“Boplicity,” 20″ x 24″, acrylic on canvas,
copyright 2017, Molly Larson Cook
I read a question the other day on one news site or another, a question about art. I’ll paraphrase here, but it went something like this: “With all the craziness going on in the world and in the United States, all the corruption and politics, threats of war or actual war, why does art matter?”
My first thought in my often smart-alecky way was “Well, it keeps a lot of us busy in our studios and off the streets.” My cardio doc would add that it keeps a lot of us healthy. Only the Fortunate Few would say that it makes anybody rich.
On one level, I understand the question. But on another level, it makes no sense to me. It’s kind of like saying “With all the craziness going on in the world and in the United States, all the corruption and politics, threats of war or actual war, why does eating matter?”
There’s a sense of fatalism in this question about art and another more bothersome sense that art has no value. That we should be stewing and fretting about serious matters instead of indulging in the frivolities of art.
I’m reminded of a moment during the Cold War when Richard Nixon went on the air to say that if there was an enemy attack, he would come on television to reassure Americans. A kid somewhere in America apparently responded to this by saying that all things considered if the bomb was going to be dropped, he’d just as soon watch “I Love Lucy” reruns. Amen to that.
But joking aside, art matters even more in desperate times because it reminds us while the economy goes to hell in a hand cart that there is, indeed, still beauty in the world. Art is the joie de vivre of the human animal, the human spirit. And there’s something for everybody.
Landscapes, portraits, still lifes, sculptures, collages, abstract expressionism and more. It’s a free camp. From Damien Hirst’s colored circles to Monet’s garden, from O’Keeffe’s sex-on-a-stem flowers to Whistler’s mama just a’sittin’ and a’rockin’. From the caves of Lascaux to Venus on the Half Shell (I say this lovingly). From the Mona Lisa to the drawing your kid posted on the refrigerator.
Joie de vivre!
Let the naysayers try to steer us ever thus to the serious business of life. It is the artists who will always be there to keep us on the wide and playful side of life. They’ll inspire us, delight us, annoy us, confuse us, offend us, make us think and laugh and wonder.
In troubled times, and baby we got ’em, art is our defense and our protection against the slings and arrows of the serious business of life, the 24-hour news cycle, our dwindling retirement accounts, arrogance and pomposity and meanness.
I’m off now to finish preparations for my own art show. I’ll be delivering the paintings tomorrow, “The Colors of Jazz,” my small contribution to help counteract all that’s going wrong in the world today. If the paintings make even one person feel better about things, I’ll call it a success.