Last week I was contacted by the City of Calgary, regarding the selection of one of my paintings to be enlarged and reproduced permanently on one of the transit shelters for the 17th Ave SE BRT public transit development. I am super excited to be working with the City on this and can’t wait to see what Pancake Breakfast looks like enlarged and in the public space! I will make sure to take and post pictures when this goes ahead.
Okay, I know I have been away since March 13th, and if you have posted a legit comment on a post since then, I am genuinely sorry that it will not be read or posted, however 2800 pieces of spam are a little much to expect someone to sift through in order to find the one nugget of authentic human contact in my inbox. I skimmed the posts as I marked them spam, but for the most part they were neither specific nor relevant to this blog.
So, if you would like to have your post actually read and responded to, PLEASE make sure that it is specific and relevant, and is very obviously so. There are so many generic spam posts that are clearly copy and pastes, saying how wonderful this site or post is, or asking general questions related to the technical side of blogging… well you see what I am saying, praise is only meaningful if its authentic right?
Anyhow, I am still here, still checking in, and I do hope that one day I will be skimming my inbox and actually see a legit post from one of you out there. So lets talk!
YOLO. It’s a contemporary cliche, but it’s true.
Today my uncle passed away. He was only 54, but hadn’t been truly living in years. He was fixated by demons of passed emotional hurts and locked in a battle between the reality of morbid obesity and the ideal of universal body acceptance. Eventually this struggle came to be his personal identity, until it imprisoned and conquered him.
There was so much more to him than his size. He was outspoken, a true big personality, who wasn’t afraid of being contrarian or ruffling feathers. He loved cooking, technology, vehicles and movies. When he was young he loved to draw. He had an intense need to be close to family. He took in relatives for years at a time, and made nearly daily phone calls to his brothers and sisters.
Any one of theses things could have become his identity, and carried him through life, giving him the encouragement he needed to make healthy changes so he could enjoy those activities longer.
I understand the defiance that would lead him to build his identity around his opposition to western culture’s body ideals. In my own weight loss journey I had to make choices to embrace a larger vision of myself than just my right to be big in our culture. I had to separate myself from that dialog in order to pursue what was best for me. I was not responding to cultural perceptions of my value as a woman. I was not thinking about attractiveness or career competitiveness, I just wanted to be at a healthy weight so that I could get the most out of my life, as an artist as well as a wife, mother and living being on this planet.
Art is a long haul occupation. Skill and reputation are developed over many years. Every artist has to forge his or her own path, discovering as she goes along what works and what works for her. Success is rare before middle age, and history is littered with artists who die just as they are hitting their stride. As an artist I encourage every one who is dedicated to the journey to work on the masterpiece of their life at the same time. Even if artistic success as you define it never does call, take pleasure in the best expression of your entire life.
I call my studio One Life Fine Art partially as a reminder that we do only live once (that we know of for certain). That means, not only doing what I love now, but also making the choices that will prolong my life and keep me in the best possible shape so I can enjoy it. It means forgiving myself for not always measuring up to outside ideals, and thus not defining myself in opposition to them. Neither carrying the weight of success or failure, instead embracing every moment of this one life, living it at my pace and making time for the important things that bring me joy. One Life Fine Art is bigger than my studio or my art practice, it is an expression of the wholeness of my life.
There is never certainty, and we are always free to choose how we will identify ourselves and how we want to be identified, but let’s not choose ways which will leave us miserable and suffering, which will limit our futures. Life is too short for suffering. I encourage you all to make your life your ultimate masterpiece.
Goodbye Alvin. Love you.
I was hesitant to write this article, as it does not fit with my previously stated intentions for this blog, or my current general desire to stay out of political commentary. It is an involvement that has never benefitted me in the past.
However, I felt at the same time it was nearly impossible not to think about what effect the election of Donald Trump may have on the visual arts. It is Remembrance day, and a mere 3 days after an American election that so clearly seems reactionary and supportive of extremist views. On this day we remember the lives lost fighting, among too many other conflicts, a world war that featured another election of an outsider politician. He too espoused extremist views and offered shortcuts to salvation to a demonized population exhausted from the hard slog of recovery.
As a western Canadian I am removed from the heat of the election, as well as the heat of the contemporary art world. I am not sure you could get a lot more ‘outsider’ than me. However, outsiders do make good observers, so I can speculate generally about how this political development might impact the art coming out of the USA, and maybe the world.
A number of artists have already voiced their shock and dismay over the results of Tuesdays election. Those who support Trump seem few and far between. With this (not undeserved) animosity, I fear that the arts in America may fare poorly under a Trump presidency.
Between Trump’s proclivity for threatening law-suits on detractors, and his supporters’ demonstrated willingness to bare knuckles against critical artists, artists may choose not to tackle ‘sensitive’ topics for both personal and economic safety. Those who do may find it safer to criticize from a geographic remove.
While artists’ efforts to hold up a mirror to society are crucial to keeping the public thinking critically, it can be a dangerous road to follow. Many avant-garde European artists during World War II could attest to their work, critical or not, earning them the label of ‘degenerate’, getting them imprisoned, getting them forbidden from working, and being destroyed by the Nazi government. Even Nazi supporters such as Emile Nolde wound up on the wrong side of the party over his painting style.
This persecution of artists in Europe spawned a massive influx of avant-garde artists and intellectuals to North America, contributing significantly to the flowering of the American visual arts scene and its consequent acknowledgement as the centre of the art world for at least half a century afterward.
With the Americans’ long history of free speech, freedom of assembly and civil rights activism, I doubt that artists would ever be subject to such dramatic persecutions as under Nazism. However, lets not forget McCarthyism. I would not be surprised to hear that under the threat of litigations or harassment some artists might choose to either second guess their creative output or criticize from a distance. Should this be the case, American art may move in a more conservative, traditionalist direction, where the most interesting art is produced outside of its borders.
Should anyone think this be an argument for an expansion of the arts in Canada (as a few artists have voiced intentions of moving to Canada), I am not sure our minuscule Canadian art market could satisfy. Ironically, a return to European destinations such as Germany might be more the order for the avant-garde.
Of course, this is likely worst-case scenario speculation, and perhaps all we will see under Trump’s polarizing influence is a larger divide between the camps of art for art’s sake, and social art reinvigorated by having something to fight against.
What do you think? What influence will Trump’s presidency have over the direction of American art?
Here is one possible scenario from the Washington Post. What is yours?