Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dark Inspiration

So you really, truly believe that for art there is no need for the seemlier side of life, in fact art precludes any kind of vulgarity or common behavior and is loftier than any of that, so there!

Okay, then I suppose all of those Impressionists did all of their work in the malls and galleries of Paris and never once spent long evenings at the Moulin Rouge sipping absinthe and fondling the knee of a dancer?

You do know why the English were so scandalized by the dancers at the Moulin Rouge?

No. No, wait; it was the Can Can, a dance so common that no person of quality would watch it.

Yeah, right and Vinnie the Gogh sliced off his ear cause he mistook it for a melon.

The dancers at the Moulin Rouge caused such a stir in the fine salons of Paris, London and Vienna cause they did their dance sans under garments. That’s right they went commando and while you and I might not be shocked at the idea of a woman without all of her clothes on in public, you can bet the nice Victorian folks didn’t feel that way.

Okay, the nice Victorian lady type folks were shocked and horrified. The not-so-nice Victorian men folk were delighted and came back for more. Going commando was a big draw and the owners made sure the gentlemen had enough to drink to be certain that they would stay well beyond their bedtimes and on into the early morning.

Yes, I know you don’t really care about how the girls at the Moulin Rouge earned their questionable living, but you do care about the notion that sin and sex and lust and greed, fun, fun, fun make for a lot better art than do the proper and staid gentle folks of any period.

Ever see a painting of Vespers or how bout the inner workings of a tent revival? Now, I for one, know a thing or two about tents and revivals having grown up as much as I was ever going to in the Bible Belt and having heard the Word sung loud and long from nearly every river side and fair ground round ole Gravel Pit and I can tell you that for all of that shouting and saving there was a powerful lot of sinning going on in the parking lots.

But no artist I have encountered ever dared to paint it.

No artists were much more likely to be found in the bars and brothels and dance halls where they could find inspiration in the spirits, the ladies and the music cause the very best of all sorts of things happened to be available to keep the gents spending their money.

No one ever accused a barrel-house owl of excessive sobriety.

Louie Armstrong got his chops playing in houses which were not homes and his music is the stuff of legend.

Sure Mozart and Beethoven and Bach played the Big Rooms but then they didn’t hammer it out eight to the bar so it didn’t really swing and how could you get in the mood if it weren’t swinging?

Besides in those days before the paparazzi and the Twitterverse, finding a lady who would take off all of her clothes and let you paint her was the sort of thing that could only be done in a place where the ladies did that sort of ting professionally, cause even the married painters didn’t have wives who would get all together in the buff cause in Victorian times ladies didn’t get in the buff, they didn’t have a buff and if you asked them about being in the buff they would smack you aside the head and the call the cops which actually happened a lot to painter type guys which is the sort of thing which can be sort of discouraging and probably the reason why they stayed in the bars and brothels in the first place.

So there’s a long history of artists living a Bohemian lifestyle which was social shorthand for sleazy, sinful, drunken, lecherous, not socially proper kind of living.

Can you make art without doing the deviant sort of thing? Sure, there are lots of flowers and boats, sunsets and pets, fruit and bowls and they all have a place in the art of the serious creator, but so does the life that we try hard to keep under cover.

Have you tried the traditional art lately? Have you taken out your flashlight and pulled up the rug to see what’s been swept under it?  There is plenty for you to do without taking that look…

Plenty but not for Degas, Lautrec, Goya, Cezanne or Renoir, could they have it all wrong?

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