San Diego — Well, 2012 is a thing of the past, of history, a thing whose events and news items will be spun, debated, loved, hated, cheered, boo’d, for many years to come. It saw a political campaign notable mostly for its ugliness and total lack of substance including an inexplicable avoidance of real issues. If it truly fielded the two best men America could come up with to run for its leader, an enscounced amateur true believer playing at politics and opposed by a person who seemed sincere but as if he sincerely wanted to trade places with nearly ANYONE. No wonder we are in such steep decline.
But the sun rose today on the first day of 2013, a chance for new beginnings if we will only take it. On a national scale, I now believe it is too late and that the demographics of this country have so changed to reflect a new majority of soft, entitled, victims-in-their-own-minds, a people openly written about and feared by the very people whose intellects and courage brought this country into being, that the Declaration of Independence is incomprehensible to them on so many level and their fervent desire is for a new Declaration of Dependence. I now think that barring some calamitous event there is no longer a viable road back to a land of self reliance, self-accepted responsibilities and accountabilities, in short, the gate has closed behind the types of people who made this a powerful and good leader of the free world. Third world, or in the near term, second world status here we come… and purposefully so by the leadership. And we did it to ourselves.
But within that changing political realm being slowly but surely transformed into the dreams of our dear leader’s father exactly as he openly wrote about and proclaimed he wanted to do, there yet remains, entering this new year, our own personal lives and at least for a little while our abilities to semi-control them and do with them as we will. At the moment our personal lives are still pretty much within our own control. And even for those things we cannot control, we can still control how we let them effect us, and what we will do about them.
Within the most virulent tyrannies there have been those who still managed, although with greater difficulty, to lead lives of value and worth both to themselves as well as to their friends and families and sometimes, it turns out, to the world itself. And if they could do it from under the boot heel of their government then surely, since we are not yet arrived at so desperate a point, we can do it now. We may no longer be the home of the brave (individual exceptions duly noted) but we are still the land of the mostly free.
For me, personally, the arena of new beginnings can take several forms, but most especially my art and my teaching. Like most artists I do not create imagery because I want to, rather, it is a deep inner itch that must be scratched. I do it because something inside me forces me to do it and makes me crazy (well, crazier than normal) if I do not. A work of fine art does two things to the audience: it generates reflective thought and it engenders an emotional response.
That means of course that the artist had to have those things during the creation process in order to have something to infuse into the piece. And that means they have to keep their sensory, emotional, and intellectual databases as full as possible. Unlike popular myth, they cannot hide out in their squalid little garrets, embracing angst, anguish, and synthetic trauma because though they may have a command of composition and some technical skills, any cerebral and visceral component in their work is as phony as they are. It may be interesting but fine art is a very different product.
I can tell that my own work is in a transition phase. I still see the traditional “grand landscape” but I’m also now feeling the need to use ALL of my art training to explore my subjects’ inner core – at least as I sense it to be. I’m moving away from the more literal documentation to a more personal narrative. I’ve no idea where it will lead visually and artistically but 2013 will be a year to explore it.
So, for me, the art comes first because it is needed to inform my teaching. Indeed I think good teaching is itself a form of art. Being able to have a positive impact on students’ lives and futures is perhaps the most serious form of art one can practice. And consequently I take it very seriously.
An acquaintance of mine on that paragon of infantile interaction and comment, Facebook, who seems completely unburdened by any need to verify facts before he leaps headlong into the most scurrilous accusations about people holding beliefs other than his own, as part of his current cause célèbre du jour asked me if, since I owned guns, I would be willing to use them to face an armed intruder at school. What a rock stupid question to ask of me. I walk with a limp because long ago I was willing to risk everything up to and including my life for something as intangible as my flag and my sense of what my country – at that time at least – stood for. But there is nothing so important to our future than our children. Nothing existing is so in charge of the future than the students of today. Of course I would use my guns to defend them and stand between them and the Devil himself if need be. And I would do the same for people I care about.
But I think in the meantime, what my students deserve, is the best I can give them and so 2013 will see me trying to be better and better at that aspect of my art that is teaching.
So what about you out there in the vastness of cyberspace? Did the sun rise today on a new year and a new resolution of improvement for you? I hope so because if that was the case for more of us then perhaps it will not be too late for the country.