In times when an artist is struggling for inspiration, meaning and direction in their work, some tend to look at the masters of old to try to interpret their work and their struggle to see if we are really that different. These masters, talented men and yes, even women, took years and sometimes their lives on a major artistic endeavor. Their reputation and even their lives were on the line as they created something ground-breaking, breath-taking and beautiful. Great pieces that inspire the human spirit to soar on earth. Yet, their toil was not in vain as the masters, truly proved they were masters, because their work still endures today. This is why we stand in line for hours at the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa yet the Mona Lisa would not be created today. The Mona Lisa was created in a culture where craftsmanship and trade was taught since childhood, where old ideas were constantly being tried and tested and reinvented and where patrons had a passion for the arts and they invested money into the arts and by extension invested into cultural and national pride.
In today’s culture, we do not create much that is lasting. A trade is looked down upon as something that should be a hobby between reality TV shows. Everything in today’s society is disposable and means nothing to anyone. Art is something you buy at a craft store. An item to match your brown, over-stuffed sofa as you laze on it doing nothing of any value. Even artists themselves have devalued their work by stooping to the lowest form of creative individuals, “crafters”. We go years to art school after art school to eventually learn that the average consumer will not buy fine art. They do not appreciate the years of study and time it has taken to learn the rules of form, color and movement. They do not care that you may be the best at what you do. They want to buy the crap thing you made that is now 45% off, that matches all of the over crap things they own that won’t last two years. We consider typing on a computer and organizing paper as a good job and things done with our hands that might be lasting as being on the losing end of a profession. We are so disconnected from anything real or meaningful that we wouldn’t know craftsmanship if it jumped up and down and slapped us in the face.
This isn’t whining or a lament for times gone by in yesteryear but rather a question, a question without an answer, why as a society are we accepting of this? How can we celebrate those for their pioneering brilliance and put high values on work from the past and yet simultaneously create a toxic environment that stifles any brilliance in the now.
In this look back on the masters of the not-so-distant-past, we look to an art movement made famous by someone named Warhol that poked fun at our commercialistic society and questioned what we truly valued. And as artists, we cannot even take this movement and run with it, no we must recreate Marilyn Monroe 500,000 times rather than comment on the commercialism run-amuck of today’s time. We cannot create anything new within the confines of an already established art genre. We just create second-rate copies of another man’s brilliance.
And we look to yet another master, Pollock, who recreated and rehashed accepted art of the time until he popped the paint can lid and discovered his own brilliance and in doing so redefined the modern art movement and created abstract expressionism. An art form that said that we do not try to decipher the world around us but rather decipher what is within us. And now that modern art has been rehashed and copied and artists have struggled to define the next true art movement, we ask ourselves, what is left? What is there left to define us? In a world where artisans are mocked and scorned, in a world where nothing lasts, what kind of a statement can we possibly make? Are we at a turning point where the next brilliance is born or are we doomed to die in our own feces of commercialism?
The answer to this question is within us. The brilliance that will be created is within us. Whenever cultures and societies have fallen or squandered their blessings, it is reborn again into something new. The answer to both the cause of the demise of craftsmanship and also the rebirth of it is within us. It is time for people to start valuing their own worth again. Time for our youth to set the screens down and work with their hands again. Time to move away from the homogenistic, cookie-cutter environment that the 1950s laid out for us that we have yet to escape from. Time for young women to be celebrated, valued and allowed a voice in the art community. It is time for us to celebrate our own human element. Our own human nature. The human element is something to be celebrated. It reinvents itself over and over and over again. When you think it can’t create anymore or go any further, it pushes past expectations and creates something new. The human element is what we need to find, to embrace, to celebrate. And in doing that, I believe we may find ourselves again. So as artists, we must quiet the noise, silence our inner demons and yet again push our society deliberately forward.