I found some more public art today. Haven't seen much in awhile, but for old faithful, the Air Bellows Outdoor Art Museum under the Parkway. Every year the authorities feel the need to paint over it, like that discourages putting it there. It makes a new blank canvas. I like it best when it's let go for a long time and you get layers and layers over years, paint on top of paint, colors juxtaposed entirely by chance, free form as it gets. In years past, somebody would make an image from time to time. This year it's all words and lines. That's good too. Whatever happens is what it is. Art as a subject has never been taken seriously in American education, except for the occasional art class in high schools. It's not until college does art start being taken seriously as something to learn about and pay attention to. And there it tends to get academic, which is what schools do.
Art in America is New York, LA, SanFrancisco, Seattle a little bit, Chicago, big cities. Great big cities the small percentage of people art is important to can make a sizable number. This makes art something that happens someplace else if you don't live in one of those cities. We're covered up in the modern world with things that only happen someplace else, wherever you are. That makes it something you have to go someplace else to do. Can't do it at home. It's about galleries, collectors and decorators. It's about money. The same as Hollywood. A few people "make it" and everybody else does not. I also see that changing. It's perhaps most visible in rock, an art form that parallels the spirit of what's going on among artists, when in the past it's been about mega stars, the Beatles, the Stones, the Eagles, Ozzy Osborne. The punk interjection that became the next mainstream after about 25 years was about anti-stars. It was an art school phenomenon, not hoodlums. The hoodlums went for Hard-core later. The punk wave was a lot of bands going off doing what they felt like doing. By now there are so many bands and singers and styles of vocalizing and guitar playing there's no keeping up with it.
So much is changing so fast in civilization, meaning it's changing fast in all art forms. And in the same ways, going from the time of big stars like Picasso and Elvis to a time of multiple lesser stars, like a whole firmament of them. I want to see it spread even further until every city, every town has its artists who are doing what they do. I see it like the old-time bands and bluegrass bands that have fan bases where they live and nearby. Artists, too, having fan bases around where they live. We have several artists living here now doing some really beautiful work. But there's not much fan base. It's slow to grow, esp when economy is on the slippery slope. It's a time that I believe if one were to pay attention to what's going on in New York galleries, the paintings, the sculpture, the art all the way around, I'd guess it's gestating about like the Dada period in Zurich, Switzerland, during WWI, the only place in Europe the war wasn't happening. The artists who became the Dadaists went to Zurich as draft dodgers. In a period of 6 months a dozen or so young artists started as if there had been no art before them, went off into whatever happened, chance, breaking down form to bare bones, creating an entirely new aesthetic. Over the next half century, artists around the world collectively went through phases the Dadaists went through in the 6 month evolution of wide open experimenting. It was like they performed a ritual that became the evolution of art over the next half century.
I don't like to pay too close attention to what is current in New York for the same reason I don't pay any attention to the New Yorker. There is more in New York I want to see than I could see if I lived there and had the money to pay. I see in New Yorker a show happening at some museum or gallery, interesting off-off-Broadway theater. I can't stand it knowing something is happening like the greatest show of Brancusi sculpture ever shown in one place. I'd faint to the floor seeing something like that happening and I can't go see it, because I can't afford to and I don't want to drive to NY and definitely not IN NY. New York City I block out of my mind because I don't want to know what's going on there. It makes me ache inside too much. Plus, I tend to think NY artists are onto something I don't get, they've got something I don't have, they're progressive and I'm not. When I pay no attention to NY art it doesn't bug me. My inner critic isn't berating me for painting people such that you can recognize the individual. I like abstractions and like painting them, but feel like I communicate better with recognizable images. Besides, I like painting portraits. I'm painting mountain musicians and that's all it is. I don't want any of them to leave the county, but know some will and must. But their spirit is this county. I don't believe they have any meaning in another county. I don't want them to.
Turning into the parking lot at the BROC office I saw in the tiny slip of lawn beside the highway a Red Grooms tropical fish on a stick next to a Christo wrapped hydrant. I don't have to go to NY. It's everywhere. It's in the scrap metal outside Maxwell Equipment in Whitehead. Sometimes I think when I drive by how wonderful it would be to take all of it to New York and spread it out and pile it up on a gallery floor, calling it an installation. Of the installations I've seen in NY, this one actually has something to say with circles, straight lines, squares, blacks, oranges, white, red, yellow scattered throughout with absolutely no aesthetic consideration. Pure Art. It's Maxwell Equipment tradition. I've taken a lot of pictures in the past of Jr's scrap metal installations over the last several years. The part I like best about the scrap metal collection is that it's practical. It's where he can get steel to weld with to repair whatever comes in the door. Jr thought I was nuts, and he was right.
He thought he was nuts too. He was. One evening at the table with our drams he said to me in earnest, "I'm full of shit." He meant his whole life he was a prankster, joking, laughing, picking much of the time. He meant it at a deeper level too. I felt I understood how he meant it. It told me his wisdom wasn't as much a concern to him as his mistakes. I felt he dwelled too much there, but it was also his humility, not allowing himself to acknowledge he had something as big as wisdom. He wouldn't hear of it. Wisdom is only in the Bible. In his own eyes, he was a fool. He made a good case for it too. One I couldn't refute. But I can make an equally convincing case for his wisdom, but he'd never hear of it. He let me take pictures of his abandoned work benches piled with tools he used to use. It amused him. City mind in the country. I know that so well. It's who I am. Can't help it. City educated, my time in the mountains has been my post-graduate education in what it means to be an American. In these mountains I've found what's left of the real thing.