I recently had an experience, that at first left me with a sad and isolated feeling. I then went on to have many internal conversations with myself about the state of art, its roll in society, and society in general.
My son lives in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, a hot bed of art galleries and a large museum. On a few recent visits to embrace my new roll as “grandma”, I have taken some time with and without my grandson, to visit the galleries and museum in the area. There was a lot of digital media work, photography, installations, being shown, and performance art when you catch it. Much of it deals with pressing issues about American society: sexuality, poverty, drugs, violence, punctuated with the vilest guttural language. Except for some exciting 3D wall and free-standing sculptures, and a few fiber art pieces, I came away depressed, discouraged, and isolated in my own need to produce art that celebrates life and nature.
I know from a historical standpoint art reflects society. If what I see in this metropolitan hot bed of art is recording society, we are in a very bad place. But I also question how exhaling this type of art to museum status is helping solve the problem? The reasoning is, people have to be made aware. We know! We pick up a newspaper and it is front and center. We turn on TV and it is front and center. If you watch any of the award-winning TV shows or movies, the issues are front and center. Yes, the people know, they know so much that it is sadly becoming the norm. Making people more aware isn’t solving the problem. To me, what it seems to be doing is making the world more toxic.
Psychology 101: If you bombard a person with negative thoughts and fear he is going to see the word in a negative way. If you fill a person with positive thoughts, he will find hope. If we keep exalting the negative how are we going to change the direction of this society; which appears to be sliding into a deep ditch of despair from what I saw going on, in this small area of the metropolitan art world? It has been a rough internal conversation.
I wanted to shout at the “art world” to stop! Look at the beauty that exists out there. Where I found some hope for my internal conversation was, there were more people walking the High Line trying to find nature in the concrete jungle of Manhattan, and walking along the Hudson River enjoying the trees and resting in the grass than in the museum and galleries. Seeing that people still want to see beauty in nature gave me hope.
So, my sadness and feeling of isolation, have instead fueled my purpose to continue to celebrate nature in my artwork. I may not make it to the “Big Apple”, but I will trade it for the buyer who stops me to say how much they enjoy waking up each morning and seeing my beautiful piece on their wall. Whether I am doing realistic work or abstract work I am celebrating nature and paying homage to the Earth and its history. That is what is right for me. Each must march to their own drummer.
(To be fair…this is a commentary on 13 galleries and one museum in about a 1/2 mile radius in a very large city. There are many galleries I see on line that I look at, that host many “color field” and “minimalist” painters; styles which became popular in the 60’s. But it is a trend I have watched grow in recent years throughout New York and other metropolitan areas that I visit.)
“I do not think a day passes in my life in which I fail to look with fresh amazement at the miracle of nature. It is there on every side. It can be simply a shadow on a mountainside, or a spider’s web gleaming with dew, or sunlight on the leaves of a tree. I have always especially loved the sea.”