ONE OF THE GREAT MYSTERIES IN LIFE IS WHY SOMETHING IS always
going wrong. As you know, there's always something. Someone or
something is blinder to truth than thou. The proverbial and sinister "they"
are always up to something. It is a curiosity to me that artists are so good
at locating these existential anomalies and expressing their righteousness,
outrage, disappointment or despondency over the appropriate and timely issue.
Tourists in the land of ill winds are fortunate never to catch a cold or to
suffer the scars of poison air. Other souls, whose fortunes are found further
down rougher terrain, collect stones in their shoes. It is an encouragement
that the clear-eyed witnesses among us offer better ways of dealing with the
world and its forces, whether those forces bode well or ill.
Finding ourselves in a face-off against the vastness of the "system", against
power and doubt, it would seem that we meet with fate, destiny, or simply a
brick wall. We reach a divide—a before and irrevocable after. Violence,
deprivation, and loss forge a wedge in the mind that forever cuts under the
tissues of normality. In its wake, the experienced artist begins to see, and
to skillfully express, through material and form, a knowing vision.
Such aptitude may come as an unwelcome bit of enlightenment, because the
knowing vision is a sharp eye through which one is forever compelled to see,
to test assertions and "facts". Artists do what artists must do-they realize
their thoughts and feelings in forms of language, color, and topical
representation. It's no wonder that their burning depictions, coming from the
underbelly, don't compliment the status quo.
In service of the necessity to reveal social and psychological discontinuities
that others can't see, every device available to the creative hand and mind
can be considered equal. No privilege accrues to one or another medium, to one
or another creed, or to one or another "truth".
Acute sensitivity breeds urgency. Armed with the authority of insight,
conventional venues and market pathways are inevitably challenged as polite
means of description become unacceptably indirect. One becomes impatient while
watching the world go to hell in a hand-basket, even if in the hands of
Goliath. Remember the Orange Revolution? Tiananmen Square? Pine Ridge? Each
had stage, soundtrack and propaganda.
Emboldened by these assumptions I drilled into mnartists.com looking to
see if my presumptions about the artists' eye would be reflected amid the vast
database of Minnesota's creatives. Wanted! Digital
representations of artwork that can be re-assigned into the service of my own
I sought artists whose e-sets revealed consistency in both focus and attitude
and whose work resonated with my own sense of authentic insight.
Admittedly, my own eye is imbued with a prejudice, a heavy lien against
platitudes and niceties. I wanted images born of smart but angry practitioners
whose world perspectives have been poked by contradictions. Also, I sought
ideas in whose afterimage I might find confirmation of a human cry for a
connectedness to a natural and humane world.
After some exchanging of imagery, I turned to my colleague Susannah
Schouweiler for her response. "It seems evident," she wrote, "that you're
assembling artwork that is concerned with communication (often textual) and
taking words out of their usual context to examine them in isolation for
subversive meaning." As Susannah aptly observed there is an underlying unity
in these artists' "damning examination of the use of mass communication" and
that "commercial iconography and language appears reconfigured and twisted.
You've set the slick and polished next to the uncomfortably naked, the
discomfiting truths of torture and self-sacrifice."
I could not have said it better. Though I would add, that along with the deep
sense of loss, dissonance, and anxiety comes its implied opposite. In the
shadow of a negative light is an illumination, a conspicuous light in my eyes
that appears as hope.
About the curator: Ken
Bloom is the Director of the
Museum of Art at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
On a related note, you'll want to check
out an upcoming June exhibit at the Tweed on the art of illustration.
White and Red – All
Illustration from the Collection. The Tweed Museum folks say,
"Northland residents are quite familiar with the Tweed’s 'Mounties,' but may
be surprised to see them exhibited among period illustrations from the early
1900s and drawings for a 1937 German periodical, recently gifted to the
Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth,
When: June 5 – October 21
The Tweed Museum of Art
Website for the University of Minnesota, Duluth's Tweed Museum of Art
Upcoming Shows at the Tweed Museum
Click here for more information on forthcoming exhibits, including June's "Black, White, and Red--All Over" show.
Click here to check out the offerings of April's (delish) a+E sponsor.