Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Big Bang

It’s Independence Day! You know all those old guys in wigs and hot dogs and parades and fireworks and cook-outs and beer and boating and all of that plus baseball and sun and maybe if you get it right, a fleeting memory of why we celebrate this day with all of that stuff.

Seems long ago, right after dirt was invented people decided that they needed to be lead around or otherwise they’d just sit in the cave all day and eat roasted mammoth and do nothing at all and then nothing would get accomplished and we’d all still be in those caves and no one would have invented art, so there.

But when you get a leader one of the things that they do seeing as how they are a leader is to lead and they get to where they sort of  like it and they decide that they have all of the right answers so they should make all of the decisions and get to be the big Kahuna of decision making and not let anyone else have a word in edge wise and after a few years that sort gets hard to remember and it is awkward to use in a sentence especially when sentences haven’t been invented yet so they shortened it to king and just kept doing all of the deciding and then they said “Hey this is a great idea and we ought to do something about making it permanent” and they did and that’s why we had kings for all of those years before we got wise and declared our independence.

And do you think that the kings thanked us for taking all of that work off their shoulders? No they got all huffy and snotty and pulled a tude on us and sent their armies to whip us back into the good ole subservient folks they had always thought we’d be. But once we managed to get a whole ocean between us it got to be a lot easier to be independent especially cause we had all of the good stuff like food and timber and land which the king guys had always kept for themselves and now they didn’t want us to get our hands on it so they were really bummed to see us taking charge and they said so with guns and cannons. But there was that ocean and they had to ship everything here cause we wouldn’t give them our guns and cannons and there was some French guy making trouble behind their back cause just about the same time the French got wise and shortened their king by a head and now they were independent and wanted to help other guys get independence too so they said “we’ll just help those guys even if they don’t speak French and eat funny.”

And that is why we celebrate Independence Day.

But what I really wanted to talk about is patriotic art. Oh no he’s off on a tangent again. Not really and here’s the deal, you know what I think about using people and naked girls in art and most of the time artists have done that without my help and while they were doing it they painted stuff about great battles and fantastic warriors and heroes and they did it on great big canvases and they didn’t think it was all that patriotic and they were really just trying to keep the lights turned on cause when you do stuff about great warriors and heroes and their battle gear a lot of people want to buy it cause it makes them feel great and they want to give it to their cities and counties and countries and that’s why we have so much art hanging in public places cause it got painted to remind us of what we had to do to get here and a guy who might not have been there to do the doing had a handful of money and while he couldn’t get in on doing the doing he could pay for a picture of it and now you know why there are so many battle scenes in art.

And is that a bad thing?

No, people have always had a desire to be a part of something greater than they are themselves, something great and memorable and they can’t always do that while working and raising a family and if there were no guys doing the work and raising the families then there’d be no one to want art of any kind so it is sort of a vicious circle, but that’s okay cause it works out well for the museums and galleries and even the artists get something out of it.

So what is patriotic art?

That stuff that people think makes them feel patriotic. Remember when the Vietnam Memorial was unveiled? The cry of outrage was deafening. The Vets hated it, the press vilified it, the public didn’t understand it and worst of all it wasn’t very dynamic on the television.

A few years have passed and everyone has had a chance to take a breath and think and now many people are moved by the quiet, solemn dignity of it. But it took a while.

We live in an area where the original people of this place haven’t been gone all that long in fact a few of them still live here and make a living by mining the gold in the white guy’s pockets instead of trying to shot them before they grab all of the land. They have a story which needs telling, can that be patriotic?

What about the miners, fishermen and timber men all but gone from our world, they made this place for us and they gave up their lives in some cases to do just that, were they patriotic?

You know how I feel about our world class women’s soccer team and their quiet, modest, dedicated striker Abby Wambach, who should by all rights be known around the world as the Real Captain America but is too self-effacing to do such a shameless thing, when she takes the field July 25 to play for what is probably her last chance at a gold medal is that patriotic?

The truth is, patriotism in art as in all things is what it means to you the creator and it is how you express that spirit in your work and bring those passions across so that everyone viewing the work feels that tightness in the chest, that constriction in the throat, the wet on the cheeks and the fluttering in the nerves, the bursting pride and delight in that image, that patriotic image.

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