There are so many (still) relevant points about art, artists, modern society, and their role in it in Suzi Gablik’s book “Has Modernism Failed?”. One of the themes she pursues is the detachment of the artist from a mystical or divine role in our society, their work in modern times being considered purely from a personal and individualistic motive. She says, “Modern mass culture has tried very hard to avoid the moral and spiritual aspects of human living, and affluence has become the major alternative to religious renewal.”
But during my walk at sunset today, I was not the only person marveling at and taking pictures of the sky. I think that the role of art right now, the old role, is under ground, practiced at a private level. It may not be “hip” by the extremely market-oriented, “money + fame = success” standards of these times, but it survives.
Alfred Stieglitz, who Gablik quotes in Chapter 4, “Bureaucratization, The Death of the Avant-Garde,” opened the Secession Gallery in 1905 with no publicity. “Those who love and understand and have the art-nose will find their way,” he said. I think all meaningful work, work that has soul, that has a relevant take on the human experience, and transcends time will continue to be made in spite of cultural trends in opposition to these qualities and drive. Perhaps, I’ll even suggest, that the time away from the spotlight and pressure to conform is necessary for this art to take shape, and sheltered from all of the irrelevant noise, the artist is truly free to serve the spirit.