Different Times — Part 2

Thoughts by Layla

If we are to imagine our times through art today, what would that look like?  What could modern art possibly say about us today?  Are these only thought-provoking questions for the curious minds amongst us?  Looking back on Norman Rockwell and the legacy he left us was of a time quainter, perhaps somewhat innocent, but also quite patriotic.  Rockwell’s paintings become a collage of a time past, a moment caught on canvas, a look, a touch, a feeling, a memory – the tempo of a nation and what its people stood for.  Do we have such an artist today?  Follow me where my writing partner left off. 

Across the nation, the 1970s art world was shaken by reverberations from the social and political climate ignited in the previous decade-though the ideas proliferating in the realm of art-making were still tethered to formalist concerns and intellectual inquiry.  Instead of depicting life and politics in a way the Rockwell always had they chose a different route. Reflecting on ecological perils, many contemporary artists have become climate activists, using their work as a platform to raise awareness and imagine a more sustainable future. The art of our times has lost a personal touch, and innocence that has been lost that no one can even compare the two – it is a dichotomy.

by Robert Indiana

One such rebellion, forever imprinting itself, is the period of 70s art. Such a historical time, influenced by the late 60s social events and challenges to the system, produced some of the most thought-provoking ideas. Owing the birth of new concepts to the hippie movement and student protests of the previous decade, art was forever changed. Americans had their own ideas about the Golden Age and Robert Indiana was the one, who gave it a pictorial face. This piece represents the mocking tone of its creator for America’s future vision. The painting defined the political air of its time. Robert Indiana also incorporated a phrase into this painting, written by Benjamin Franklin, “In free governments, the rulers are servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” This was to depict that when you are a nation, the power lies with the people of the land and not its rulers.

Do societies imitate their art, or is it the other way around?  When we look at art today, what do we see?  Do we discern healthfulness, happiness, contentment, hopefulness, and clarity — or something opposite?  Rockwell’s art seemed to reflect his time, and what he saw in American society.  The viewer may not agree with Rockwell, of course — everyone has their own opinion.  Rockwell’s reality (or mine) may be completely foreign to someone looking at art. Looking at the work of modern artists, what do we see?  Does modern art reflect contemporary society, or does it reflect the artist?  Or both?

By Atsuko Tanaka

Norman Rockwell died in 1978; he was 84 years old.  In the 1970s, artists reflected the social and political reverberations of the 1960s.  The hippie and protest movements gave us a proliferation of art making — a communal or collectivist endeavor — and a different set of social priorities: ecological perils, climate activism, mind-numbing sky-is-falling scenarios.  What was its result — in art?  Shown left, a work by Atsuko Tanaka in 1976, now on exhibit at the de Sarthe Gallery.

Andres Serrano (b. 1950) (below right) is an American photographer and artist who pursues what the art world calls “transgressive art.”  His work includes photographs of corpses and bodily fluids.  His ultimate disgrace (my opinion, of course) was his “piss christ” (1987).  When conservative politicians attacked Serrano for producing filth labeled as art; The New York Times defended Serrano in the name of “artistic freedom.”  The piss christ photograph sold for $277,000 in 1999.  Apparently, there is a demand for filth.

Andres Serrano

Interestingly of all the artwork I looked through on the internet I could not find enough artistic content to pictorially portray while avoiding copyright infringements.  What I did find, however, saddened me.  What I found was not beauteous or reinforcing.  It was disgusting and given how much the world has changed since the days of Norman Rockwell, depressing. What I had hoped would begin as a succulent montage of “artist and imagery” of how our nation is depicted through art fell sadly short of noteworthy.  The images were gory and hateful.  The images were cold and filled with anger.  People’s faces were no longer kind but pained with sorrow and hate all rolled up onto the canvas of the artist and their imagery of today’s society.  The days of Norman Rockwell are gone but let us be grateful for the wonderful gift of art he left us.  The beautiful images of time in this nation were captured through the eyes of a man who understood the times when our nation was that “Beacon on a Hill.”

8 thoughts on “Different Times — Part 2

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  1. I recommend you watch Adam Curtis’ documentary on “The Century of the Self” and “HyperNormalisation” if you wish to discover the reasons behind many of these artistic changes.

    In summary, it shows that “art” has taken an “inward” turn and concentrates on expressing the inner desires of the artist him/her-self. Rather than rationally produced idyliic visions like that of Rockwell, it is now infused with the irrational dreams and desires of civilization’s repressed “discontents”.

    Or perhaps this is all just my own bias’ coming forward towards “surrealistic art” which fuses rational desires with irrational “appearances” in what has been called by Salvador Dali, a paranoiac critical vision.

    Regardless, it’s a stimulating subject to think about. Thanks you for the inspiration Mustang/Elizabeth!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ps – The Century of the Self documentary also explains to a great extent the US Congress’ panic after the events of January 6. They desperately need to prevent the economic political decoupling between democracy and authoritarianism, the very decoupling they refuse to face in their dealings with mainland China.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. FJ wrote, “In summary, it shows that “art” has taken an “inward” turn and concentrates on expressing the inner desires of the artist him/her-self [Emphasis mine].”

    You describe here my sentiments exactly and why now I am no longer interested in pursuing art on a personal level as a former artist or as an art historian. Of course, I would never discourage learning, but for me, I have seen so much “personal interpretation” and “self-inflating egos” that art just simply sickens me in many ways.

    It is not that I am against personal interpretation, we do this in writing at times, but for me, art goes as far as to represent one’s self at times rather than reflect our society. Art is a very personal genre as is writing. My sisters are very excellent artists, but they are not trying to reflect the politics of the times unless of course they were commissioned to. I imagine when one is commissioned to do a project you want to understand the subject matter and then capture that unto canvas.

    Some years ago, actually, thirty years ago I was commissioned to do a piece of artwork, acrylic on canvas for my doctor’s wife. Sad to say I did not fail but his wife totally misrepresented what I had painted and there became a rift in our friendship. She said that the woman in the painting looked like me. She did not, but that was her interpretation, and accused me of being on an ego trip to believe I would paint myself and expect her to put it in her living room.

    Honestly, the work was abstract, black on shades of red. The face was really rather non-descript. I could not imagine how she saw me in it as no one else did. Later her mother told me that even she told her she was being ridiculous. I do not know what happened to the picture she did not return it as it was a gift (I liked the doctor and his wife and wanted to bless them so I refused money for it). More than likely it ended up in the trash. For this and many other reasons not mentioned here is when I decided art was selfish for both painter and receiver and I chose not to be part of it or have anything to do with it. I never painted again and have written ever since.


    1. My father was USAF. We were stationed in Madrid from 1959-62, where my father picked up painting. He very much self-identified as an artist, and photographed and then painted many landscapes and city scenes from our life in Spain. He didn’t paint much in California from ’62-66 or Caracas ’66-70, but when he retired back in California in 1970, he attended SJSU and got a “fine arts” degree. He then painted for a while, and eventually opened up his own art gallery (The Begonia Gallery) in s small town on the California coast. He didn’t do very well, and closed it after 2-3 years of struggling sales. I have a few pictures of some of his paintings on my “Farmers Letters” and “Thersites” blogs.

      His “theory of art” was that he needed to produce a painting a day so that it could be sold for a “reasonable price”. It was very “commercially” oriented, and so, IMO, never successful, because IMO the art never got really good. He didn’t spend the 10,000 hours it takes to really develop a minimal “mastery” over his paint pallet.

      I still have a number of his painting, but my favorites are still stored in an old filing cabinet and represent some Japanese figures done in a more ‘classical’ Japanese style (he had been stationed in Japan from 1950-52 before I was born). Eventually I’ll spend the $1,000 I need to properly frame the tryptic, but until then, in the file cabinet it will stay. He died about 3 years ago.

      My father wanted desperately to express himself, and painting was his means for accomplishing that goal, “letting it all out”, so to speak. I believe we all need outslets for self expression. Writing seems to be yours and Mustangs. Your work is very good. It takes lots of time and effort to become “refined” enough for most “commercial” tastes though. I hope you stick with it, and perhaps become famous one day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting life you have led, and I think I would have liked your father. I hope you do frame his work, one day.

    Yes, one is never too old or too young to be famous. If you read my one comeback post from December I wrote that I wanted to be famous like Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter back in the mid-to-late 2000s, but after Obama won I just stopped blogging. It was too hard to deal with. Not the writing but our politics.

    I said in that post that this time I was coming back blogging for the right reasons, to express my views and to write for me and that I wanted to attract right and left viewership to have civil dialogue. I no longer need to be famous, I just want to be heard and respected. Character and respect are far more valuable than fame my friend. But I do thank you for the kind words and the kind wishes.


    1. I was a Michelle Malkin follower back when she was writing for the Seattle Times around 2000. She had a lot of moxy back then. I’ve kinda lost track of her since.

      Blogging has always been something to keep me busy and entertained whilst I’m supposed to be working. I’ve consider myself a “troll’s troll”. My blogs have always been “bait and switch zones” for luring Left wing trolls off of sites that I enjoy, like AoW’s. I try and suck them over to one of my blogs and detain them there and “entertain” them so that they aren’t trolling others and ruining their blogs. I could care less about mine.

      I occasionally make a semi-friend out of some of them.

      Some people find my blogging style a trifle bit annoying, as I keep my posts short and can spread them out over 5-10 sequential postings so if I become too big of a drag on yours, let me know and I”ll try and be less obnoxious.

      Liked by 1 person

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