Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Artistic Criticism From A Guy Who Has A John Wayne Portrait

I have long maintained the National Endowment for the Arts should be blown up and the ashes scattered to the wind. Oh sure, some starving artist is probably reading this and screaming their other ear off. Let us all face the facts. They are probably starving because they suck.

The starving artists' whine is usually the same thing: “Let me be free to express myself through my art.”

Okay. I really have no problem with expressing oneself through art. What I have a problem with is paying for crap with my tax dollars. Under no circumstances would I ever voluntarily give money to someone like Robert Mapplethorpe. Ever. Not even if my life depended on it.

That’s my personal opinion. There are those who love his work, and that is perfectly fine as well. They can feel free to support it all they want. They can buy his photos; give him money for a gallery, whatever. Just do not ask for my contribution, because it will not happen. Neither do I want my tax dollars going for something which I think repugnant.

Some would argue that if it were not for our tax dollars, the artist could not afford to create such wonderful masterpieces.

Well, darn. I play guitar. I have nowhere near the talent to support myself by doing it for a living. Would I like to? Yes. It beats practicing law any day of the week. Have I tried it for a living? No. As the great Dirty Harry stated so eloquently, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” I don’t expect the government to give me money to play my guitar. If I was any good at it, people would pay me to do it. If I can’t support myself by having enough people buy my artistic expression, I probably should go and get a real job. I can then be free to pursue my art, at my own expense. I do not think I have the right to inflict my playing on the rest of the world, at their expense.

I have no problem with the government having artists create murals for public buildings and whatnot. Do not misunderstand me. However, the government has no place whatsoever funding things no sane human would ever buy.

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, artists were supported by the patronage of rich men. They also painted and sculpted on commission from the Catholic Church, and governments. The artist painted things they liked, and they bought them. Or they created things they were specifically hired to do. Michelangelo and Da Vinci are prime examples. The marketplace dictated what they did. If they did other things; they did them as side gigs, perhaps not intending to sell them at all. They did it for their own artistic fulfillment. Again, I have no problem with that. Produce whatever you want on your own time, and on your own dollar.

The prime example that comes to mind is the Nimrod who filled a bottle full of urine and then suspended a crucifix upside down in it. I have no idea what that is all about. Nor do I care. Somebody sufficiently warped can buy that, if they want to. I just do not want to have to fund something like that. Perhaps this artist can produce a great mural to put up on the inside of an office building. If so, fine. It can pay for the other project. My income taxes should not be a part of such lunacy.

To some extent, the patronage system does still work. Artists still produce things on commission. As noted, they still produce things for government buildings. I have no problem with supporting art for specific purposes.

One can argue the dangers in this approach. Is the artist going to be so stifled by the marketplace that they cannot produce anything other than what the public demands? Is that bad for culture and society?

I have no idea. I just believe the beauty of capitalism works every time. Plus, I do not think society is missing anything big with the Jesus in the urine-thing.

Look at the trend in music today. I have noticed that if a particular band finds a successful formula, 50 others just like it will pop up overnight. They sound the same, look the same, use the same drugs, and overdose and die the same. Remember the 80’s hair bands? The 90’s grunge acts? The Britney clones? The so-called artists there produce what they think the public wants. Sure, the public will buy it for awhile. Then the public gets their fill, and quits buying it. They replace it with something else, which stays fresh and original until all the other companies produce clones of it. Thus the cycle continues. The marketplace eventually will dictate what the artists produce. Something new comes along when it needs to.

I do not want to control the content of the art. I just do not want any of my money going to art that I despise, or am morally opposed to. Let the people who like it pay for it. It seems only fair.

Yes, I really do have a John Wayne portrait. If I can ever figure out where my wife hid it, I'll put it back up, damnit.

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