During my college years artist Audrey Flack came to lecture at our school and left a huge impression on me. I remember that time being so charged with possibility, and myth and a higher significant meaning surrounded me. After being moved by her lecture, i went to see her smaller work at the gallery. One piece was most special to me. An Egyptian Rocket Goddess. (I was obsessed with everything in that title at the time) Without noticing someone snapped my photo which appeared in the paper the next day. Notice both the Egyptian Rocket Goddess and I wear an identical turquoise scarab around our necks.
After coming across this old photo i decided to post selections from "Art and Soul- notes on creating" by Audrey Flack. I love her emphasis on pulling from the ancient and the new. She too believes art should be timeless, and that comes from an inner truth.
The Avant Avant-Garde
We have become conditioned to think of the avant-garde as noisily disruptive, violent, chaotic, and angry. When the dadaists placed a latrine in the entryway of a gallery, it was a shoching event. Now it would hardly be noticed. Shock and disturbance surround and engulf us. We all watched with horror as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on television — A LIVE DEATH — before our eyes. Simulated death and violence are everywhere. What we thought of as the avant-garde has become commonplace— a titillation for the bored, entertainment for the masses in the museums and galleries. The new avant-garde will be the antithesis and the antidote to these violent enterprises. It will not conform to trend or fashion. It will be restorative; it will create order and seek balance.
Great art is in balance, in harmony. Disease is dis-ease. Out of balance, out of harmony. Art that is in balance and harmonious is restorative, soothing, and healing. Chaotic, disruptive art without any inherent order or balance can be damaging. The act of producing disturbing art can be temporarily therapeutic for the artist in getting rid of anxiety and expelling bad feelings. The effect of such images on the viewer is another matter.
The healing qualities of art are not just the concerns of twentieth-century “new age” fanatics, but have always been part of the concerns of the masters. Henri Matisse said: What I dream of is an art of balance, or purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters. For example a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatique”
From Picasso, a pivotal figure, to the present, the art world has been burdoned with the seeming irreversibility of profane liniar time. New “in” galleries, dealers, and artists appear every year, only to be replaced by another fashionable group next year. The very essence of great art is its ability to cut through time. In The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade states that primative man believed that an object or act became real only insofar as it imitated or repeated another’s ritual act. Inherent in the imitation of archetypes and in the repetition of paradigmatic gestures is that, in this way, time was abolished. A current sacrifice, for example, not only reproduces the initial sacrificeat the begining of time, but it also takes place at the same primordial, mythical moment; every sacrifice repeats the original sacrifice, and coincides with it. All sacrifices are performed at the same mythical instant of the beginning. Through the paradox of rite, profane time and duration are suspended. What we discover in probing archaic rites and rituals is the willingness to devalue time. Carried to their extreme, all the rites and all the behavior patterns would be contained in the statement “If we pay no attention to it, time does not exist.” Contemporary man has worshiped time and become a slave to it by establishing a cult of originality, a cult of the new, denying past influences and tearing down historic architecture. If time consists of the past, present, and future, and the art that we create is only the new, with no inclusion of the past, then it too shall not have a past or a future.
The shaman cures not only the individual but the entire community as well, by bringing it together and extending perimeters and boundries. All rules are suspended during ritual act, and a balance is created between this world and the supernatural one. The whole shamanistic structure of our civilization fell apart with the collapse of the classical techniques of art. Just as shamanic techniques were passed on from master to student, so too were artistic techniques passed on from master to apprentice in studio workshops, academies, and ateliers. (Leonardo, for instance, apprenticed for many years with Verrocchio, honoring his master.) These techniques brought human beings to respect their own material plane. The shamanic culture and classical academies have fallen apart. Individuals are inventing their own rituals, working without respect or regard for their masters, often without a knowledge of them. Art has become a form of personal remedial therapy. The academy provided a sense of belonging to something greater than oneself. Now everyone is seperate, competing and desperate. This leads to the war of all against all. Artists can act as shamans by extending their boundaries to encompass the needs and aspirations of the community. Artists can then work collaboratively, without competition, for the benifit (or healing) of the community.
Question: Given the difficulties connected with the life of an artist, should I continue with my career? Answer: Art is a calling. It is something you do because you have to. Artists are the shamans, the priests and priestesses the magicians of society. Only a few make a living from their art. If you have this calling, you will continue. If not, your life will gradually move toward another career. But whichever way you go, don’t sacrifice your life or the quality of it. Enjoy life, live it to the fullest—whatever that may mean to you. There is something wrong when the making of art destroys the texture of your life. Don’t let that happen to you. Change the context and structure in which the art is made and exhibited. Recognize that there is something wrong with society ( the “art world” as it is today) and don’t lose your energy to it.
Art is a calling. Artists are not discovered in school. Artist did not just paint for themselves, and they don’t simply paint for an audience. They paint because they have to. There is something within the artist that has to be expressed. Every creation reveals something more about the universe and about the artist. Some artists surface earlier than others, but all are born to the calling. We share a common language and a common love of our masters, and although we often take issue with one another, we are all family.
It almost doesn’t matter what you paint. It is what takes place during the act of painting that matters. It doesn’t matter what style or technique you usa. It is the artistic result and personal development that count. The act of painting is a spiritual covenant between the maker and the higher powers. The intent of the artist flows through the work of art, no matter what the technique or style.
Question: How can I get my work out? Answer: Find new sources for exhibiting. Don’t rely on the old power structure. Find new sources in the community. All artists cannot exhibit in New York City. Where you are is good. Build up your own area, particularity if there is a weak cultural community. They need you for their vision. All Italian artists did not go to Rome. There were Venetians, Florentines, Umbrians, Sienese. Regionalism is important.
When you make a mistake and take it out, you can’t just leave it; you have to get the painting back into some kind of shape, in order to work on it the next day. Mistakes have a biology, they are not simply erased. The erasing of the mistake, words or paint, doesn’t return the space to a blank.