Hungry for Great Art

Hunger for art: August 13, 2013

Living in a provincial, southernmost, cultural backwater, I hunger for a profound experience of art. The internet can bring me miniatures of great images, but, museums are stingy with the size, fearing illegal reproduction. Yet, one can photograph the work in a museum, in most cases, without restriction, except for flash. Thus, just before I moved from New York, I made a beautiful photographic series of Buddha sculptures in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, I went throughout the museum photographing everything which was precious to me, for the purpose which drives all collectors: to hold onto that ineffable something which great art exudes, which touches our deepest thoughts and feelings.

Those Buddhas sit, in the format of enlargements, on my mantelpiece, where I installed them after one of our recent, violent, repeated, national tragedies. I look at them every time I pass though the room. I am not a Buddhist, but the calm beauty of their emotive power keeps me from shattering into a million pieces.

And, isn't that what art is really for? To keep us alive, spiritually, against all the blows of daily existence? To counter the irrational?

Yet, here, in Jacksonville, Florida, for instance, the Cummer Museum which could bring significant art exhibitions to the city, spends its limited funds on external, cosmetic features. Art resides in the back alley, as it were, while the socialites exchange their usual banalities in the new restaurant up front. Corporate leadership reasoning, which believes in paring down the essentials, maximizing on "image" to drive numbers of "consumers," is magnetically drawn to "strategic plans" which stress building projects instead of scholarship and connoisseurship. It was not always this way.

So, my hunger, as a seriously-thinking artist, grows, with no sustenance,
nor hope of any. Just as a marriage needs the stimulation of renewed energy to keep love alive, so does an artist need the visual dialogue with great art to keep growing as an artist. Even an older, experienced artist can learn from the masters. For therein lies the realm of possibilities.

Jacksonville has none that I can see for a thinking artist.