhance the characteristics of the trophy soldiers.

it's a dominating presence, that accumulates alot of this universal consciousness to make a really powerful, yet subtle presence.

It's iconic of it's time. it could be a poster for the past twenty years of U.S. Military actions.
there's a depth and edginess, with
an ironic bent. It's sincere and possibly bombastic. it's vulnerable
but it makes a stand. It's very true to life, and to art. I think it will remind us to be true.

CREATEjacksonville said...

Yesterday, I had a very long talk with someone about this very thing. Which led me to a new series regarding kids of today, celebrity status, and all that comes with it.

I have witnessed this first hand being a teacher, and I find it depressing. We will see where it leads.

Anonymous said...

Dang. Thanks Roman. I appreciate it.
Really glad you like the new drawings.

Funny thing is I'm fully aware of how much
the deer has been used in the arts lately.

If I put it on a soldiers torso, however, it takes on a
completely different connotation. I wanted
to study the current zeitgeist's imagery and
use it to comment on the war.

I personally believe it's haunting to have a trophy
deer associated with a possible fallen soldier.

I myself see portraits of soldiers and sailors dying
on an almost daily basis. I've become desensitized
to it. Through this series I've already become more
aware. I'm really looking at their faces now. I hope
others do too.


Jax CAL said...

Maybe we sould curate a show about this?

Brittni, I'd like to see your new series. Shoot me some images when you get time.

Byron said...

Does anyone have any ideas on how to possibly improve the blog. Keep the it going. It seems to puttered out a bit.

We could maybe do a contribution order of those who are interested. A contribution calendar. Or maybe we all just commit to contribute one thing a week?

Any ideas like that. It's all up to you guys.

It's been a fun ride so far. I'd just like it to continue.



zac said...

I think there are just so few of us on here right now that it may seem to lag sometimes. I really think it will grow, but it would be nice to have a little more participation, a little more debate.

I remember reading a book about Chuck Close and he said when he was at Yale they didn't teach him how to make art, but he sure learned how to talk about it.

AO said...

Byron: It will grow. I'll bet there are several readers that don't post. I am telling everyone I know to at least read it.

JaxCal's regular posters are the cream of the crop as far as I am concerned. I love reading everyone's posts, they inspire me.

Your new work really grabbed me when I saw it. I did not think I had become desensitized, but I guess I have. My work really has never drifted in this direction, but the Mandalla that I am working on (we talked about it in an e-mail) has developed a war theme.

I think a show is an excellent idea. It may be just the thing to draw others to Jaxcal.


Jax CAL said...

Great. Maybe we should do a show.

Maybe that's the next evolution of this space?

Who is interested in showing? I won't be ready for a few months. But who would have work ready soon if we could find a space.

Zac, I thanks for your input. I come from a different place I think. I really don't want to debate art. I want to talk about it. What does it makes us feel, etc.? What does it make us think?
Maybe that's what you mean by debate?

The word debate sounds so harsh. For instance, this is what I'd like to know.

Anna-Marie why are you making a mandala? How has it developed a war them? How are you implementing it? What type of imagery are you using? How does it make you feel? What does it make you think?

Same with Brittni. Why are you beginning to make more socio political work? What has triggered this? Why now? How are you implementing it?

Are there any more artist out there who are making work that is concerned with the current socio political situation?

If so how?

Thanks AO. Glad you like the little drawings. I have become desensitized. I was in the Army just a couple of years ago too. I was thinking that maybe we as a people don't like looking at the fallen soldiers portraits because it could be us, or our children?

That the news has nummed us to it. It's like the media coverage has give us a local anaesthetic to our eyes. I want to remove that.

I'd just like people to start thinking again about who these sailors and soldiers really are.

Jaime Verde said...


As someone who recently graduated from an MFA program (in 2006), I can say that I'm surprised at the lack of new artists who really really want to stare down this issue. When I was in school, I wrongly assumed that there would be more artists willing to take on the hard subjects and was surprised by the early reaction to my fist-year work around 2003-2004, when I was doing soldier work as well.

My peers in grad school were largely not interested in discussing work that was more polemic- work that as an idea attacks other ideas and strives to illicit reactions and make viewers think about where they stand, or what they feel about the state of the world.

Strangely, when I started doing other work, work that had a desperate, exasperated humor to it, my grad school peers began to be more in favor of my approach. They were skeptical of message work that criticized our leadership and their reasons for going to war, but once I started making prints featuring masturbating cartoon rats or something, they were all for it.

After my most shrill body of work (propaganda posters about Bush, Rummy, Cheney and Ashcroft) I myself grew tired of making all this noise with no one listening. I moved on to do a body of work that was still political, yet far less loud. It had a soft power, and was, I hope, more moving in a way that wasn't negative. I had moved past the hot moment of anger and into some new territory.

Angry work with a strong polemic message about politics or war is a valuable creative activity to engage in, in that it acts as a pressure valve to clear out the thoughts that are bothering you. In the end you are refreshed and you might have a new approach.

I think that if I were to have kept the loud work up as my main approach, I would have overheated, and people would have tuned out.

But lately I am drawn once again to doing war work. Like you, Byron, my work is centering on the form of the soldier. I sense an awakening on the part of the larger culture, too. Only 25% of the US population is actually in favor of this war, a recnt AP poll has revealed. Yet despite its unpopularity, this summer upwards of 17,000 more troops will be deployed (and in many cases re-deployed) into Iraq.

This cultural malaise is cause for artists to make work. Now is the time for artists to be public intellectuals, to put ideas out into society and negotiate the audience response in order for their approach to artmaking to change. If the culture has to change, then as artists, as the creators of culture, wouldn't it make sense for art to have to change before the rest of culture follows?

I'm definitely interested in curating a show about this very subject. Who's with me?

Jax CAL said...

I'm down.

Here's a possible show title.

"Out of the Fog"
Jacksonville Artist's waking up out of the fog of war?

Something like that.

I hear you James. I do feel that a large majority of work these days is escapist. I'm wondering when artists decided to ignore what's going on around them?

Again, maybe it's just me.

Anonymous said...

Why a mandala? well, I am fascinated by them, they are symbols of peace. I especially like the Tibetan ones, occasionally the monks come and do one from start to finish at FCCJ. I like the spiritual aspect of it - at least in my opinion. The war thing just popped into my head. I was out to dinner with my husband one night and had my notebook out (carry one everywhere I go) and started sketching. I had been thinking about constructing a mandala for sometime on a personal level. Then all of a sudden - you all know how that idea hits you - I started making notes, flag, pride, fatigues, blood, death...

I was trying to figure out where this was coming from. Art wise I have never really made a 'statement', my stuff has always been personal and introspective. I don't want to debate the war and all that, But me, I am sick of it. My mandala is an 'American Mandala' peace seen from both sides, those who say blow it off the map so we can have peace at home, and those who want a peaceful solution - if that is even possible. That is where we are, the average Dick and Jane have an ethnocentric point of view, and the majority of everyone else have started to contain our feelings for some reason. I catch myself biting my tongue at work or with relatives because it gets so heated when it comes up. I wasn't like that before, I don't like the odd evolution of my thoughts.

I got to thinking about my cousin Jason. He is 30, has a daughter that is about 7, did two tours in Iraq and did not re-enlist. When he came back alive we were thankful - when he went back to Iraq as a civilian we were dumbfounded, he went back as one of those private security deals, all gung ho! He really thinks that if we 'kill 'em all' we will have peace. My dad (who is fairly conservative) asked him if he really sees the people in Iraq as persons to be feared, he said yes. The civilians were to be feared, this includes women and children. You should have seen the look on my Dad's face. It's a shame, Jason as a kid was always a gentle soul. Anyway... You can see where these ideas are creeping into my work. I guess that too is personal and introspective.

The mandala is a sketch right now. I am a little afraid of it, every time it look at it I get feelings like I did when the war first started and the casualties started being counted. I got the same feeling when I saw Byron's sketches. I have learned to tuck it all inside thousands of casualties later, not just us, but them too.

I have to look at it as a positive for me, maybe I can move my art to the next level. I do plan on getting started on it this weekend. The work will be acrylic paint mixed with fine sand on wood - so far.


Anonymous said...


That's great. Really nice to get inside your head for a second.
I've always been interested in mandala's. I have this theory that
all artwork is a type of mandala. Even if the shape or form is
not in a mandala's form.

You've heard the story about that artist in the mid west who paints
that rock every year in remembrance of the troops. It would be
interesting to see you do something like this and actually relate
it to the war but still have the same temporary appeal that the ones
the monks do in a mandala's form.

Maybe it could be something temporary and possibly a performance
piece? Maybe the shapes and visual imagery doesn't even have to
relate to the war? Maybe just doing a mandala with the goal of
being involved in a meditative state focused on understanding more
about your personal feelings about the war and how this war has affected
the world would be interesting enough.

Maybe this performance is done in the sand on the beach at low tide.
Could even be a weekly event. I could really see something like that
having power.

Paintings are cool too. Maybe little drawings that are worked on till
they are complete then thrown away. There are so many ways an mandala
could be used to inport these types of concepts. I'm definitely interested
in seeing the outcome…..

Anonymous said...

My password is not working?! This is Brittni.

Why are you beginning to make more socio political work?

Well, this new series is a more obvious statement then my previous works. But actually, my older work, although abstract for the most part, still has some socio/ political undertones, its just not as defined as this new work.

What has triggered this?

Throughout the last five months, I have been exposed to the lives of kids between the ages of 14 and 18, because of my job. It has really been an eye-opener for me. Kids today, at least in my experience, are obsessed with celebrities, fame, and material objects. This is extremely disheartening to me, and I wanted to do something to express my woes, so to speak.

How are you implementing it?

Right now, I am still in the beginning stages, but all of the pieces are 6x4 inches on canvas. They are mixed media works, and will be shown in a large grid format (30 or more) to emphasize the idea of everything being a commodity and material.

Byron said...

Hi Brittni,

Seems like this new series lends itself to being on merchandise too.

James is working on a new series that will be printed on merchandise .

Seems the imagery you are speaking off could easily be printed on clothing and accessories too?

Sort of hit them over the head with it. Let them eat cake.

Definitely would like to see the imagery you will be working with.