“Another eyeful of attractive stuff”

barbara_hashimoto

Barbara Hashimoto with her Junk Mail Project.  See http://www.barbarahashimoto.com/

Barbara Hashimoto, an installation and performance artist who focuses on environmental issues, gave me a heads-up about this interesting article by Blake Gopnik in the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/30/AR2009073004406.html?referrer=facebook.)  Gopnik reviews an installation exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art of urban ephemera and points out that “they’re part of a trend that rejects the whole idea that art should be about providing yet another eyeful of attractive stuff. (Aren’t museums already stocked with as much of that as we could ever need?)”

Hmmm… I am moved by art that, as Gopnik says, “comes closer to activism — that gets people thinking about what needs to change, and maybe makes a start toward changing it. In these times of multiple meltdowns — in the economy, health care, climate, world politics — anything that speaks of change, of any kind, is bound to resonate.”  I am personally doing more artistic collaboration and created my first installation work this year that dealt with healing relationships (see http://www.judithjosephstudio.com/installation.html)

But, on the other hand, I love craft in art.  I love to see the expressive hand of the artist in created images and objects.  I think it is rather spartan to dismiss the contents of art museums as Gopnik does, as “fancy gewgaws that sell”.  I hear what he is saying about excessive consumerism and materialism in our culture in general, and in the art world in specific.  This is why I’m increasingly drawn to environmental and installation art that becomes social activism.

But, do we want art to be an either/or proposition?  Just because something is materially beautiful doesn’t mean it’s morally, spiritually or esthetically bankrupt.  There is great hope expressed in the gesture of a beautifully painted stroke, which carries within it all the discipline, tears,  yearning and timelessness of a skilled artist’s life.

"Art", by Shozo Sato

"Art", by Shozo Sato

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