Has life changed since March of 2020.
For a long time my artwork was something I did exclusively for myself, and I thought that given the way fortunes go in the “art world” and my suspicions about most groups of people functioning in it, I probably would continue to do it for myself for the remainder of my life.
But two years ago I was given an opportunity to apply my skills at a place I have been working at for more than 20 years, and even within that short amount of time, I have been able to contribute some useful and evocative things already to help the water cause for the population we serve.
I don’t think I ever had any remote hope of being able to assist at work like this. Nor to apply my background of drawing, painting and video in a way that is not typical of government organizations (i.e. artistically more functional that anything else). But even if this opportunity does not last a long time (after all, I am already eligible for retirement, and my health struggles have only gotten more complicated since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2010), it will have given me a sense of satisfaction and edification to have been able to use these artistic skills for an important and helpful purpose. It will also prove to me that an artist can indeed serve the larger community in a way that is neither a reflection of our materialistic bent, nor our navel-gazing tendencies, and still make good art.
The challenge to find a place for art-making in the U.S. which isn’t situated at the foot of purely making money no matter how, nor a self-centered endeavor divorced from everything except the view of one’s own navel, is for sure a challenge. From what is covered in the news and trumpeted on social media and in organizations who have the loudest voices declaring what ART IS, there does not seem to be any validity in any other approaches from what an average person can tell, even one who clearly wasn’t born yesterday. As for my take, I continue to feel uncomfortable in many established circles because of my first generation immigrant and mixed cultural background, which has always made me feel like an an outsider wherever I have lived and whatever I have been doing – and yes, even in artistic circles. However, there are fundamentally important conditions for living which break down these barriers, and unite people to work together to overcome the constant challenges of life. These require solutions which only the energy and drive of a collective can provide.
In short, I don’t have any interest in being completely isolated from regular life, regular society – I can function in it, even with my feeling of being different because of my background and upraising, and the independent thinking that has resulted from my disposition in conjunction with them. If I can carve out a piece of time to help make a difference, help create a smoother experience in this existence for everyone, even if for a period of time, by using skills I feel passionate about, I have to do it. I understand that this may not be everyone’s artistic path, but this is an important part of mine. And furthermore, it’s a legitimate one, public coverage of it, or not, via the Art Authorities – on both an artistic and moral level.