I’m still, and will likely forever be, puzzled about the “why” of making art. Observing art, participating in another’s work, seems much more clear, an act of co-creation that pierces human isolation, connects us the way a good conversation or fight or hug or love-making session does… but making art is not the same experience, at least not for me, it’s more like broadcasting bits of experience for someone else to converse with, shooting radio waves into space. In a social and historical sense, I guess an artist is in conversation with both their predecessors and their peers, though I do think too much contemporary art of all kinds is focused on the current chatter, the easily accessed chorus of voices inching toward and away from a representative style–this is a very broad generalization, I know, and I am thinking more of poetry and prose and music than I am of plastic arts, but anyway–too much cloud thought and decision by committee and not enough listening for voices in the wind, or speaking from musty corners of history. I suspect it has been the case for some time, at least for the last few centuries in Western art, that for the great bulk of artists the salon is all, and what counts about experience outside the salon is judged by how wittily it passes muster when brought back in…
…and this situation leads me to intuit, at least this particular afternoon, a devotional basis for my own art, an approach that posits art as a means of worship, the way a cathedral mason or ikon painter might, but without the religious totality (and I’m pretty sure the all-encompassing effects of the church on the artist during the periods I referenced is overstated in the modern mind, but anyway). Without this totality, however, devotional art seems a hazy idea–I’m not a theist, nor a deist, nor am I arrogant enough to suppose atheism (one of the most inflexible sorts of zealotry, I’ve always thought), but I’m certainly not an apatheist, so to whom should my offerings be directed? In what symbolic universe should an art of worship take shape? Perhaps “universe” should be plural, any symbolic universe is as good as another as long as it’s intelligible to someone other than the artist. That’s a liberating notion in one way, it allows me to try, after Lawrence, to be comfortable anywhere and interested in anything, but it also requires a great deal more work to make the art that comes out coherent, if the universe does not spin in some recognizable way, it’s not a universe. At present, it feels like my artistic approach is bifurcated: I am devoted to my species and to making art to help others live, but offer it in worship to the mystery that surrounds us, engulfs us, the mystery from which we emerge and to which we return. (Ah! Now that I consider the two pieces of it, I can see them as one, I had to take them apart to realize I couldn’t take them apart.)
Not so many CDs this time, need to get on the ball:
438) Sarah Vaughn: September Song; 439) Love, Peace, and Poetry: Latin American Psychedelic Music; 440) Hawkwind: Hall of the Mountain Grill; 441) Calexico: Feast of Wire; 442) The Sundays: reading, writing, and arithmetic.