Art can be difficult. Sure, some art is deliberately difficult, for the shock value. I'm not a fan of a lot of art, because I think it's pretentious twaddle. I'm allowed to think that. Am I better for having seen the pretentious twaddle nonetheless? Yes, I am. The ability to make aesthetic choices and express ourselves through the art we make or choose, requires development. All art, whether we like it or not, whether is makes us want to retch in revulsion or transports us to a state of bliss; contributes to society. Art isn't just about beauty, though.
The intersection of art and commerce is a grey zone. Art becomes a commodity. If someone wants to pay us for it, there's a temptation to repeat ourselves. Performers become product, the product of an artist's work becomes an object instead of the subjective experience it's often meant to be.
The problem is: When art and commerce collide, sometimes the people with the checkbooks think they get to tell artists what is and isn't acceptable art.
(There are occasions when this is true, but they are narrowly defined. A commission is one of them. Performers, depending on milieu, are often contracted to perform in a specific fashion. As I said, narrowly defined.)
When the people with the money try to tell the people responsible for creating what they like to call, "Product," what that product should be, a line is crossed.
Whether it's a canvas or a script, a book proposal or a sculpture, if you agree to what the artist either proposes or has already created, that's the end of the story.
At least, it should be.
We live in uncertain times. Publishing houses are running in the red, reality television reigns because it's cheaper than paying writers, and god help you if you're in a non-traditional form. Visual artists and sculptors are hanging on by a thread, in most cases.
Those that pay for art or the creation of art want known quantities and familiar aesthetics. They want stability and stagnation in lieu of the real.
Risk means the potential for loss. The people with the money, don't want to lose it.
It's completely understandable and completely useless.
Art is always a risk. Always. If you're doing it right, it's a walk on a wire without a net.
Art is about exploring and revealing the soul. It's the journey. It's the surprises and horrors that we confront every day. Art is a point of view, shared. Art is bleeding on the page with grace in order to express something. Art is always subjective and it's not always pretty.
Homogenized and sanitized creation is product. It's not art. Is there a place for it? Yes.
You want a Thomas Kinkade print to put on your Grandmother's bedroom wall, fine.
You want Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, (or whatever the equivalent is,) for your kids, great.
You want the next sequel to the blockbuster, I'm cool with that.
It's not art.
It's entertainment, etc. It's product.
It has its place.
Think of this: A museum, filled with Thomas Kinkade and Anne Geddes pictures, Cherub mantle-hangers... Do I need to go on?
A library or bookstore filled with nothing but R.L. Stine, the Princess Diaries, Twilight and Novelizations of films and TV shows.
We need ART.
The human consciousness, spirit, soul... whatever name you put to it, we need Art.
It transports us, allows us to transcend the drab little lives we sink into out of necessity.
Great art can show us the passion and fury, the grief and joy, the beauty and horror that lie beneath the surface in all of us. They reflect our humanity like a magic mirror. How we see and interpret art is like a Rorschach test of the soul.
It teaches us, it moves us, it inspires us. Real art can lift us out of ourselves and show us worlds we never allowed ourselves to dream of.
The making of and embracing of art is an act of fundamental rebellion.
It is standing up in front of the machine and saying, "NO. No, I will not be crammed into the convenient boxes and definitions you want me to conform to."
It is fearlessness transcribed into poetry and prose, splattered on canvas and filtered through a camera lens, it is film and theater where performers are stripped down to the bone.
Art isn't imitating life, it is reflecting it.
We need it like oxygen, like water, like food and love and shelter.
Without it, we become dry and empty husks in the shape of human beings.
The current economy and the vampiric shadow of the morality police, (i.e., the ultra-conservative, ultra-religious noisemakers,) threaten to create an environment as oppressive to art and expression as Savanarola, the Inquisition and McCarthyism.
It is economically convenient for the distributors of art to impose limits on art, for the marketplace. That doesn't make it right. In fact, expediency is often a sign of what is most definitely not right.
The accountants are always in the wings with their anxiety-chewed fingernails and a tally sheet telling them the risk is too great.
There is no place for censorship in art. Not even when commerce is involved.
Especially when commerce is involved.
Art is not a product.
Remember that and act accordingly. The future of our culture and consciousness is at stake.