Last night at a pre-Sundance party in NYC I had the great good fortune of meeting the talented and impressive Anthony Whyte, whose work is being made into a movie.
He was there with his business partner Jason Claiborne, who runs Augustus publishing, “Where Hip Hop literature begins,” and fellow author Erick S. Gray.
They were an intriguing trio. Whyte has a background in the armed forces, as did my dad, so we had that to discuss, as well as books and movies.
This morning I did some googling around and learned that Whyte had trouble getting his first novel published. He then self-published, and people were so hungry for his message and his platform that he sold several thousand books quickly. Of course then a publisher jumped on the bandwagon, bought the rights, and republished… to sell over a hundred thousand copies. Pretty good! Whyte mentioned none of this to me; he was classy and unassuming, and left it to me to discover his story.
We talked about Zora Neale Hurston, author of the classic THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD. I remembered reading how Hurston had ended her life working in a library, and as a maid. It’s distressing that she died in obscurity, enduring financial struggles, when she’d written one of the masterworks of American literature. It left me thinking again about some questions that my oldest daughter had posed to me, over a year ago, when we discussed an African American Literature class she had taken: How did we in the U.S. create an underclass that left an entire group of people disenfranchised, struggling to find and authenticate their voice?
Is it enough that we have elected Obama as president? Is it enough that brilliant minds like Whyte, Claiborne and Gray are not accepting the status quo regarding their work, but are going out and creating new opportunities?
What does it take to create a truly equal society based on the hard work and merit of the individual, without regard to race, gender, sexual preference, and religion?
I hope none of these questions are offensive. I don’t know if they are politically correct or incorrect. They are the musings of a basically white woman of mixed genetic heritage who can not document her Native American ancestry because records were lost during the Trail of Tears. I’m just a mom with smart, irreverent kids, who ask good questions and expect me to engage them honestly.
And what else about the party? It was too much fun for the responsible parent I am, and included me introducing myself to a famous TV/movie actor who now believes I am sketchy. Because I did make a sketchy introduction, and he was far more gracious to me than I deserved. But I had to sally up to him with my big, tipsy grin–if only to be able to text my kids that I’d met him.
The Art of Life: How and Why to Look at Sculpture
by Traci L. Slatton & Sabin Howard
My husband Sabin Howard (www.sabinhoward.com) and I are writing a book about sculpture together. He is a working classical figurative sculptor–think Michelangelo–and I am NOT a PhD.
I want to write this book precisely because I am not a PhD. I want to write it for the purest reason: because I love sculpture and it enhances life and I want to share this passion, and its uplifting effect, with everyone. Sculpture is too beautiful, too innately healing, too richly resonant of what it actually means to be human, to be monopolized by a few people with advanced degrees.
I stand for the democratization of art. This is precisely why I have such a strong aversion to post-modern art, which, with its emphasis on ugliness and alienation, has begged to be rejected by the ordinary person and embraced by the few who either 1, make money off it, or 2, get a PhD out of it.
I am here to tell you: art is not dead. Neither is God, for that matter. There’s a burdgeoning movement that is rediscovering both. Beauty, too.
Why do I call this book ‘The art of life’? Simple: when you pause and breathe and take in a sculpture, it brings you back into alignment with your deepest core self. It renews your Self. It deepens your experience of this moment now, of the presence, and Presence, in this perfectly imperfect moment of space-time. And isn’t that the practice of the art of life? It is for me.
Post Modern Irony isn’t worth the toilet paper to wipe it off our collective tushie…
A sub-title could be, “How to make money off people who are afraid to appear stupid.”
There is an art movement afoot. It is a movement to bring back values to art. It is a movement to bring artistry back into art, artistry founded first on an aesthetic of beauty and truth, second on real craftsmanship, and third on an extraordinary grounding in, and comprehension of, the history of art and the great, seminal problems of form that were last faced with integrity by the likes of Gauguin. By “craftsmanship” I mean years of training, apprenticeship, focus, and hard work.
An artist should be better trained than a lawyer before he or she starts selling his creations.
The art movement is tentatively called “the new realists.” My husband Sabin Howard is one of them. There’s an off-shoot called “the slow art movement,” patterned on the “slow food movement,” which affirms the quality of food and the dining experience in a restaurant that doesn’t take shortcuts but takes the real time required to make the ultimate reduction, for example.
You can eat at MacDonalds, if you wish–but we all know it’s going to make you sick.
Speaking of MacDonalds. We’ve all been victimized by the scam artists of post-modernism. One hundred years ago, Marcel Duchamp did us all a disservice by foisting a urinal on us. Okay, for 2 seconds, there’s a surprising juxtaposition, a shock. Intellectual chicanery. But “they” are still doing urinals, one hundred years later. Shock value is over, guys. I guess it’s just hard to leave the ponzi scheme.
All these post modernist pieces that have garnered acclaim–Piss Christ, Dung Madonna, anything by Julian Schnabel–they have a few seconds of shock value. And nothing else. They have no sub-stratum of meaning or value, no connection to a historical continuum and the crucial dilemmas of composition and structure and light, to rest on. HOWEVER, art critics, PhDs, and museum curators like post modernist pieces because they can blather on about how important they are and RACK UP SALES. Folks, it’s about money–scam art–not real art.
Koons worked at the Met and saw how the trend was going. He’s a smart businessman, I’ll gladly give him that. But he’s no artist, and he’s not creating art. And not just because he doesn’t actually make the stuff, he hires NY Academy students and kids in Italy to do it, either. (I hear he pays them $15 – $18 an hour.) It’s because the expensive chotchki’s he’s putting out there aren’t art.
Is it big business? Yes, but so was Bernie Madoff.
I congratulate Mary Boone and that ilk on their rat-like street cunning; I can admire a pickpocket with the best of them. They created a movement that they were able to perpetrate on people who were afraid to say, “The emperor has no clothes.” So many people have been afraid to denounce this crap for the crap that it is because those gallery owners and PhD students could BLAH BLAH BLAH them under the table. No one wants to look ignorant. And boy oh boy them salesmen and dissertation wonks can really talk! But the impact of visual art is visceral. The point is–the silent truthful ones weren’t ignorant. They were being railroaded by mercenaries.
Yes, your five year old kid can do something equally worthy.
There are no masterpieces of post modern art because the stuff isn’t worth the cardboard, dung, condoms, or lucite case that are used to make it. It’s ugly and valueless. The banal is only worth about five seconds of our time; Marcel Duchamp took up those five seconds. The fact that the National Endowment for the Arts funded this junk on the basis of freedom of expression is one of the great idiocies of our time.
Freedom of expression does not validate the ugly, the meaningless, the valueless. It’s still junk. It’s just junk that the NEA funded–to the shame of the USA.
Specifically, post modern art lacks beauty and truth. It lacks transformational power. It lacks the capacity to vault us out of the coma of our everyday life into a state of heightened awareness, heightened consciousness, greater compassion for the human condition, increased seeking for what is higher. Yes, it makes money for the brokers and museums who pawn it off on people. (I heard that the director of the Brooklyn Museum got a kickback for showing some of the junk; can’t say if it’s true, but it was told to me by an art critic who runs a foundation in Manhattan.)
Look for the new realists. Look for the guys like my husband Sabin Howard, and I guess Jacob Collins is one of them, and I really love John Morra’s work, who are taking the long road around to create something meaningful and real, something that addresses art with integrity. Something founded on an aesthetic of beauty and truth. They may not be the most popular people around, but hey, the doctor who told everyone to wash their hands before delivering babies got railroaded out of medicine. Go look at Frederick Hart’s work on the National Cathedral. I admire Burt Silverman’s portraits, too. Check out Daniel Sprick. I personally find Judy Fox’s sculptures cartoonish, but they’re cute. Worth looking at. She seems to be engaged in it and she’s competent.
Go find the artists who have studied their crafts for years, who are engaged in what art means on a daily basis. They’re there. One thing is for sure: your five year old can’t do anything REMOTELY like what they do.
These are the guys who deserve millions of dollars. I am convinced they will reach those heights–Michelangelo died a millionaire–and that the tide will turn as people get sick of meaninglessness and search again for values, meaning, beauty, and truth. We’ll find the Koons balloons in the garbage where they belong.
Last note: my husband looked at this blog and exclaimed, I’m not a realist. Then he said, Oh lord, they’re going to sue you. Just to clarify, this blog contains my personal opinions.
A Russian reader asked if I read Anne Rice. First, thank you for contacting me, Russia! Second, yes, I read Anne Rice. I greatly admire her ability to create a world that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go. I am not one of those people who adore vampires–really, during love-making, I don’t want my blood sucked–but I do love a good story, well told. Rice can do that. I hear she’s crazy religious now, which I regret.
But I do understand it. The call of spirit is always there. In my mind, writers are especially susceptible to the lure of the universe of creation. We hear it in the ear of our mind and its siren call is exquisite, undeniable. I can well understand the appeal and solace of a fundamentalist religion. To feel, every moment, that intimate ecstasy, that ravishing certainty…. Then there’s the other part of me that says, Vishnu is Jesus is Zeus is Adonai is Buddha, and it’s my uncertainty, my longing, that is holy. Heschel called faith “a blush before God.” Well, let’s keep blushing. Let’s not take on the anemia of knowing. It’s the approach, laden with wonder, that fortifies us, and praises the divine.
Now: we are a few days into Venus retrograde. In the Vedic system, some authorities say that Venus retrograde in Pisces, the sign of its exaltation, acts debilitated. I am not certain of that. The jury is still out for me.
What I have seen with retrograde planets is that they are internalized. A certain process of curiosity and exploration about them becomes necessary. When Mercury turns retrograde–communication and computers go haywire. You can straighten them out, you just have to ask yourself a series of questions: Why did this happen? How do I untangle this? What’s the deeper issue? With computers, I’ve seen a few times that there have been problems brewing, and Mercury moving backward brings those problems to light. You just can’t ignore the virus, or the erratic motherboard, anymore. Is that a debility, to deal with problems?
I like Vedic astrology and use it because it works. But I can’t forget that it is Moon centered, while Western astrology is sun centered. In Vedic astrology, there is an underlying assumption that what is comfortable, what solaces the moon, is what is best. In Western astrology, the underlying assumption is that we are all here to self-actualize, to become our fullest soul selves–to shine our light. So I always weigh the two systems, along with other archetypal systems. For me, it’s about having a variety of tools with which to understand.