Aesthetic Polytheism

Thoughts while alone in the studio…

I enjoy aesthetic polytheism, and I am suspicious of most curatorial interpretations. Someone’s always got an axe to grind regardless of what was in the artists’ mind. I never really know what to say when asked What’s your art about?. I usually want to talk about how I made it, because I really like the making; but that never seems to satisfy, in fact it appears to demystify, and the asker walks away with an impression that I am a mere tinkering intuitive. Kind of an idiot child. I am afraid to tell them what I think it might be about, I rarely begin something with any sense of certainty of meaning, that might emerge later, sometimes years later, in the rearview mirror meaning might crystalize. I’m afraid to tell them that I think I am making magic, because that’s pretty uncool these days. I might talk about some ideas about my lived experiences, about being gay, growing up poor and graduating to middle class with lots of debt and an unfulfilled sense of entitlement, or surviving the 1980s AIDS crisis through an adolescent blur; but no matter how intrigued the asker may appear, I suspect that they could care less what I lived through. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when they get that eyes-glazed-over look, because my ideas about what I think I am doing when I make a painting, or a sculpture, or whatever, sometimes don’t translate.

I think my best work is often confounding to myself, and to others; meaning slips through fingers. Form and craft are important to me, and meaning, if it holds, can be really cool too, but I’m really interested in beauty. A Lot of people seem to be afraid of that. Afraid of the destabilizing nature of art that uses beauty to celebrate marginality. On the reactionary right, they default to feeling threatened; suspicious of images, and the ideas within them that may undermine their sense of their position in the world. It is probably why the Taliban immediately white washed all the delightful community murals in Kabul, or why some uptight Mormon took a paint roller to white out all the nipples and groins on the billboard advertising the Chippendale Dancers, just outside Salt Lake City. Perhaps it is an extension of the protestant iconoclasm that lingers within western culture, particularly in the United States. On the left, there is an equally hysterical suspicion of beauty, probably because they correctly see beauty as a threat to their authority as interpreters of meaning. I sometimes stumble around the halls of academia, and there I have noticed many professorial types who are afraid of beauty. I notice it by their silence on the subject, or their inordinate disdain for craft and form and a perverted need to force interpretations of everything they see, laying on some heavy socio-political readings, like repressed horny monks operating from the neck up within a puritanical culture of their own making. I imagine that these silences hiding disdain are an indication that they know that they can’t compete with the sublime. That art is a force that destabilizes certainties and threatens to change the world around us, perhaps by changing the ideas within us.

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