August 5, 2009
The post below has been taken almost completely from an artist/ writers’ entry into the blog HudsonWrites, which there is a link to in this blog below, so you can go read this and other entries for yourself.
In this entry, the artist discusses how the words of cartoonist/ author Lynda Barry, in a podcast discussion he hears her have with another artist, helps him understand, as an artist, “purpose in art” – purpose in his work as an artist. I have given into copying almost the entireity of this post because it is all so valuable, I feel. I find it very inspiring.
“January 20, 2009”
“I had the pleasure of listening to a dialog between the great cartoonists Lynda Barry &Alison Bechdel on a podcast called “Live Wire!” recently and Lynda in particular hit on something that I had been thinking upon a great deal lately. And that’s the idea of purpose behind art.
I struggle with art a lot of times because it feels like such a selfish endeavor. Many times it’s driven by pride or money or fame… particularly in the movie industry (although I imagine it’s true of all art, I just have less experience with other industries.) Even the idea of struggling artists who create art “just for themselves” really turns me off. I think anything done “just for yourself” is a bit of a waste. I think it’s why I am happiest when I’m creating in a collaborative environment, whether that be a comic book artist or a writing partner, where I’m forced to bump into people. I believe that we’re put here on this earth to touch people and change lives, through our friendships, through our giving, and certainly through our art.
Lynda spoke to this during the conversation with this brilliant story:
“You all know what phantom limb pain is? That’s that thing where you lose part of your limb but you still have the sensation that it’s still there. There was a guy who had a particularly intractable case of it. He had lost his hand from here down. But his sensation was that his hand not only there, but it was in a really painfully clenched fist. He was in misery, the pain was constant. His life was really deteriorating. They didn’t know what to do for him.
And there’s this brilliant neurologist named V.S. Ramachandran who has done a lot of amazing work with imagery on the brain. And he had this idea, and his idea was, well, let’s make a box and we’re going to put a mirror in that’s slanted this way and there’s a hole on this side so that the guy can put his hand into the hole on this side, and then when he looks down it’s going to be the illusion of seeing two hands. You follow me on that? And so the guy did it. So he sees two hands. And Ramachandran says, ‘Open your hand.’ And he did. And he saw the other one open. And the pain went away.
And I believe that’s what images do. That there’s something about – whether it’s in another book, or it’s something that we make – there’s something about seeing something – and I don’t mean literally, necessarily, although with art that’s true – there’s something about working with images that can unclench something that we have no other way to get to.”
I was listening to the program in my car and after hearing this, I literally cheered. It was exactly everything I had been thinking, put into a simple, beautiful illustration.
What got me thinking about all of this was a lunch with a very good friend of mine named John Ray. John’s son, Marcus, was one of my best friends growing up and he took his own life almost 10 years ago now. After the death of his son, John became a pastor. And he did this in part, I believe, in order to help the hurting. Here is a man who has been through the worst pain imaginable, who very easily could have turned all of that pain inward and slowly morph into a twisted bitter old man. But instead, he took that pain, as inexplicable as it is, and used it to help others. Myself included.
When I had lunch with John, I was really struggling with my place in life. I was broken, not sure of what I should be doing. Just burnt out on trying so hard to be successful, in life and in art. And John said to me with such clarity, “Hudson, what you should be doing is taking the gifts God has given you, and using those gifts to tell your story. To share with others the questioning and the brokenness and the hurt that you’ve been through in order to help those who are on similar paths.”
This, to me, is art. Art is personal. It’s vulnerable. Art is not teaching. Just like John, I have no more answers now than I did before the pain. A lot of times, there are no answers. But I do know how to come through to the other side.
After the above illustration, Lynda goes on to talk about how Alison’s fantastic graphic novel Fun Home “opened a lot of fists” with it’s auto-biographical portrayal of a girl dealing with the death of her father who was a closeted homosexual. It is a story exploring death and life and sexuality and father/daughter relationships in a way that is completely unique to Alison.
The greatest desire all of us have in life is to know we’re not alone. It’s these unique, personal stories that speak to the hearts of the lonely.
We create, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. To share beauty and to ask questions… to challenge minds and to warm hearts.
Tell your story through your art. You never know whose fist you might be opening.”
I’ll just say that “finding purpose in art” seems also like finding meaning in any work and the importance of that. This seems on one hand like Marxist philosophy – not to be alienated from ones work. But then it also seems like the common sense of wanting to enjoy your work so you can do well at it – and vise versa.
We have the stereotypes in the U.S. of the artist as either someone who doesn’t want to work or work hard- or as a crazy person whose work calls on the psyche and an imagination. There is also the whole set-up to see artists as representing eccentricity or over-sensitivity – I guess it’s a stereotype of a marginal person, which we know can either be accepted as a neutral tendancy, or romanticized as a requirement or expectation. So it seems understandable that artists would find it easy to feel guilty about being artists when they have to fight these cliches.
I just wanted to say that even as a promoter and admirer of the arts and artists of all kinds, I still hold fast to a quote by Thomas Mann when I think of brats and a few intolerable tendancies of people I knew in art school. “Art is an excuse for nothing.”
Hudson and Lynda go way beyond this superficiality; they find the values of well-being and self-knowledge just as important as they do comradery and community in their identity as workers.
In Chicago’s public school system, I know a lot of schools have lost most of their arts programming like theatre, music facilities, and course offerings in the visual arts. Part of this is because funding for urban education is not as good as in most smaller scale communities, or more specifically, well-to-do communities like white suburbs or private school systems anywhere. Funding always abandons the arts first.
I guess most kids have to be self-taught to stay actively engaged in nurturing artistic talent on their own until they get a little older and can maybe find opportunities for arts-specific education that helps them direct their talent. I guess there are still some programs for young educators in the arts to offer special learning opportunities in cities or in verious locations for disadvantaged kids. I just don’t think the overall environment for the arts flourishing is very good in the U.S. now.
Maybe art education and the chances of becomming an artist of some kind are better in the U.S. than they are in Bulgaria or the Yukon, I don’t know – I kinda doubt it.
I guess I can extend my inquiry here. With the exception of something like the WPA during the Great Dression, has the U.S. been, and remained to now, a fertile ground for art compared to other western nations, or is the U.S. as backwards in supporting the arts as it is in supporting healthcare, education, workers rights, and the legal status of a an individual compared to that of a business’ legal status?
Ok, I guess I’m a bit guilty of morphing this from a story of inspiration and encouragement into one that might be too fraught with negative perspectives and maybe a tiresome political tirade.
Thank you, Hudson, for all you’ve shared …. thanks everyone for reading and any comments you might have.
Link to Hudson’s article, above:
August 5, 2009
play these musical windows, which are performers’ performances, one by one, or together in many combinations. lots of fun, and i haven’t found one disagreeable sound in the infinate array of possibilities yet ….
i’m thinking this is a good endorsement of planning, but still, none-the-less, and more to the point, some really good anarchy ….!
I just happened to come upon a lovely memorial post for a 30-yr-old man who was an untrained, so-called “outsider artist” and also a member of the blues music community. I urge you to visit the memorial directly, which provides personal details and even a photo of the artist and musician of the New England area.
Here’s the link: http://www.bluesaudience.com/charlieharrison.html
Meanwhile, I can’t help but be bowled over by the beauty of so many of his paintings documented here, and wanted to post some of them in case anyone has interest in art and doubts the contribution of so-called outsider artists – self trained artists – to the arts the world over.
This is a painting of the artist’s girlfriend:
Mississippi John Hurt, 2005
Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Willie McTell, 2005
(I love the painting above.)
(This is one amazing painting.)
This painting is painted over a picture of Jesus, and all area but the eyes are painted over: so what you see are Jesus’ eyes here in the painting. What the artist was doing was giving the blind musician he was painting Jesus’ eyes to see with …. it was a private joke, local humor, which the artist is said to not have had any lack of.
Please check out the original memorial page to Charles Harrison a.k.a. Charles Frank, that has been assembled at the following site:
RIP Charles Harrison ….
Here is a funny bumper sticker the artist made:
August 3, 2009
I was talking to an old friend from high school days this weekend. Somehow, she and I always pick up from where we left off – except for the fact that she just seems to know a lot. Like yesterday, she happened to know that it’s not GWB’s paternal grandfather, Prescott Bush, who’s the worst relative in his closet. It happens to be the Walkers, GWB’s maternal family relatives who are the most corrupt and powerful of all. (I guess they’re pretty bad if they’re worse than an American collaborating with banks and Nazi Germany, i. e. Prescott Bush.)
Well, she and I were talking about the U.K.’s part in our current political/ financial/ more or less overall collapsing system. She immediately exclaimed that the U.K. has always had the U.S. at its bidding, and that they are much worse than Americans in promoting the anglo west’s current state of affairs.
The more I think of it, if the two countries (colonists) have always worked as one, it’s easy for them to subdue concerns that they might be working towards the same end, since the U.S. can take over the middle east for the U.K. …. the U.S., with Captain Cook, an Englishman, could colonize Hawaii, make it the 50th state, but also have had it aquired in some other respect – probably financially – for the U.K.’s interest too.
I’m just putting these thoughts out. For me, the idea that the U.S. never actually did win its independance from the U.K. makes much more sense to me now. I always did wonder how these mysterious financial ties and very common interests were so totally inseparable.
This explains two more things: 1) the U.K. overtaking the Palestinians’ land from them and giving it to the European jews after leaving the Nazi prison camps, and then handing Israel’s survival (and captive control of palestinian life) over to the U.S., and 2) the fact that it would have to be both the U.S. and the U.K. together that so badly wanted the Euro-American power stasis of the U.S. in the entire middle east, now.
Am I the last person on the planet to have put this all together, finally? – with a little help from my friend?
July 28, 2009
There should now be a link on my other blogs to “nell’s writing,” which is also the writing part of dark age days.
To go to the writing blog of dark age days please click on this link and find whatever I’m working on there. Eventually, I want to share a writing blog with other writers – fiction, personal essays, or memoir. That could be another part of this current blog, the “writing” part of dark age days, and the main part could be for progressive politics, and another part could be for art, photography, philosophy. I dunno …. Ideas?
July 27, 2009
Here are some notes I’ve made recently in discussing anarchy – the different kinds of perspectives in anarchism there are – many kinds of anarchism.
See the Wikipedia entry, “Anarchism.”
Responding to the various segments of the defined term
anarchist: (my words)
– Post-Anarchism makes a lot of sense to me. I feel
the past eight years of Bush, and perhaps even longer,
had been the beginning of the “dark age” I speak of,
and that this period, with its astounding 9/11
“event-driven” crises, like becomming a police state;
illegal occupation of the middle east in order to control
it’s resources and power due to its resources; defenders
of world and war crimes like torture, qitmo, abu grabe,
and a death squad; the continuation of Israel’s genocide
of Palestinians; and the massive bail-outs and record
breaking profits resulting the economic crash, and job
loss/ growing unemployment and real estate crises all of
this has in a way been anarchy, since we have only ha d a
“surface” government for what is actually our corporatist
government all this time. So in this “fuzzy” time
since 2000, we’ve been finishing anarchy of the people,
and beginning post-anarchythat doesn’t have many strictures
– I’m certainly a green anarchist, the kind that tends more
to see technology and civilization as neutral and in
some ways possibly good. I don’t totally shun science or
technology. I merely believe the scientific breakthroughs
and technology are more often developed by our corporations,
and military, now, for reasons that create things
negative to the earth and humankind – such as chemicals
used in farming and other processes and products, like using
fuels that cause greenhouse gasses; nuclear weapons
and power; all military tools and technology, including planes,
bombers, biological warfare; starwars, etc.; genetically modified foods;
pharmiceuticals; proliferation of plastics; unwise agricultural
practices; surveilance technology. Etc.
I guess this still, though, doesn’t make me a Luddite or
primitivist anarchist. But shunning all science
and technology is quite unrealistic, to me – as is giving
up farming, and all dairy food or eggs, or the need for new
technologies to fight need of fossel fuels, use of coal, etc.
So guess I am also a disappointment to femina – anarchists
by rejecting primitivist anarchy, which they embrace as the
anarchism that supports them. I’guess
I’m a bit torn between them. I see how farmers do seem to
know how to do the least invasive farming possible, now, finally.
– I can also easily embrace both analytical anarchy
and ethical anarchy, because I really don’t believe in
doing dishonorable things like stealing or lying or
deceiving in addition to being anti-violence.
I’m an individualist, mostly, but I do think there is
such a thing as acknowledging what can be done by
the community for its greater good, rather than
for just one individual’s, unless that is sorted
out by the group. I think eco-anarchy may also
describe me, though too, as a more organized,
sub-set of green anarchism and form of people
organized into small communities of living/
growing/ producing. There is also mention of the
anarchic hermits, which I might identify with but
would want to know more about.
– I think ultimately, I may have to describe myself
as an anarchist without adjectives. I love the idea
of a movement to be more tolerant of all kinds of
anarchists, (rather than anarchists fighting)
and to be an acknowledged mix of various kinds of
anarchist philosophies. Economically, I am against
free trade and see the socialism of countries like France and Scandanavia as the only democratic governments in the world, so I do see a
way of capitalism functioning within a regulated,
socialist structure that contains it. This kind of capitalism inspires innovation, after all.
And of course I see being a pacifist anarchist, like Gandhi, as a good thing –
I don’t believe in violence of any kind in my rights
to live without a heirarchy imposed on my life.
– So I’m an ethical, analytical, eco-anarchist who is not
against farming and technology, pro democratic socialism,
but also pro-tolerant, (anarchist with no adjectives,) see
many different aspects in my beliefs as against the
state, and some of my ideas come from regional decocracy.
I believe in the deep ecology and small is beautiful
philosophies, and in the vegan / anti-cruelty philosophy
of not eating animals. (Though I don’t see what would be
wrong with cruelty free, small scale dairy and animal
products like goats milk cheese and eggs.)
– So I guess I am also in part a post-anarchist socialist, or an
analytical eco-anarchist without adjectives. With all
these labels, one can move around in between them and find
a personalized fit – which I think means that in order to
be a pacifist, I am compelled to be a “non-judgemental”
anarchist without adjectives, in the end.