The Genesis of a New Body of Work

I haven’t made a body of work for the past 10 years. This past decade has been a kind of walk-about so to speak where I tried different careers, started a family, and lived abroad in Asia. But of course I never stopped thinking of new artistic endeavors. I just wasn’t setup to pursue my ideas whether it was due to lack of work space, time, finances, a need to change my kids diapers, or a mixture of them all.

But this time while back in the USA I had an idea that would allow me to engage in  my favorite material, clay; and one of my favorite processes, photography.

These images mark the Genesis of hopefully a new, complete body of work. The end product will be, for now anyway, large scale high definition images of works made in clay that are taken on sites related to the object(s) and ideas as they continue to form.

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2016 Is OVER

2016 ended with a rough landing for my family to say the least. For us it ended with strep throat, croup cough, kidney stones, and a natural gas leak inside our home triggering the carbon monoxide detectors. This year also provided for us a few trips to the hospital, resulting in medical expenses of course, and squatters in one of our last rental properties were selling out of resulting in legal fees, of course.

Not an ideal transition into the new year, but we’ll take it because 2017 for us represents the hope of transitioning back into the life we feel called to back in Asia.

Art That Is True Will Be Addressing Several Things Today…

truth Orwell

Art that is true will be addressing several current issues of the day. Before addressing some of these issues, let’s first identify the 2 primary approaches art should use when it is intentionally “true.” (And by true, I mean clearly one of the following.)

  1. Art approaches a cultural, societal, or personal issue from an intentionally biased perspective with the primary intention at persuading others towards his/her position on a particular issue.
  2. Art attempts to address an issue from an unbiased perspective like we would hope a free press would to provide the facts of an issue so the people would be able to arrive at their own conclusions without the intent of being persuaded.

Much of art, like the free press, attempts to firstly persuade rather than firstly inform. It might not be a problem if either our free press or the majority of the art world were majorly unbiased and just presented the facts. But the problem is the majority of our sources of information seek to persuade. It might not be a problem if the loudest and most influential voices were not significantly against the Judeo-Christian foundations of the country.

Socialism v Capitalism

To remember, it was the Judeo-Christian foundation that led to the emancipation of slavery, to civil rights for blacks and women, and still is a harbor of religious freedom despite Christians specifically being the target of attacks, most recently the Christian students in Oregon that received minimal media attention compared to the Black Lives Matter coverage.

The question is not so much why the slant in coverage, but what is the agenda, who is behind it, and what is the goal?

The country is moving deeper into Socialism as seen in an increase in support for Socialist Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders. People spend more due diligence buying a car than they do on considering changing the form of their government and will be why they may one day be remembering the days of old when they could buy a car without the permission of their government.

My fear is that unbiased art and media coverage will come to late, if at all. We will be looking at this information in the form of history, as a memory of what used to be.

mainstream media

Will Globalization Eradicate Cultural Identities?

No doubt the world is increasingly becoming less homogenous and more heterogenous with globalization. While this in itself is not a bad thing, there is the law of unintended consequences to be aware of. One might say it is counting the costs. 

What are we loosing in the process of the world becoming globalized? 

Culture and ethnicity. Is that bad? Not entirely, but it’s not necessarily all good either if you think that the world having distinct races and cultures is also a good feature of our human race.

What am I saying here? Should we stop globalization? 

First, what I mean here by globalization is (in the undetermined future) a push for a one world way of life where there is the same rule of law for all places led by a one world government that conglomerates all nations into a singular one world nation.

To ask the question again, should it be stopped? Yes. And no. 

No. I don’t think we should stop allowing people to freely travel, and intermarry with other races and all that (as if it could happen anyway, nor should it as it is unethical), absolutely not.

Yes. I think globalization fully realized results in things referenced in the definition above, as well as an eradication of subcultures that contribute to our distinct human diversity. 

I am also interested in the question led to by the above,

how can cultures hold onto their cultural identities and characteristics as the world continues to become more heterogenous via globalization? 

And, is it even important for cultures to hold onto their identities and characteristics for better or worse? 

There is a strong push in the United States to make all things secular. Latest example is regarding religious people not being able to express their values and message by what they do for a living and what they make, or choose not to make, as artisans for example, such as bakers. One cannot say they are for diversity if they are against any one component of a culture like religion. If so, they are really,… religionists (my word for being a racist against those of a religion). 

If someone can sue a baker for choosing to not bake them a cake for whatever reason, it can lead to one being able to sue anyone who makes a living as an artisan or artist such as a musician or painter or sculptor, et cetera, who says they choose to not say, write a song celebrating a certain type of lifestyle such as same-sex marriage, or suing an atheist for not writing a worship song to God. (Yeah, we know the pendulum only swings one way on this matter, atheist songwriters, fear not, at least about writing worship songs.)

But the point here is, are we ready to continue down the road towards a secular world monoculture where distinct cultures composed of a myriad of religions and ethnicities contribute to true diversity? Where I live is currently very homogenous (Asia), and I am thankful for that because I am able to experience a different way of life. I am not trying to impose my way of thinking on anyone else, and nor are they trying to do that to me. But back home in the U.S., globalization is taking place and in its process cultural distinction will be lost, for better or worse.

I think for worse. 

Contemporary Art’s Sugar Daddy, The Central Intelligence Agency (aka, The CIA)

You ever wonder why some art is considered, art? I mean you know, when you walk into an art museum and you see a toilet on a pedestal that ends up selling for over $500,000, you ever wonder what in the world you’re missing?

duchamp ready made

An insightful disclosure by a former CIA officer named, Donald Jameson (if that’s his real name) might shed light onto why some things were considered high-end contemporary art, and still are today. 

Jameson shared with United Kingdom publication, The Independent, in ’95 that the CIA had established a Cold War counter propaganda program known as “Congress for Cultural Freedom” that was run by a CIA agent intended to communicate to Russia how much freer the U.S. was compared to the tight Socialist rules for their artists to follow. 

Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) had offices in 35 countries and 12 magazine publications according to The Independent, including Encounter magazine. The CCF also sponsored exhibitions that toured every major European city with funds allegedly from millionaire-backers, but I have an inkling a lot of those monies came from tax-payer contributions

Artist such as Jackson Pollock & Willem de Kooning supposedly were in ways, promoted by these funds, but with careful degrees of separation. 

pollockTateModern      dekoonig

Pollock                                                  de Kooning

I have long speculated that the art of contemporary art wings in museums such as Tate, The Guggenheim, Museum of Modern Art, were all being directed by a single agenda, and this story seems to justify this inkling. Now that a former CIA officer has volunteered this information that verifies this belief, I am also left with more questions:

If it’s “avant-garde” today, is it being financed by someone (CIA or other) with an agenda?

How is the “Who’s Who” of the art world truly defined? Is someone promoting their work for reasons other than a strong interest in it as art?

If you have gone through art school, you’ve been told half-truths at best, either knowingly or unknowingly, by the art historians who wrote the art history textbook you had to study. But if there is one thing I learned how to do in college, it was research and verify.

My feelings, inkling, that some well-known artists were merely puppets of an agenda, seems to be increasingly verified the more I speculate what’s been delivered as whole-truth, which is what lacks in “movements” like the CIA promoted avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism, in my humble opinion. 

But I guess there is not much to be discontent about here regarding Abstract Expressionism, I mean the CIA essentially promoted the freedom the U.S. has compared to other countries. But it still begs the inquiry,

Who is pushing certain individuals to culture’s spotlight today, and why?

Source: The Independent

The Truth About Some Contemporary Art

We’ve all seen artwork that leaves us wondering, “what was that supposed to mean?”.  It is typical of the artist to say they want to make the viewers “think” when in reality we’re being left confused or worse, unchanged, which I guess in essence the goal has been achieved considering confusing others leaves them thinking.

I have yet to meet an artist though who says this is their intention, or admit what they are presenting really doesn’t have a message, or if it does have a message then acknowledge the manner in which the work is executed is not able to relay said message, nor say they use the guise and aesthetic of contemporary art to present work as something with intellectual insight, representation, and/or meaning, but really doesn’t have meaning beyond its materials and/or true intention of being a misleading guise.

It’s easier to say a work has an intended purpose when it doesn’t at which point might have to actually explain the “non-ness” of the work. Too deep. And a little delusional even. 

Why admit a work doesn’t meet a real expressed intention, or have one to begin? If we did, we might lose our tenure-track professorship at that art school, or fellowship, or gallery representation, speaking engagements, et cetera. But if this really is the goal, to leave viewers confused about a work’s purpose and meaning, then let it be said and sought after directly and with forthrightness, then there will be something of substance to explore.

To say you would like to make the viewers “think” is really a pointless goal only because we are always thinking.

Lose the vagueness and trade it for intentionality. Say what you mean, and mean what you say as the adage best informs. As an art student in college I was exposed, like most in art school, to what was considered art via mainstream media outlets such as Art In America, Sculpture Inc. Magazine, Art News and others. But luckily I had great professors who challenged me to intellectually consider how and why what was being feed as art was influencing culture and me personally. 

Unfortunately though, most art students are not challenged in this way. I have seen in graduate school, and as an art professor in addition to being an artist. What is presented as art in galleries and mainstream media, is bought hook-line-and-sinker despite its having stood up rigorous inquiry or debate as to the validity of its intended purpose.

When I see a mass of materials in a gallery presented as sculptural art for example, that is presented as being something with an intended meaning to be understood by viewers, like say work by artist Richard Tuttle, and have nothing to go on but an assembly of materials and a title sheet, I’m left to assume there is something I am supposed to understand or gather.

Fiction Fish Tuttle “Fiction Fish” by Richard Tuttle

In reality though, if we’re honest towards what is actually happening, what a lot of artist want to leave viewers with is the impression that the art represents something in an enlightened manner which most just will not be able to interpret and attain intellectually. This is what I mean by guise.

When you ask a gallery curator or docent to explain works such as these, they, in my experience, go into an intellectually redundant script that is merely the spoken guise of the visual guise-artwork and by the time he/she has completed their well rehearsed script, you’re ready for a nap. (Again, in my experience.) 

As Gertrude Stein said of her childhood home in Oakland in the early 30’s after revisiting it after spending most of her life abroad,

…”there is no there there.”   

Gertrude Stein

This absence of forthrightness and intentionality in contemporary art is only funded by a small percentage of wealthy patrons who, unfortunately, possess the majority of influence in the art world, allow artists such as those with “no there there” to continue influencing culture at large, and well to be frank, it’s unfortunate, because like sheep we all seem to gobble it up as absolute truth creating the standard for what is and is not art today. 

The most helpful question posed to me while in grad school which stills guides me today and I fail at attaining albeit strive to appropriately answer with my work is,

“What do you want your work to do?”

What I say I want it to do and what it does are not always simpatico, but at least I can answer with certainty, what I want it to do and where it falls short in doing that which allows me to learn from it and re-aim for the next work.

If I wanted my work to confuse people, I would not hesitate in saying that was my goal. But this is what so much artwork these days does, but never owns up to letting it be known that’s its intention which is, in my humble opinion, cowardly.

DISCLAIMER:

There is a lot to Richard Tuttle’s work I do enjoy, aesthetically.

Has The Guise Movement influenced me as an artist?

-Absolutely. I was trained by modernist and postmodern artists. The influence is not all bad. Aesthetically, I enjoy a lot of it. My riff with this approach is lack of forthrightness and truthfulness. A lot in this school of thought have been taught art is whatever you say it is. If this were entirely the case, we would not art schools to tell us so. But when we go to art schools we learn craft, philosophy, and conceptual representation, which in itself contradicts art can be anything because we are taught standards.

How do I know there are artists who approach art this way, using a “guise,” or “guisement” if you want to say it that way?

-Not certain this is indeed the case, just going on what I see and hear from work and interviews of artists. Having a Bachelor’s also in Psychology has helped me discern intentions.

Do you feel hypocritical considering your own work will not be understood by all people?

-Not really because I strive for my work to be straightforward removing the why or what-questions. A good example of what I strive not to do nor to teach in my art classes comes from Texas State University this year when an art major sat outside the school’s library steps, almost entirely naked, as a way of addressing the objectification of women in our culture.

While in concept this sounds like an avant-garde approach to the topic, it is not art in a visual arts sense but is performance, which will take another article to explain the difference between because the visual arts programs throughout the U.S. have been contaminated by this misnomer that performance is just another concentration like painting, ceramics, or sculpture. It is not.

Story for the above mentioned misinformed art major from TSU:               Texas State Univ art student

The Monotonous Effect of the Tolerance Agenda in the Arts

“I stand corrected” is an idea that doesn’t seem to exist these days, definitely one I do not see in media. Saying those words take a bit of humbleness and one might be able to argue this is one thing lacking culturally.

Art and politics in my mind go hand in hand, meaning art reflects, and in some degree guides and influences culture and vice versa. Over the past five decades, but increasingly more-so over the last ten to thirteen years, the staunch push for tolerance via political operandi has started to contradict itself by resulting in vitriolic intolerance towards those who hold a different belief than others on certain topics, topics such as but not limited to, abortion, war, and marriage, just to name a few.

I will be the first to admit, I do not have it all figured out, and yes I do have to summon up strength externally to in essence, “bite my tongue,” until I can respond sincerely and humbly when disagreeing with someone who holds to a different position than myself. But like most art forms, I understand humbleness and sincerity are process-based that requires practice, much like an art-making process, and is one I will fail at times, but will not cease pursuing.

The prospective consequence of promoting tolerance while exercising intolerance towards art made from a different perspective or worldview is that galleries will end up with a linear, monotonous perspective on the walls and pedestals. The United States, with all its faults, has great potential representing the arts from a myriad of perspectives. And we do a lot of the time.

But ask yourself this, what perspective(s) is being represented when you visit a well-known contemporary museum of art such as The Guggenheim or The Whitney? I really see primarily one these days, secularism. And the same perspective year in and year out, after the initial aesthetic oo’s and ah’s, is just boring because it is a linear, one-sided perspective.

Of course linear presentation of art isn’t a great representation of our culture with all of our philosophies and religions because it negates a truer representation of our culture. Having lived in a Communist country I can say from firsthand experience when a culture eradicates ethereal perspectives such as ones from a religious worldview, it will become black-and-white, i.e. colorless, and/or just the same ‘ol urinal on a pedestal, which after a first viewing is just a urinal on a pedestal that triggers a want to actually use it for its intended purpose.

I would like to see artwork made by artists from every type of background represented in galleries and receptions that intermingled this pluralistic culture we live in. But I think we’re scared of the types of conversations that would commence. We’re scared of words, so we surround ourselves with like-minded individuals for emotional protection.

We can still share dreams without offending someone right?

truth Orwell