Somehow took me until now to crack open Orwell’s 1984, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a few days later, SOPA/PIPA freaked the free thinking world out enough that Wikipedia decided it needed to step in with their nationwide exercise in hypothetical imagination. “The Information Age” is a common phrase for the current generation, but seeing the commodity itself get witheld from the public was a sight to behold. Sometimes it was appropriately frightening. Other, rare, times it was actually entertaining.
Orwell’s foresight was embodied not only in his work, but in his life. Winston, his character in the novel, dealt with the same catch-22 that he did: that if anybody found his writings in the present state of things, it would be destroyed, and if things changed, nobody would find it relevant. While he was working on his novel, I wonder if fiction was already starting to be compartmentalized intellectually and tossed aside as pseudo-reportage on real contemporary issues. I wonder if he knew how accurate his diagnosis was, and also the apparent futility of his medium: the fiction novel.
Perhaps the world that we now live in, the world that allowed SOPA/PIPA to even be seriously proposed and manifested as a real threat, could have been amended earlier due to a culture that corporately took works of literature and art seriously. Work that was engaging about these current issues decades ago. It seems like many people on the sidelines who like to think they have a realistic perspective on these issues don’t think the internet can really be censored. However, it’s safe to assume Orwell wouldn’t be one of them. Reading has always been crucial, but now, maybe it should also be called dire.
There is a very popular belief going around that humanity is basically good, the nature of people is on the whole very positive, and that the real capacity for evil is reserved for very rare occasions of bad nurture. A recent bloggingheads vlog went as far as to explain a few “reasons” why Charles Darwin completely solved the “problem of evil” and why some people don’t even possess the capacity for extreme wrongdoing.
The symptoms reflected in Art throughout the ages have shown evidence that often depict a different story. Countless artists have directly responded to their experience of the world and humanity, weaving a rich history of outcries against a deep brokenness. A brokenness that fewer and fewer people seem to be willing to admit is there, while it’s symptoms are masked away.
Edward Keinholz. 5 Car Stud. (1969-72).
Beatdown captured on Youtube. (2012).
Most of my childhood I thought art was fascinating, but essentially recreational. There wasn’t much of an art scene in Hawaii, and no community I was a part of ever really acted like art could be a source of prophetic wisdom. Sadly I am starting to notice themes, as if they were new and shocking to this day, that have been recurring for ages. Art is a proven accurate means of reading the times. If it communicates that everything isn’t in fact fine, and people do indeed need revelation daily, it’s not something that we can simply stroke our chins at and then drive home to forget.
María de los Remedios Varo Uranga was a Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter. She was friends with the Kahlo and Rivera, yet remained in close contact with many overseas exiled artists, such as Leonora Carrington. She was fascinated with ideas held by philosophers such as Carl Jung, and also held a keen interest in concepts such as sacred geometry and alchemy. It’s noted that in general, the male surrealists did not respect their female artists in the same style, and the women needed to work within the restrictions of the conceptions of women within the confines of the art form in order to attempt redefinition. Varo’s work often features her characters in seclusion or isolation, perhaps as a response to reflect these themes. From a technical standpoint, it’s observed that her work often focuses on line and form, whereas perhaps Carrington is known more for her color and tone.
Leonora Carrington was a British born Mexican surrealist painter, who lived most of her life in Mexico city. Her first big exhibition was in 1947 in New York City, after which she essentially became instantly successful. Her work depicts dreamlike visions of mythic, pseudo religious/occult imagery and folklore. Carrington, also a successful author, had quite a few dramatic personal stories herself, including running away with established and married artist Max Ernst, suffering abusive treatment in a mental hospital after Ernst was captured in the wake of WWII, and then remarrying to a friend of Picasso, then again to one of Robert Capa’s darkroom assistants, making friends with other artists along the way. Definitely a formidable creative force in the Surrealist movement, as both painter and writer.
Katy Horan creates some beautifully haunting imagery with gouache paint and a well researched background of mythic stories, women’s roles through history, and film language. Her artist statement provides a good primer for her work, but that is not to say that she needs a lengthy intellectual preface for the average person to enjoy it. I find it all as accessible as it is memorable, and judging by her impressive resume of featured appearances, most contemporary art magazines and blogs seem to have a similar opinion.