Only in being useless, does it have infinite value.

#461 afterwords

I deplore the use of false comparisons to scold or draw attention to this or that problem, versus another, perceived to be of lesser importance. These all presume some zero-sum equivalence, where there are insufficient resources, material, economic or social, to attack both, when, if this is so, it is only because this presumes a status quo of capitalist, political conditions, where the the application of resources to ANY given problem, will result in withholding resources from another–maintaining an equilibrium of injustice.
All these–“why are you asking to give to x, and not y?” in that larger context, are false equivalences, and if that logic applied to anything, it would be, ‘why are you asking to devote resources to x, when the only thing that’s going to matter in not so distant future, is climate change?”
The real question for any problem, is how do we apply our resources in such a way that it will address the root causes for all these problems–overcoming and replacing the entire capitalist political/ecomomic/social/military/colonialist system? How do we CHANGE the role played by each and any of the specific problems, in that system?.
Understanding the importance of the arts and its products–other than in terms of use-value, and propaganda, is particularly vulnerable. It is precisely in their HAVING no use value, that they confirm meaning our lives in our otherwise doomed and absurd world.

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Intersections: Imagining the Real

#977.JPG
When we see something in the distance, or out of the corner of the eye, or in fading light–the mind will offer an identity or name for what we think we see, but one that proves false on drawing nearer: it’s that intersection that I’m after–the instant between where you think you know what you are seeing, when the imagined image is replaced by an object with a name, with a received place in external reality.  In a work of art, that would be the power to suggest, to raise the question–but to resist capture by withholding the answer–that the viewer remain at an intersection between what is out there , and the hidden desire that is source of the art’s affective power.
In refusing to ‘represent,’ (to point to something else, something ‘out there,’ the work becomes a mirror reflecting back on ourselves, on a struggle we have not been aware of, until, agitated by being unable to find what the art is pointing to–a disturbance that may help open us to what we have been struggling NOT to see.
I think that happens with any work of art; even most explicitly representational work is always a distortion–and it’s in the distortion that we can see ourselves. Those brought up with, and open to experiencing art, will find this in any style or genre.
Non-representational art merely places this at the center, by erasing the distractions.

Nothing lasts but change

944

For generations, artists in the Euro-American traditions, like ancient Greek heroes, accepted the idea of posterity–the hope for an enduring place in history and myth, that they, and their work, might defy mutability–hope for a kind secular immortality; artists and poets might die, but art and poetry was forever.   On the brink of collective human suicide–and even if we should survive our human-made catastrophes, it will be but for a blink of the universal eye–who can believe in such a thing, now?

I’ve been thinking about this for some time. My work will never achieve an enduring status, and even if it did–what posterity…?  when, in a few generations, there will no humans left on the planet? And in the immensity of time, before the sun consumes the inner planets as a red giant, who can maintain the illusion of a lasting memory, of a lasting anything? What then, can take the place of that old fantasy–dead as the gods who belonged to that vanished world? What, but change itself? Like Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Seed. Rather than imagining, how works of art might endure, think of them in terms of what they do, as themselves, agents of change–which they are. As works of art and poetry have always been… done?

Lubricants to slide us another step into a future we can only know when we get there. The only past worth saving, is what will remain as we break the chains that bind us to it, the past that will survive, because it changes with us in a future we create together.

 

The Language of Art

I was going over a Lifeprint ASL lesson, and was stopped cold with an imaginary question… I mean, question that only an act of imagination would answer.
I heard a voice when I read when I was a kid–maybe because i learned to read sitting on my aunts lap when she read to me–it was not my voice, it was the voice of the book.
Some who has never heard, learns to read English (or other language) as a second language. Reading, at first–for a native signer, would be translation from sign–until they were fluent readers.
This is what I was trying to imagine–what form do the written words take, when you have never heard them? Deaf readers achieve a reading, and writing fluency well beyond any that what it’s like, when one is first learning to read a second language–it’s not translation. But what then is the relation to signing?
This is a startling thought… that there must really me, comprehension that is meta-language–meaning, that finds itself in word, or signs, but it is not identical with word or sign. A primacy of meaning before language.

Why does this seem so incredible to me?

Maybe because it suggests a language beyond language, that underlies other forms of communication–in particular– all of the arts.

#823

11″ x 11″ Acrylic, Ink. Brush and pen.
A tribute to graffiti artists–whose art is mated to destroying the value of property. The capitalist, Gallriest-Gatekeepers, and their non-profit mural arts sidekicks, try to defang them, prettify them, sell them to investors, but they slip out the door of the Great Western Art Narrative, to appear again on walls above the street–nameless as ninja warriors.
Paint this over fascist Rizzo’s face on 9th Street!
#823
View more work at SaatchieArt, and on my web portfolio here ART BY WILLARD For photos on this blog, click MY ART on the right panel and scroll down.

#785

11″ x 15″ Watercolor, ink.

Artists as diverse as Pollock, Klee, Rauschenberg and Piranesi in his Prison etchings–as well as most two dimensional art before the Renaissance– use a dispersed visual field, rather than focal point composition. This is characteristic of most of my work, as well. In focal point composition, there are one or more fixed points, or centers, which invite the eye to radiate out, placing the rest of the field in relation to each specific point of view. In a dispersed field, there are no fixed points, but rather a network of pathways, like organic rhizomes, inviting the viewer to wander freely through the visual field.

#785.JPGView more work at SaatchieArt,
on ArtFinder, and
on my web portfolio here ART BY WILLARD
For photos on this blog, click MY ART on the right panel and scroll down.

#778, and Judging Value in Ones Own Work

#778 follows the text. 22″ x 26″ Acrylic on stretched canvas.

Subjectivity in judging art. How does one judge one’s own work?

I see ‘the viewer,’ not as singular, but as a collective–a whole cultural constellation filtered through each individual, so while each sees as an individual, we also see through the eyes and mind lent to us by their culture, in a particular historical moment.

Subjectivity is complex and inclusive, which means it’s possible to develop our capacity to make judgements, which, while not being “objective,’ are much larger than what one usually means by “subjective.” Such judgements are not fixed verdicts–as they change (or rather, what they point to changes), as culture changes, but good critics–rare as they are–know this.

John Berger. Hubert Damisch.

My question speaks to this. In assessing the value of one’s work, doesn’t there cling to our judgement, a remnant of belief (trust, would be a better word)… that we are able to discern a value that is not so limited, that is not chopped and diced into disconnected individual ‘subjectivities,’ the way we are taught to see ourselves in late capitalism, value and meaning that is inclusive, an emergent vision of some part of what it means to be human in the world?

#778.JPGView more work at SaatchieArt,
on ArtFinder, and
on my web portfolio here ART BY WILLARD
For photos on this blog, click MY ART on the right panel and scroll down.

The Art is Not in the Painting: part 3

#690 Flowers in the ruins of the Prison State
Three (toward a personal aesthetics)
I stood for a time letting my eyes take in the zinnias in bloom. Took them in. Into my body, into the structure of my cells, the chemistry of my body. I let my gaze fly easily from one to another, like the insects, the little flies disguised as bees, from flower to flower, to the leaves that embraced them in their green cloak—returning again and again to an orange blossom that drew me to it. This will be a painting, I thought, but not a painting anyone would recognize as zinnias. It will be a painting that I will make with my eyes, guiding brush or pen, moving from point to point on the page. It will be a painting those little bee-flies will help me make. We will make it together: flowers, bees, the fold of green, the press of my feet on the sidewalk telling me it was time again. Time returned, telling me to move on. Till the next time.
——

One
The art work is an eidolon. It exists in the memory and experience of those who have seen the object that engendered it. It is not the physical object. The eidolon is as powerful as the number of people who have viewed, read or heard it, and carry it with them. The power of the eidolon is that of a shaper. It alters and shapes perceived reality. Its power is cumulative and collective.

Two
The artist views a face, a garden, a city street, patterns in broken pavement, an image in a dream: hears tone and timber in a voice, birdsong, wind: feels in their own body how bodies move — or all of this and more in the torrent of words that surround them. This is the compliment of what might become the eidolon, but is not yet. It is, for now, only a private vision, a kind of pain, unease, something that does not want to remain private, where it will become a disease, a symbiant that may fade and die—or kill its carrier… or find voice and body, form and duration in the thing we misname, as ‘art.’ It first becomes the eidolon as the artist takes it in, standing aside even as they make it, to see, listen, move beside it as it moves from their body, into what its becoming. The artist may feel this as healing—but what it heals, what it saves them from, is the unborn thing, the art that found no becoming in the world, where it gathers power and being in the view of others.


View my web portfolio here ART BY WILLARD
For photos on this blog:CLICK HERE, and scroll down.

Abstraction as a political choice

Once you understand the history of this country–whole shelves of American fiction, and great collections of American painting, become unbearable.
I think about this when I try to understand my almost exclusive turn to abstraction, and my resistance to representative art–even though that’s what my education prepared me to do.
It’s not my call to portray the lives of black people, or “first nations’ ( I like the Canadian term), and I don’t see any crying need to paint white people! Abstraction for me embodies a voice of resistance, of protest. Both a choice, and an act of self denial: a rejection of the world I see around me. A turn to landscape, or nature painting is no better–simply another kind of denial… unless I painted toxic dumps, industrial wastelands. I lean in that direction with my Recyclations (trash assemblages).