Art madonna or art whore

Art madonna or art whore

Should art enlighten - or look good over the Barcalounger? Or both?

Generally I tend to believe art should take the high road - that it should express something ineffable, something profound. But sometimes that's just too much of a strain. Sometimes I just want to make something beautiful or interesting.

My new red triptych that I made this past weekend at Northwest Encaustic sort of crossed over from an attempt to do something semi-profound to something that might look good over a Barcalounger. If I had a Barcalounger, that is - which I don't.

In the beginning I was planning to stretch an old photo over the three panels. I photocopied it at 300 percent, and I was planning to do encaustic photo transfers. I scrapped that idea about halfway through, once I realized they were not going to look good on a red background. And I wasn't about to give up the idea of using red. I was determined not to fall back into my "dark blue" comfort zone that I've been in for a little while. I've had mediocre results getting the rich midnight blue I want with encaustic. My color class at NWE was canceled, and I haven't really figured out the color layering thing yet.

Anyway, the photo I'd been planning to use was of some of my ancestors in the late 1800s in front of their sod house in Kansas. It's a beautiful photo, with a man and a team of horses on the left, a black horse nuzzling a white horse on the right, and in the middle, a man, a woman, and a little girl. None of the people are smiling, as was the norm in those days. That must have been because of the long exposure times.

I'll do something else with that image soon.

It seems to me that the Universe rewards us when we're on the right path - i.e., doing what we were sent here to do - by giving us a feeling of joy. So if you feel happy when you're making your art, you're on the right track. However, much great art has also come from pain and suffering, and many artists make art as a way of catharsis, or exorcising their demons. Van Gogh and Francis Bacon come to mind.

So I suppose this idea that art has to have a madonna/whore, low road/high road dichotomy, is just a fabrication. Like all dichotomies, it's just something we humans make up to try to gain some fleeting understanding about our chaotic world.

No, no, that's not true.

"High road" art is definitely better. (Or, "major" art as opposed to "minor.") But why? I mean, if you look at Picasso's art, what's so "high road" about that? Yes, he (along with Braque when they invented Cubism, or rather developed it as an extension of Cezanne's work) did break new ground by deconstructing the image and reassembling it in a new way. What's so profound about that? His Guernica had a strong anti-war message, but most of his other art was just commenting on the women in his life, often in unflattering ways. He was a great artist, and one of my top three favorites, even though he was a misogynist pig. So was Rodin. Love his work, but what a jerk he was to women.

But I digress.

I'm sure I'll get a better idea about the real purpose of Art (with a capital "A") - if there in fact IS a real purpose - once I start art school in the fall. Let's hope!