Since my last post, I’ve been thinking about the ways the arts can be found in our culture. Things like paintings hanging in a museum or a sculpture in a park are obvious, and they are the things that quickly get pointed to when someone who is anti-art wants to complain.
Shooting at a big target is easy, the anti-arties can point to Piss Christ, or the painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung, declare their outrage, demand that something must be done and conclude that all art is bad, and they will complain bitterly that their precious tax dollars were used to fund such an atrocity.
They don’t understand that part of art is how the viewer interprets it. For every person offended by Piss Christ, there were others who saw something more than a beloved religious icon, a Savior, submerged in urine. Sister Wendy Beckett, an art critic and Catholic nun, stated in a television interview with Bill Moyers that she regarded the work as not blasphemous but a statement on "what we have done to Christ" - that is, the way contemporary society has come to regard Christ and the values he represents. [source]
One of the comments regarding the article about the Wallace Foundation grant said:
I don't like art, so quit making me pay for your crap. I like to drive my truck up north to my cabin and go deer hunting.
Let’s examine the art that lies hidden in that statement. The truck was designed by people who could draw and who had an understanding of what good design is. It was tested in a wind tunnel using a model made by people who could sculpt. The road was designed, again, by people who could draw, the road signs were designed to be clear and concise, even the paint on the road came from knowledge of pigments. His cabin was drawn before it was built, it is painted and there might even be curtains in the windows. He listens to his favorite country music star on the way, a person who may have learned their first notes in band and choir at school. The design on his deer rifle’s stock was drawn and carved by artists. The clothing he wears was designed by people who understand fabrics, color and fashion. If he decides to celebrate his kill with a trip to the local strip club, he’s watching someone who either took dance herself or copied the moves of someone who did. The label on his beer was drawn, even his haircut relies on balance and ascetics. There are movies and TV shows that he watches and maybe he even reads a book now and then.
One doesn’t need to be a Vincent Van Gogh or an Andres Serrano to be an artist. There are thousands, even millions of artists who never have their work displayed in a museum. Our deer hunting friend relies on people who draw, paint, sculpt, print, dance, write, act and carve, who understand ascetics, balance and design. He relies on these people everyday of his life without realizing it. Yet he complains.
The arts aren’t a waste of money, they are vital. To borrow a phrase: without art, life itself would be impossible.
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