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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reality may be Harsh and Ugly at Times



We have a terrible problem with mold and mildew in the Tropics. We go through gallons of bleach in the same way that most people do milk. We scour our sidewalks and driveways with bleach.  We use it in our sinks and toilets. We set our air conditioner at a certain level, even when we’re gone, just to keep the mold from taking over our belongings.

I can smell mold and mildew in the air when I step outside on humid days. It stings my nose causing my allergies to flare up. Don’t get me wrong. I love living in Southwest Florida. It is beautiful, alive with wildlife, flora and fauna; but the mildew reminds us of the realities of living in a tropical climate.

"India Rising -- The Lost" -- mixed media on canvas

The same could be said about art, and the reasons why some people don’t like political art. It may be that it reminds them of the harshness of reality instead of taking them into a sweet world of beauty, fantasy, and make believe.

Professional artists often enjoy jarring an audience from their predictable assumptions. They use their art to prick the conscientiousness of the viewer. They choose to show the reality of life, the one bubbling just beneath the surface. The one most people want to ignore; the ugliness like hunger, poverty, hatred, and violence. And yet this kind of art may actually move people into taking action which is what the artist hoped for when he envisioned his painting.

"India Rising -- Prince of Thieves," mixed media on canvas

Reminds me of the alligator we saw this morning on our walk. At first, we thought it was floating debris, but the elongated shape at one end made me suspicious. We walked to the edge of the lake to get a better view.

The water and the sunlight revealed ridges across the head and back, and soon the familiar bulging eyes appeared. No sooner did we get a good look than the gator plunged beneath the surface of the water.

Did the ducks and marsh hens realize what was lurking beneath the still idyllic water? Were the ibis, the egrets, the herons and anhingas aware of the danger in their midst? How many times do we, like these swamp creatures, choose to go about our lives ignoring the dangers that lurk beneath the surface of our surroundings, in our government and community?

If art can provoke others to act for the greater good or to become aware of dangers then by all means do it! If an artist can expand our compassion, enlarge our point of view, or create a dialogue then by all means do it!

"India Rising -- The Found" mixed media on canvas

Art is not only meant to be “fluffy,” entertaining, beautiful and inspiring. Art and artistic commentary may educate, uplift, shock, or motivate. Art that does this may have long lasting effects. Once the critics, like ravenous crows, finish picking its bones, the artwork will stand because its message is universal and eternal