Monday, December 26, 2011

Working Stiff

Now that all of the shouting is done and the buying is over and the food is eaten, football watched and family sent on their way back home, what are you doing with your art?

That’s right, it never stops. You do have to maintain your social obligations and see that the bills get paid and the dog walked and the cat fed and oh yes, the spouse turned so that when they sleep on the couch for the next week having eaten enough to see the average bear through a hard winter, you can take a moment for yourself.

It’s hard to get back in the swing of things. You’ve been so focused and regimented getting all that needed doing done and now that you’ve got your life back it seems like you’ve forgotten something. You have your art.

Now you could go back to what you were doing before the holidays sucked up every minute of your time and that certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing, but shouldn’t you take a bigger swing? I mean you’ve been away from the studio for six weeks, way back since before Thanksgiving and now you have to get a giant boost just to get back to even, so what are you going to do?

Try people. I know I keep coming back to the same ole thing but this time I’m not going to urge you to try and get them nekkid, or posing, no I want you to paint them working.

Yes, just like everyone else folks have to work and you should make it a part of your art life to capture that work.

You could do like Norman Rockwell and paint an every day slice of life. He created some of the most iconic images of the last century, the Thanksgiving feast, the kid with the baseball mitt in his pocket, the craneish artist peeking out from behind his canvas and Rosie.

Yeah that Rosie, true enough the Rosie most of us know was not a Rockwell. J. Howard Miller designed the “We Can Do it” poster for Westinghouse and that’s the poster we all know and most of us love. Okay, if you are not yet wearing Depends and prunes aren’t your idea of the proper way to start the day, try Christina Aguilera’s Candyman video. You’ll see her dressed as Rosie, bandana, blue shirt, flexed bicep and all.

The real Rockwell Rosie, a much tougher character, sits with her rivet gun on her lap and sandwich in her hand and the Stars and Stripes behind her. Damn! Makes a guy want to go and sign up!

But no matter which Rosie you favor, she’s a working girl and proud of it! And here on the South Coast we have people who work for a living all around us.

The men and boys who go to sea are just one example. Right before the holiday we were reminded of just how dangerous a job fishing is. A boat capsized and took its captain to the deep. Fortunately the two hands were saved but to loose even one is a tragedy. These guys leave the docks knowing that they might never come back and in that respect they share the courage of our fighting men heading off to keep the world safe for democracy. And both groups deserve to be subjects of heroic art.

For hundreds of years the hero was the focus of art, be it religious heroes from the bible or the Gods and Goddesses of Greece. I’ll bet if I say Odin you see a bearded man with one eye patch and two ravens. That’s how ingrained in our imaginations the heroes of mythology are.

Since the fall of the twin towers our firefighters have come to symbolize all of the courage we as Staties believe is inherent in the national character. If Joe Sixpack is everyman, the firefighters are standing right there along with the guys on Iwo Jima raising the flag.

What about our teachers? You got the guts to get up for Dawn Patrol and face a pack of half civilized kids with nothing between you and their blood thirsty little claws but your teacher’s certificate and a little coffee?

But you don’t have to look for heroes, to find everyday workers doing their jobs in a truly Herculean way, cashiers, hairdressers and wait-persons work for precious little pay, in jobs most of us wouldn’t do with a gun to our heads and they do it for hours on end and for the most part do it with a smile and never complain. You try working for the public for ten or twelve hours and see how smiley you feel.

And then there’s our breed, the artists working in studios, spare rooms, closets and workshops, pouring their souls into art which just might not please the public and why? They do it for love, for passion, because they have to cause even ditch digging pays better and gains more respect.

These guys are bigger than those ancient Greek Gods wandering around Mount Olympus. They are and should be the subject of your art. You have to tell the story they can’t because they are too busy working. They do the backbreaking jobs we won’t do so that we can find the time to hide out in our studios.

And just one more example, our pals in television, the heads we see every night in our living rooms, they work from dawn till dark, hoping their contracts will be renewed because if they aren’t they have to pull up stakes and move. You can’t try the TV station across the street; the market isn’t big enough to have a bunch of TV stations.

So while you are recuperating from the madness of the holidays, take a look around at all the laborers in our community and see if there isn’t something art worthy in their lives and work.

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