This past year I have been struck by an unshakable artist's block. Unlike previous unproductive phases stemming from lack of creativity, I find myself asking "how does an artist make art today when the world is so broken?" "how can there be art after Ferguson?"
This past week these question become more concerning as the news again is plastered with broken bodies. My question is not one out of neutrality ( as a white, straight, female I feel the need to clarify and acknowledge my privilege), but one coming out of hurt and anger at the system that I live in and perhaps sometimes unconsciously enabled. I feel helpless and tired that the communities that I am a part of, and friends I respect continue to see the issues in black and white rather than through a lens of humanity, where reconciliation could bring about change.
We live in the era of the hashtag, constantly updating to reflect the next tragedy, yet not full encompassing the entirety of the issue. But perhaps these quick snippets is all we can handle because if we go too deep, release ourselves to the progression of paint on canvas, shout out our cries to the Lord through music, or go to the streets in dance, we may drown in the darkness that is our reality.
The World Wars drastically changed the trajectory for the arts. The Dada's explored meaninglessness after there months dug into the trenches. The Surrealists no longer trusted the conscious on its own, realizing that the subconscious could pull and sway, coming out into unexplainable art. The poet Theodor Adorn blatantly wrote that there could be no art after Auschwitz. I am also reminded of the Chicago based Monster Roster, who distorted the figure and expressed pain while much of the US art world had reverted to abstract expressionism. These movement all have in common there lack of concern or perhaps more offensive breakdown of beauty.
The cannon of art history leads me to believe that art will continue to happen even while black men must fear for their lives but it must take on a new form. What that may look like, I, with regrettable curiosity,look forward to finding out. Jackson Pollock once said: “It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.” (interview with William Wright, 1950)
I would like to end with a beautiful piece by Amena Brown, which I came across on a Liturgist podcast a while back but I find new power and relevance in after recent events.
This year has brought us tears and sorrow