Tuesday, July 29, 2008

2. On Being An American Painter

In the film, "Touch the Sound," buried in the "extras" is a short piece of film of Evelyn Glennie visiting a Bow maker (as in bow and arrow) in Japan. To the Japanese shooting a bow and arrow is a ritual, not a sport. It is an art form rather than a feat of skill. The bowman dresses in ritual garb, he uses a handmade bamboo bow with handmade arrows. The object is not to hit the target perfectly, the target is only there to stop the arrow. The object is to contemplate the artistry and beauty of the weapons, to show strength, steadiness, calm, firmness in the archer. When a Japanese archer draws his bow all eyes are on the archer, - where the arrow lands in the target is of secondary importance.

In America just the opposite is true. For Americans the target is the only thing. To hit the center of the target is the absolute goal of all American archers. Their bows are manufactured out of aluminum, titanium, whatever metal works best, They have recurve bows, compound bows, bows with counter weights, sights, and they use aluminum arrows, all made in factories by machines. Because the object is to hit the center of the target, no one watches the archer, they only watch the target so that a winner or loser can be determined. America is grounded in winning. Winning is the only thing Americans think about. Winners are everything, losers are nothing.

In American art the same dynamic is in play. Those artists who sell for the highest prices, are praised by the critics, are shown in the top museums; they are the “Art” winners. All the rest are non-artists, - they are just losers trying to make art.

Also in America all emphases is placed on the paintings, like the American archer's emphases is on hitting the target. However, for me the emphasis is on the act of painting. Like the Japanese archer I concentrate on being an artist, not on the painting produced. For me my paintings are like the Japanese archer's target,- just something to catch the paint.

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