The Arts – open thread

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   Six months ago, I put up a post about poetry, commenting on why I think it matters and the state of poetry today. I asked, “What poets/poems enrich your life?”, which didn’t seem to strike much of a chord among our readership – not really surprising, actually.

   At the end of the post, was a a link to an article at Salon on the sad state of support for the arts today.

What does it mean in America to be a successful artist? [] Essentially, these are working-class people – a lot of them have second jobs. [] They make tremendous sacrifices for their work. They’re people who should have our respect, the same as a farmer. We don’t want a society without them.

Before she got run over by a Mercedes, my wife belonged to the Tomov Ensemble, a semi-professional troupe performing Yugoslav dances/songs around the country and even in Yugoslavia. George Tomov, the director spent countless hours and significant monies collecting and cleaning/repairing authentic costumes and jewelry. While their performances were paid admissions, the dancers did not get paid and George made no profit – without help from various donors and city/state/federal funding, the troupe would not have survived. My wife drove 3-4 hours twice a week for rehearsals and devoted more hours to performing and learning the songs. She did it because she loved to dance and bring the experience to an audience. She and the rest of the troupe were as professional and skilled dancers as you’re likely to find, on a par with the Moyseyiev, yet their dedication and effort would not have earned them a living.

The final irony is that these are times when we most need the arts but seem the most resistant to culture and the people who produce it.
Serious art [] brings you back to reality and makes you look at your life. Serious art makes people uncomfortable []

   I’ve been thinking about poetry today because a FB post by an Agonista (h/t Scott R) about the death of a pet reminded me of Shooting the Horse. a prose poem by David Shumate.

   I used to write a lot of poetry and I’ve been wondering if I should get back to fiction and poetry again. It’s less the actual time involved than getting into the proper mental state. As Thomas Mann remarked, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”. With the state of publishing and culture in general, it certainly won’t be for financial reasons, but as The Tentmaker said, we sometimes need to “buy hyacinths to feed our soul”.

What, if anything, do The Arts mean to you?
How much original artwork is in your house?
How often do you go to galleries, museums, concerts?
What do you read?
What do you create?

4 Replies to “The Arts – open thread”

  1. The state of poetry today? There’s a kind of sense there that today is rather more dismissive of poetry than yesterday was. The 19th and first half of the 20th c. were the golden age of the high status of poetry. We get a rather distorted view of the place of poetry in previous eras because we read the poets, and they all think that poetry is important. In fact, in the larger society imaginative fiction was regarded as at best irrelevant and at worst dangerous, because it gave you unrealistic expectations about life. There’s a reason why leading poets wrote their Defenses of Poesy, and the like. The growth of education as the justifying credential of the middle class and the pathway to social progress led to a higher status for literature.

    The down side to this was the professionalization of the arts. This made artists into producers, other people into consumers, and art into products.

    I think it’s more accurate and useful to see creativity as a range from the person who engages in crafts through the artist whose work speaks to many people. It’s easy to sneer at the local recreation department’s ceramic or jewelry making classes, but I think that would be a failure to recognize the human need to do imaginative things. Original artwork in my house? What do you count? The Chinese calligraphy done by an expert? Probably yes. The afghan knitted by my aunt? Probably no. The china set painted by a few other aunts? The quality of the painting is really unimpressive, but I’d still say yes.

    One could go one forever on issues of value.

  2. The continuum on the quality side is mostly craftmanship rather than art. To quote myself from the earlier post:

    In my view, art of any sort has two components. The first, and lesser of the two, is the craft to embody the artist’s perception. The more vital component is that perception; the ability to look at the same things we all look at and see something different, something extra, something beyond. It is this ability of the artist which expands our perception, enhances our grasp of the world, increases our humanity. All true art does that.

    It’s also a fact that we have monetized just about everything since Capitalism started running rampant. In fact, we admire many artists more for their ability to manipulate public tastes in their favor than for the quality of their works: think Andy Warhol, for example.

    We may admire the independent spirit of those who persist in their ‘losing game’, but we don’t take them seriously. There are exceptions, naturally, but as a country, we are philistines.

    I agree there seems to be a universal desire for creativity and it manifests itself according to opportunity and the skills of the individual. That may often be some local craft center like where I learned to weave – and which just closed for lack of funds: so much for our support of not-for-profit activity. If it doesn’t make money, Fuhgeddaboudit!

    There is, however, a difference between being creative and appreciating the creations of others. My weaving is only craftwork, but I’ve seen much like my Navajo rug that is Art and I aspire to that someday. I’ve seen quilts that kept you warm and quilts that deserved a museum; pottery than was only functional and pottery that was also beautiful. I have more quality artwork than I can hang (I rotate it once or twice a year) but my own attempts at painting demonstrated only that I badly need to take some classes. 🙁

    One might possibly make a living in some way associated with one’s poetry, but the poetry itself has no worth, since monetary value is the only value we seem to recognize. It is a sad commentary that we have come to match Oscar Wilde’s definition of the cynic:
    “A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

    1. Having duly warned you that “One could go one forever on issues of value,” I’ll go on a little longer. If there were a difference of kind between being creative and appreciating the creations of others, doing “only craftwork” yourself would affect only your appreciation of the others’ greater skill at craftwork. But that hasn’t been my experience. It seems to me that people who take up a craft develop an appreciation of the art that others have accomplished. Amateur craft weavers develop an appreciation of the Art manifest in some Navaho rugs. That indicates to me that the engagement with the forms governing and materials used in the craft strengthen a faculty that was already there.

      We tend to confuse creativity, novelty, and originality in a way that may stifle interest and participation in the arts.

  3. Well…, I’m Listening to Some Poetry Now…,

    in the form of Robert Earl Keen. He kept popping up on my Tom Russell station on Pandora…, so I finally bought some of his CD’s from Amazon. They are now putting the CD’s you buy on “the cloud”…, at least some of them. So I have been listening to Keen’s album “Best” and am utterly impressed. I really need to tear myself away and pick some flowers. The daisies and buttercups are trying to take over the horse pastures.

    We have a couple of Steve Lyman prints and a Paul Calle to go with a few originals by local artists. We try to stay out of galleries now…, not much more room on the walls. About the same story with books…, no more room in the bookcase. Been rereading some…, including Don’s “Contrabando” (even better second time around), Joe Bageant, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom McGuane (I’ve read “Some Horses” at least three times)…, I like his essays better than his fiction. In that category I like Cormac McCarthy, Richard Ford and Tom Robbins.

    I don’t create anything…, but come to think of it…, that might be a better description of my building prowess than carpentry skills would be !!!

    The Quillayute Cowboy

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