Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Holy Art Gallery, Batman


The basic quest in all of art, be it literary, visual or musical, is to find that one, universal element which can be instantly identified and universally integrated into the observer's understanding so that it merges with their personality and becomes complete in their understanding. They get it.

And you would think that as human beings we have so many things in common that this would be so easy it wouldn't require any thought or effort at all. That's where the part about human beings comes in.

Human beings are so contrary, so diverse, so complex that they just can't be boxed up and stored away. The minute you think you've nailed them dead to rights they go and do the damnedest things.

The greatest statesman and wordsmith of our times, Sir Winston Churchill, politician supreme, world leader and the spine that held the World together through the darkest hours of World War II painted. He painted delicate watercolors and he was for a politician pretty damned good.

The baby diva Pink, parent's nightmare and demon-child of all demon-children has manufactured the most outrageous public image imaginable, from pierced, swearing, knife-wielding, punk/druggie/rocker eclipsing even Kieth Richards and yet what does she do? She gets a shot at the Grammys and does a aerial act straight out of the Cirque and then marries has a child and becomes the most stable of stable normal middle-American women since the Republicans co-opted family values.

Ya just can't get a handle on some people.

So where does an artist turn for a base-line universalist concept? Do you chose only concrete things like boats and cars and buildings, scenes from nature like the rivers and lakes, streams and fields. The birds and animals we all know so that no one can wonder what it is you are trying to do.

Or do you like Picasso and Klee reject reality and create completely abstract images so that there is nothing to restrict the imagination or freeze the mind?

Do you use only human forms so that the viewer can rapidly identify the object or do you stick with nature and use plants and fruits as your only inspiration?

For years since the birth of the industry the dream factories have taken their inspiration from literature, Dickens, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck. They've found magic in love, lust, agony, ecstasy, death and life, they've built castles in the air with heroic tales and monsters and made our night's full of terrors unlike an since the days when men huddled around the campfires and whispered least the things that go bump in the night might hear.

But now even this wonderful resource seems to have dried up and the image makers have scrambled for something to make magic with and after much trial and error they have found it...comic book heroes!

That's right, the very thing that your mother swore would drive you blind, ruin your health and lead you into unsavory practices is now the primary source for all of our entertainment desires and needs.

I can't claim to be so lofty that I have never ventured into the multicolored pages of comic land where the caped and spandex clad save humanity from all manner of deaths, disasters and dilemmas. In fact I actually pre-date the gimlet-eyed comics code which saved all of mankind from the ravages of comic books forever.

Way back in the dark and dusty days of the Fifties when men were men and the women were men and the sheep were nervous, the good folks in our government listened to Dr, Fredrick Wertham, who swore that all manner of horrible things were directly linked to comic books like, juvenile delinquency, criminal behavior, degeneracy, sapped strength, self-abuse, and the heart-break of psoriasis. And so in 1954 the Comics Code Authority banned all comics having anything that they deemed unnatural, unsavory and un-American. Basically this meant no nekkid wimmen tied up being whipped and no nekkid wimmen being tortured by fawning Nazis and no nekkid wimmen.

I suspected at the time and still harbor a suspicion or three that the nekkid wimmen part had a lot more to do with the outrage than the fawning Nazis, mad doctors or any other socially unacceptable sort of person.

But once the nekkid wimmen went away and the Nazis weren't so fawning and the mad doctors had so much time on their hands there being no nekkid wimmen to whip, the comic book industry fell into a slump. Ya just can't hold the attention of a teenaged boy with Truth, Justice and the American Way.

So a few years later the nice people at DC, then the largest comic book publisher and still the flagship of the industry with the best artists and colorists discovered if you took those same nekkid wimmen and covered their heaving, panting, toned and trim bodies with spandex leaving naught to the imagination save the pulse rate of the readers you could tell the same stories and not get slapped around by the Comics Code.

By then teenaged girls had caught on to the whole looking and panting thing, what with Shaun Cassidy and Mick Jagger and Elvis explaining basic chiropractory, and they too wanted their own spandex covered boy type super heroes and that boys and girls is where Marvel showed up, cause DC was too gentile to do boys in spandex cause they might be mistaken for chorus boys and that would lead to another whole set of senate investigations and no one wanted that so they didn't and Marvels did and Peter Parker, no snickering, even though it is a bit justified and might actually be an intended double entendre, showed up with his spidey sense tingling and teenaged girls everywhere tingled right back.

And now everywhere you look there is some poor super hero desperately clamoring for your attention cause there are so many of them that there just isn’t enough crime for them all to keep busy with and besides ordinary criminals aren't much of a challenge for a real super hero so there they are washed up on the shoals of unemployment, aren't you sad?

Well you should be, cause while the heroes aren't working, just about every one associated with them is. Have you looked at the back to school supplies? There are Hulk backpacks and Batman thermoses, Spiderman book covers and Ironman T-shirts, Doc Oct windbreakers and don't forget the Death Dealer herself, Selene, every little girls' leather covered, corset wearing, ass-kicking super powered heroine and it doesn’t hurt a bit that the Great Kate, Kate Beckinsale who isn't any bigger than the average teenaged girl plays Selene to a butt-kicking T.

And where in all of this is your cut?

You wouldn't? You are a serious artists and would never stoop to creating a super hero. Boy I bet Boris Vallejo and Frank Franzetta are happy to hear that cause up until now they've pretty much had the whole magilla to themselves.

Super hero art and all fan directed art is going to be with us for a while and if you haven't tried your hand at it you are missing out on a revenue stream that just might make the difference in your tax return.

Sure the Comicons aren't the Guggenheim but they do reach a market hungry for art, maybe not your art, yet, but art none the less and if you aren't trying to get out there and reach them they won't come looking for you so you'll just let that whole demographic slip away.

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