Saturday, August 11, 2007

An evening with the older generation...

The more I deal with the Jacksonville art scene the more I realize how large our issues really are. Here's an example. I was at a family birthday function for my step dad tonight and I was telling a group of older folks, in their seventies about what has been going on in the Jacksonville arts scene lately. About So on and so forth.

One of them asked me if the work we were showing was Cubism? I told them that it was contemporary art and they continued to tell me that that's not a good name and that we needed to come up with a good name for our movement? It went on for several minutes as they all decided that contemporary art wasn't good enough. It was sort of over the top really. They asked if we were showing Modern Art. Abstract Expressionism? You need a name they said over and over. I then told them that it is actually historically called contemporary art all over the world now. That it's actually global and wasn't up to us to rename it. They wouldn't have it. One man asked if there was going to be any Western Art and that he liked cowboys.

They really wanted another name. One lady asked me, "But isn't it all Impressionism really?" I must admit I was a bit perplexed and perturbed at this moment and I suppose it was very evident. They were astonished that I actually cared enough about what I am doing to take offense. I told them that there are many educated and passionate artists here who have dedicated their lives to their artwork. That it's a very serious thing. And that each time you mention you're an artist here in Jacksonville that this sort of silly conversation usually will take place.

Their mouths dropped. They quit laughing. Afterwards they all apologized.

I mean they were all drunk but dang if there isn't a ton of ignorance here in Jax about art. And these are all extremely educated well to do people. It really makes me question can we overcome it? Is it possible? Should we try? I can see why we all get down about it. I know I do. Situations like this make it extremely evident the obstacles we have in front of us. I mean we aren't only dogs to each other as artists here but we have that shit to deal with from the non artists.

Where do we begin? How do we educate the population on exactly what contemporary art is and where it is going? How do we get along with each other in the process? I really think we should be able to talk to non art types about our work. How do we as artists educate others who do not have an art history background or interest in the arts in order for them to take an interest in what's happening?

How do we make what can be conceived as an elitist activity and make them understand that contemporary art and literature is the evolution of our culture as we know it? Should we engage others or silently bow out of such conversations? If we want drastic change here, it will eventually have to happen with them. As one of them reminded me, he is a consumer. That they are consumers and that I have to be able to talk to them about my work? He had a point. Did I do a good job? Not too sure. I do believe I left them with a very clear understanding that there are a number of contemporary artists here and that we aren't some joke or movement. That we won't be taken lightly. I guess if they want to consume that, it's for sale. I hope that was enough.




Mark Creegan said...

I am in the middle of reading the last Harry Potter book so my first thought is that you area wizard in a house full of muggles!

Now I have nothin against muggles and all (I aint pro You-Know-Who) but i think there is a similar thing going on.

Byron said...

man. thanks for breaking it down. now I'll I have to do is google muggles. sorry :( I haven't read one Harry Potter book. I must be a communist.

How do you react to folks in similar situations? Have you ever been in similar situations? I'm sure we all have right?

Mark Creegan said...

I usually just cater to their perceptions. Like if I say I am an artist, they might say "oh lovely, I just LOVE Thomas Kincaid dont you?" I say "Yes He is great"

I know i am not doing much to add to their knowledge of contemporary art, but I dont want to waste the time usually. If it was a close friend or relative saying those things I would clarify my true feelings. But I also kinda get a kick agreeing with their gushing over Kincaid. I dont know why really.

But the Potter parallel is perfect really. In the books and movies, the wizarding world is totally hidden and not understood by the "normal" people. Sound familiar?

Byron said...

maybe the path of least resistance is the best path for situations like this. I do feel it's sort of my obligation to educate. But where does one start? Especially with someone who adores Thomas Kinkaid, Painter of Light.

Maybe it really is just another world we live in. I'm still trying to explain what I do to my family and they've known me since the beginning. I'm still dealing with them rolling their eyes and as they glaze over.

I like the article James put up about Artist as Public Intellectual. He passed this to me a few months ago. I don't particularly like the title Public Intellectual as it seems a bit elitist. I am right on with her definition of it though. I really wish there was a place for artists as thinkers and philosophers in our society.

On NPR yesterday I heard of a new breed of rap that's catching on. It's called Conscious rapping. It's about being conscious of your role as a public figure. The power of the spoken word and how it has the power to change the world. It seems Conscious rapping has caught on and a handful of successful rappers are stepping up and talking about issues that could possibly not get them anywhere commercially.

An interesting title might be Conscious Artist. Being aware. Trying to make a difference. Of course we could play with the title all day but the concept of artist as thinker, philosopher, social activist is where I would like the general public to see artists. How to get there? I suppose the best bet is to focus on the work ourselves and the rest will fall into place.

And maybe the path of least resistance for those who are too far out of the philosophy to get it? But then maybe being an artist is sort of like spreading the gospel and if there really is a message to be had we should step down off our mountain top and deliver it to the masses? I'm not quite sure what direction to go with it. Maybe it's not something that has to be decided now but chosen when the situation presents itself?



SharlaTV said...

The key to breaking it down for the older folks is explaining the "isms" or more like the end of the "isms" because at some point there were so many styles and uses of style even within one painting that we could no longer define an art movement by picking a word and tacking an "ism" on the end of it. That's what your geriatric friends were looking for.. so around the umm... i think 80's we began defining art and segmenting it by content, geography (london movement, caribbean/south american) even by sexuality (lesbian and gay art). I got this from Phaidon's "ARTODAY" which came out in the 90's. Also, art became multicultural and international. But I would love to coin a word because contemporary today is going to be oldstuff tomorrow and we'll be a group of 70 year-olds in a room discussing it all.

SharlaTV said...

I haven't read the book but maybe I'm a muggle.