The arts are always a reflection of the times in which they exist. Impressionism was invented during the Industrial Revolution and after the invention of the camera. In the Renaissance, a time of celebration of MAN and everything human kind was capable of, sculptures were of “perfect” human forms (albeit often religious figures, but remember who THE patron was). These are not coincidental circumstances but rather small glimpses into a long tangled web of history and social/cultural influences. Each time the world is in a period of transition the arts reflect this and here we are transitioning again.
Today, galleries celebrate artists who use animal carcasses like Damien Hirst (yes you can infer my opinion on this subject). In fact, artists who make these kinds of choices today are heavily rewarded for such decisions. The Tate just last week awarded a sound artist The Turner Prize (a visual arts award). It is as if the idea of being visual is actually repugnant and doing things that just might make people smile, that would invite a greater audience to appreciate the arts, is foolish. Or, gasp, dare I say it: commercial?
Where is the art world turning to? What is next? I certainly hope no more Damien Hirsts. Art is becoming ever more self-absorbed, elite and uninviting. Since when has art had an impact on people and made a difference? There is a history of such occurrences. Look at the Guerilla Girls for example. This group of anonymous artist women dress as gorillas (get the word play?) and make public appearances and create art as a team for social commentary and social justice. Why are we not more focused as an artist culture on promoting and celebrating changes for the better?
Is post modern art now truly history? What is next? In a world so inundated with images, has the fine arts lost a role of visual importance? Has seeking to redefine its role alienated even more people from its world and made it increasingly more elite?
All of this makes me reflect on my 52 week project: were my mostly self-portraits a selfish endeavor? Should my commitment for the coming year be no self-portraits? Has my endeavor been supporting and buying into the above ideas?! I did them because I was scared to ask others to pose, because it was faster and easier to use my own face. Since when is the easy way out the right way? And while people can learn from my art, would engaging others in the process open my art to more people?
Why do I like portraiture? Because I can focus on real people. Why do I like silly faces? It feels more genuine, a less posed version (insert irony here) than traditional poses that lead to a specific interpretation. How can I reach that tangible, genuine state in my art and share it with others?
JR resonates with me so much probably for the above reasons. He uses funny faces as a means to address a serious topic and force people to see the real people who are everyday heroes, who live in the impoverished, alienated areas of the world. I want to paint to make a difference like JR. (See my post on the Artist JR for more information on this amazing man).
Be Creatively Courageous: How might your art impact others? Share your experiences in the comments below.