Political Art And Other Horrors

So a buddy of mine send me a link to this news article t’other day. Like so many political things these days, I don’t know whether to laugh at the ludicrousness of it all, cry at…well, the ludicrousness of it all, or just invest in a large placard that says “These People Do Not Represent Me” to wear whenever I leave the house.

This will not be a rant about abortion, but about art, so bear with me for a paragraph or two.

Saying that I am pro-choice is like saying that the sea is a bit damp, but the older I get, the less I feel like arguing about it. I’m past the angry youthful days when I secretly dreamed of forcibly implanting fetuses in all the top male pro-life activists just to see if they’d practice what they preach–my husband James pointed out that such an act was in fact a direct violation of the Geneva Convention, which forced me to actually look up the Geneva Convention, something that should not be required of anyone before breakfast. He was right, too. Damnit. So I cling to the moral high ground, such as it is, and take guilty pleasure in books by Sheri S. Tepper, and every now and then I wonder if my current stance on the matter is a morally advanced one, or whether I’ve just been beaten down by ennui.

My intent here is not to debate abortion because I don’t believe it’s a topic TO debate–what happens in my innards is my own business and no one else’s, particularly not any government’s, and I’ll extend the rest of the world the same courtesy. Your innards, your business. The contents of my reproductive anatomy are no more a subject for general debate then, say, the contents of my digestive anatomy, and believe me, you don’t want to spend any time discussing that. (Trust me.) And, in any event, I have in all my life seen exactly ONE case of learned debate changing a mind about the topic, which I think was a statistical fluke and not likely to be repeated. So it’s not worth it.

That said, the real heart of the matter is that things like this make me want to do political art. I read things like this and get twitchy urges to make posters, in that sort’ve Angry Eastern European, post WW2 style, replete with catchy bumper-sticker style slogans and eye-searing primary colors. And while I know how I feel about abortion, I don’t really know how I feel about political art–I’ve seen some magnificent stuff done along those lines, I greatly admire artists like Pseudo-Manitou who do it well, and at the same time, whenever I see art that requires a message in order to be worthwhile, my hands itch for the sledgehammer.

Art should look cool. Everything else is secondary. If I had a religion, that would be inscribed on the stone tablets. And yet…and yet…I don’t know. I loathe artists who’s work is only a vehicle for their particular axe to grind, and I am contemptous of art that is “obvious”, where the message is so blazingly obvious that it’s the visual equivalent of a Rush song. There are paintings that I’ve done myself where I’ve curled my lip up at how obvious I was being, and felt as if I was insulting my viewer’s intelligence–“Ooo, look, it’s a fairy shooting up on heroin! Here, why don’t I just hand you a sheet of paper that says “I.V. Drugs Are Bad For You.” (God, I hate that painting.)

And then I read news articles like that and wonder if the vast majority of humanity is so incredibly thick that only the artistic equivalent of a two-by-four between the eyes is gonna get through. And if I have some kind of moral obligation as an artist who actually believes in things, since I don’t volunteer, donate money in great quantity, or really, do anything other than mutter to myself, to do make art reflecting that belief. And then I wonder if anybody, anywhere, has ever had their mind changed about an issue by a painting. Because I never have, and I don’t know if I should be delighted that art COULD change someone’s mind, or sad that something as trivial as who’s got the best graphic designer could sway the minds of men.

Yeats wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” but he failed to mention what to do when you were stuck at both ends of the spectrum.

Man, this livejournal stuff is cathartic.

And that’s my rant.

I have a dream!

Or had a dream, rather. I know, I know, listening to people’s dreams is for most of us an exercise in unbridled tedium, but bear with me. A) there’s art at the end, and B) this is a vital work avoidance for me, because once I finish typing this, I have to go paint my Christmas card for this year, which will feature an anteater wrapped in Christmas lights, and which I’m avoiding because sending out Christmas cards is one of the many signs that my husband and I are getting old and normal.

So anyway, I had this dream.

It started out normal enough–trying to drive my grandmother’s elderly Crown Victoria up a 45 degree slope to a Taco Bell drive through while people shoved photos of dead foxes through the windows. (For me, this is so normal as to be beneath notice.) Then there was a segue. The best way that I can describe this is that it was rather like the THX stereo sequence in a movie–a kind of whomwhomwhom “Enough of the previews, this is the Main Event, SO PAY ATTENTION.” whooooommmmmmmm! moment.

Then I found myself in a museum. It was panelled in dark hardwoods, multiple stories, and after walking up several flights of stairs, I ran into the curator. He was probably a nice guy, but I didn’t get much chance to find out, because he had a heart attack immediately upon my arrival.

Being me, I first attempted to resucitate him, and when that failed, I went through his pockets and took his keys. Then I went to a particular room in the museum, used the keys to unlock the door, and found…a painting.

It was a hell of a painting. Literally. It was Hell, rendered with the sculptural lighting and somewhat lackadaisical perspective of the older Old Masters, and it was incredible. I stood in front of it and went “Holy crap, this is amazing!”

To the left was Satan, looking like Michelangelo’s David, (Y’know…nude, chiselled, classical…) with some kind of head covering occluding his eyes. In front of his legs, and twisting through the painting was a large serpentine form, and off to the right was a tableaux of three white goat demons, wearing seriously industrial black iron armor and holding swords. The background was a huge vaulted cavern with interlocking hills, over which cavorted the standard Boschian demonic array.

The placard next to the painting said that it was by “Alber Lentree” and was a 12th century French woodcut, which was patent nonsense, because nobody in the 12th century was kicking out art like that, and anyway, it was an oil painting. I went through the curator’s files like a lunatic, trying to find information about this incredible painting, but other than an alternate spelling of “Elber Lentree” I had no luck. Then I thought, “I’ll go on the internet!” and found the curator’s computer, which included this keyboard.

The best that I can explain was that I have been reading too much steampunk lately, because this was a Victorian keyboard. It was ornate and had brass curlicues and the individual letter and number keys were round silver wafers, rather like the ornate metal keys on a clarinet. I spent entirely too much time staring at the keyboard that I should have spent staring at the painting, because to my horror, I woke up right then and could not for the life of me remember the important bits of the painting, such as what Satan had been doing, or what the serpentine form had been. I lunged out’ve bed, startling my husband (who was only doing his job waking me up from a nap) and scribbled down the only bits I could remember, which was mostly the tableaux of goat demons.

There’s no “Alber Lentree” or variant on Google, but I hadn’t expected one. I drew the tableaux as best I could, (I thought it took about twenty minutes, it actually took closer to two hours, but fortunately my husband considers creative fits like this normal, and kindly did the dishes and made dinner so that I could proceed without interuption) and and started painting.

It’s a complicated scene, and I probably won’t be done for another week or so–and to my despair, robbed of context, it looks more like an Iron Maiden album cover in the dorky Pseudo-Satanic style–but not painting it never occurred to me as an option. Painting things from your dreams is considered pretty cornball in the fine art world, I know, (unless you’re a card-carrying Surrealist) but that’s why I’m a non-fine-artist–I can paint flowers and sunsets and happy fuzzy bunnies and, well, demonic entities from paintings in my dreams if I want to, damnit.

Here’s a detail of one of the goat guys, in case anyone’s interested.

Goat Demon

And that’s my weird dream story for the day.


It occurs to me that I should mention a cool tidbit in relation to this–a buddy of mine on IM recommended “La Son Del Diovolo” or “The Devil’s Sonata” a bit of violin music evidentally inspired when the creator, Tartini, had a dream in which he’d made a pact with Satan, handed him a violin, whereupon that hooved gentleman played a “sonata so unusual and so beautiful, performed with such mastery and intelligence, on a level I had never before conceived was possible!” Tartini woke up and immediately wrote down as much of it as he could, but of course could not recapture the music in his dream, although what he did get down was impressive.

That probably means something significant about art, Satan, or dreams, or maybe all three, but damned if I know what (particularly since I have my doubts that one of ’em, at least, exists.)

Hello, World!

Right, then.

Once upon a time, probably about six months ago, I said something along the lines of “I will never get a Livejournal, because I can’t possibly imagine that anyone cares enough about what I think to want to read it.”

There’s an old saying from one of those cultures beloved by New Age types (generally the ones with the best jewelry) that goes “Never say what river you won’t cross,” the premise presumably being that Fate keeps a special file on pronouncements like that, and enjoys crushing them underfoot, even if it has to reroute a whole Viking horde just to get you with your back to the aforementioned river. Fate is petty that way. So, having realized that I tend to rant a lot more than I can keep up with on my website, which means that more or less daily I open a Word file, bitch for a paragraph or two about some obscure facet of art or life or religion or why the hell the federal government can’t issue housekeepers to artists so that I don’t have to waste valuable painting time standing in line at the grocery store, then close it again, and furthermore, in my dark and mercenary little soul, realizing that exposure is the key to artistic success, I finally went and got a Livejournal.

Of regularity, frequency, and coherency, I promise nothing. But I hereby vow, before the Art-gods, (a nebulous bunch, but the only ones I particularly believe in, particularly Our Lady of Photoshop) that you will never have to read about my love life, conformity angst (unless it’s art-related, in which case all bets are off) how no one understands me, or how I really feel I have the soul of an Astral Wombat Shaman, since I can’t imagine anyone wants to hear about that sort of thing, and anyway, I wouldn’t know a wombat shaman if it bit me on the ear. I feel rather strongly that one’s flakier spiritual moments, like skin rashes and embarassing foot fungus, should be kept to oneself, and possible one’s spouse and/or physician.

I’m an artist. Many of my rants will probably be art related. I am, in all modesty, not half bad at it, either–I eke out a meagre living on it, anyway, and I enjoy it, which is the important thing. If you’d like to see the art behind (or in front, I dunno) of the fevered brain, there’s Metal & Magic which features more art than you can shake a stick at, plus my various stabs at comic amusement.

Also, just to clear up anything from people who might notice the occasional anthromorph in my art–I like animal people. They look neat. The sight of something that I usually surprise in the backyard, wearing armor and carrying a battle-axe the size of a Volkwagon, makes my day. However, I am not what you’d call a furry, I don’t identify with any particular animal (although I think anteaters are cute as all hell) and I most definitely do not get my kicks on rhino-on-ground-sloth hermaphrodite porn–but I don’t have a problem if somebody else wants to, provided they don’t ask me to draw it. Also, I draw nudes. If you have a problem with nudity, then feel free to dismiss me out’ve hand as a pervert, because I’m definitely gonna dismiss you out’ve hand as a Philistine, so it’s only fair.

Finally, allow me to extend my thanks to Ch’marr, who runs the VCL site and who is just an all-around cool guy for sending me a Livejournal code, and to Gryllus of Yerf fame, who also sent me one about thirty seconds later–you guys make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Right, then. Peace!