HEADLINE! HEADLINE! BIG CITY PROVIDES CADAVERS FOR STUDY!
Let us indulge in plain speak. New York City has been acknowledged
as the center of the visual arts world for more than half of the
20th Century, since the days when European artists came to American
to escape the realities of a Europe which had been tragically
engulfed in wars and societal upheavals. Their mix with Americans
who were seeking a new and unique identity produced the Abstract
Expressionists, and subsequent movements which became identified
with the New York art scene...these styles were quickly and widely
spread by the phenomenon of an evolving and greatly expanding
mid century news media. The days were forgotten which had followed
the notable New York Armory Show of 1913, when Americans realized
they were ranking a lowly second or third to France, the former
center of modern artmaking,
New York! New York! How many images have we seen and heard about
in art history books and classes? Television has shown us the
studios and hangouts of DeKooning and Kline...we have seen Mondrian
relocated...viewed a wigged Warhol...and more recently witnessed
bad boy Schnable and drug addicted Basquiat. We have visited the
honored objects and shrines in situ because our enlarged post
W.W.II highway systems and air transportation have permitted us
to zip across the landscape in mere hours.
We, in the hinterlands, we in the boonies...we the Provincials
have seen it all, have seen them all...have studied their work.
Yes! We owe them much as contributors to our thought, almost as
much as we do the Neanderthals and CroMagons, Sioux and Ojibway,
Ibo and Zulu, Celts, Greeks, monks, Renaissance masters, naives,
mom and dad, and on and on. We have been exposed. We have learned
and gleaned. And, most importantly, amidst the influx of the Worldís
visual wealth, we have also gained permission to utilize our own
lives and experiences from which to derive subject and method.
So, thank you very much...but for those of you who still cling
to New York as the primary source of great art, back off and wake
up! Unlike the growing chain of public art museums with look alike
cookie cutter collections, some of us do not hang on to that cityís
every expression. Our World is actually much bigger than that.
STUDYING THE LARGER FLESH AND BONES
There has been no century providing the wealth of art corpses
we have before us today. Indeed, beginning sometime mid 20th century,
the books, magazines, college art history courses, and public
media belched forth the entirety of the Earthís art graveyard.
The cadavers have been variously treated, some cleaned and cared
for in perpetuity by museums, some tucked away in storage boxes,
many overlooked and forgotten They have been scrutinized, measured,
weighed, and written about in the books of the dead. They are
there for us to learn from. They are our motivaters, our inspirations...our
antecedents and ancestors, our mental food. Sometimes they are
even fed to us while the bodies are still warm thanks to the powerful
media of large cities and the wannabee copycats in our home towns.
And, despite the misgivings implied in this article, it must acknowledged
that New York cadavers can lift our knowledge and certainly be
inspirations to us. We must recognize that part of the morgue
which has been a major focus for artists during the last 60 years
of the 20th Century is that big city focus of attention. We must
admit to reading publications and enriching our eyes with views
of the treasures from New York City.
However, now that some of us are older and less easy to impress,
and now that the planetís cultures have aged decades more,
it must be recognized that we donít all bother to check
the reviews and magazines or the New York gallery guides. Indeed,
if we are continuing to grow and learn we cannot continually cling
to the opinions of others concerning past glories, nor listen
to contemporary barkers attempt to sell their sideshow art. We
now exist with our greatly enlarged personal places and moments,
absorbing from a broad reaching environment and mammoth art history,
expressing our learned knowledge and shared comprehensive past.
We can not believe that the art world of New York City, or Chicago,
or LA, are the only inspirational founts of the Earth. The artists
in those cities have no greater view of , and no greater insights
into, the world at large than we do. In fact, perhaps the tall
buildings block their view and their local art incest breeds only
their local products.
Without doubt, many of my fellow Provincials recognize this as
A PROVINCIAL MANIFESTO
And what province is this, in which I and my fellow artists exist?
It is the Province undelineated by geographical borders. It is
the Province of our private idiosyncrasies. It is the Province
providing us with raw materials that arrive in our hands from
sources close by as well as from distant time and space. It is
the Province of our view.
We have a world-view unlike any previous period and in an art
historical sense, and as an inspirational source, our perspective
on the array that abounds is marvelous. From our high point of
observation we see the blend of sophisticated and primitive thought,
advanced technologies and ancient religions; we are exposed to
knowledge by the network of world wide communication and the ubiquitous
printed word. We make choices between increasingly complicated
experiences and that which is simple and basic. We blend the sophisticated
and naive, advanced and retarded, conscious and unconscious, the
spontaneous and the thoughtful.
Despite our ability and interest in a more comprehensive world
view, it still does appear by expressions and attitudes of some
persons in the various fields of art, whether they be in museum
work, galleries, art criticism, or art production, that the only
clear geographical region that is NOT a province, is New York
City. I, and I hope some others, will differ in that opinion.
It seems to me that New York is also in a Provincial condition.
It is small geographically. It is focused on what is acceptable
within its own borders. It consists of the inbred, those locals
seeking acknowledgment from other locals, with their own regional
promoters of all ilk seeking to stand out in their own nest. The
Great and Small Province of New York City stands alone on its
island...metaphorically and geographically. Who is land locked?
Who is limited?
With the exposure and information to which we all have access
today, we are the World. We are the history of many peoples. We
are scientists, farmers, clergy and aboriginals. We are Prehistoric
and Futuristic. Gone are the days of provincialism and regionalism,
and a limited point of view. Oh! Yes! It may be the case that
some of us are more inspired by the Northern Lights which are
not seen nightly by artists at the equator. It may be that some
of us are intimates of woods and wheat fields as well as the concrete
of cities. And always, the lusts and fears of human men and women
are no less in small towns than they are in a megalopolis. The
human condition links us all, and our condition resides in an
age of information.
Let us recognize that New York City is a limited region in itself
and does not direct our brushes and techniques and themes. We
are of a world that no longer resembles periods of the 1940's
or 60's. Our roots nowadays naturally spread more widely than
that. The sources of our art, and the resultant products of our
thought, are comprehensive, deserving recognition as part of an
expansive current world wide view.
Indeed, let us study the bones and fiber of those preceding us,
and the still living tissue of those abounding on the Earth...but
let us not continue to be intimidated and insulted by persons
who are dependent upon a New York or Chicago or LA for their sense
of worth. Let us rejoice in our personal visions of the world
as we draw on a broader stream of information, producing what
our thoughts and hearts tell us is most important in the larger
place we inhabit. Let us Provincials with a world view each be
a unique product of our age, leaving behind our own peculiar flesh
and bone for future study.
PS POST MORTEM
All artists must acknowledge a debt of gratitude to artists anywhere,
especially in the United States, who are able to gain publicity
in their own time...whether they reside in New York, Milwaukee
or Sheboygan. By such exposure all artists are enhanced a little
bit. The public becomes a little more aware that visual art is
being made, and that some of it has merit, gaining recognition
It is likely that some of us create work which is not deserving
of greater recognition beyond local venues. Perhaps, despite the
nature of our work...brilliant or lackluster... some of us are
too withdrawn and timid to self promote and get our work shown
in more important venues. And then, lady luck hasnít dealt
us a useful hand...we havenít gotten the support of an
institution, notice from a critic, others who are influential,
or a supportive dealer.
Also consider these elements for discussion among us Provincials:
1. A more adventurous and liberal art buying public would be gratifying
2. A local media that put some weight behind more comprehensive
art reporting would be a boon, influencing and informing that
public. How about the local tail wagging the national art dog?
3. An aggressive crowd of more altruistic artists trying to support
other artists in word and action would be helpful...or are you
of the philosophy, "Every man for himself"?
All too soon each one of us will become part of the art graveyard,
and it will hardly matter then if New York or Alpha Centuri were
our inspirations. This is our little time to act, provincial or
not. Let us not merely wait for some future resurrectionist to
expose our graves.
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