WHAT IS ART'S PLACE in a society where the contestants and judges on "American Idol" are household names, whereas the average American would be hard-pressed to name five contemporary artists (Thomas Kincaid notwithstanding); where music and art programs are routinely cut from public schools for budgetary reasons. What lesson does this teach our present and our next generation regarding the value of art itself and its very reason for existing? Is the education of a largely uneducated public vis-a-vis art the responsibility of the artists who must become de facto teachers as well? Throughout history, art has always been one of the hallmarks of a civilized, progressive society, so what has happened to us here in America at the dawn of the 21st century? How has art become so watered down, so dilluted to the point of being as palatable and easily digested as baby food? Instead of an enthusiastic public of art lovers trying to keep up with the latest artistic directions, it is the artists themselves who through self-censorship and self-monitoring (with an eye fixed on marketability) have weakened and in many cases destroyed the very thing that should be unalloyed and pure. And what of the artists who press on with their singular vision in the face of overwhelming pressure to conform? Instead of being recognized and celebrated as heroic individuals in an age of conformity they are uniformly ignored and often relegated to a marginal existence of obscurity. Well, it is time for both the artists and the public to step up to the plate. For the artist, to forego the cheap and easy successes in favor of the grander vision. For the public, to demand more of themselves (and of the artists), and to realize that art is not made in a vacuum and that they (the public) are a part of this continuum of artistic expression. By supporting the arts and indeed the artists, by buying their work and putting it on their walls they are keeping the artists alive, and helping them and art itself to flourish.
This essay was reprinted from the very first issue of SAMIZDAT (April/May 2007) because the message it conveys is as timely as ever.
For a further inquiry into the state of modern art please check out "ART GALLERY 101".