Friday, 13 June 2014

Down With Hudak and Arrogant Artists

When this article appeared in the Chronicle Journal on June 12, election day, editorial staff altered the first paragraph in order that the paper appear more impartial. Thankfully the Liberals, with a great record of funding the arts, won a majority yesterday and pummelled the Conservatives. The vast majority of Ontario's citizens did not buy into the Conservative's retarded plan.

     Over a hundred and sixty thousand jobs were lost in Ontario due to the Great Recession of 2008. It took a long time to get those jobs back. Tonight we learn if the ridiculous Conservative party will be able to enact their mandate to cut a hundred thousand jobs, essentially creating a forced recession. It’s almost inconceivable that a political party would think that cutting so many jobs now would be a good idea, so soon after a major recession. It doesn’t seem to be politically or economically sane. It is blindly arrogant and mean spirited.
      The Ontario Arts Council’s Northern Arts Program, which has benefited Northwestern Ontario could also get the axe, along with many other arts programs if the Conservatives win power. Often a political hot topic and target, artistic ventures are seen by some as a luxury to delight elitists who are out of touch with “ordinary” Canadians. Politicians like Rob Ford use the arts as a wedge issue encouraging an “us against them” mentality.
     A society can’t survive without art. We would be able to survive without galleries, but some of the artists who hang their work there are also known to create imagery for nearly everything else your eyes see on TV, the movies, in books, magazines, newspapers, billboards, advertising, etc. And your car, couch, kitchen, hockey jersey, placemat, hair, tattoo, birthday card, cereal box, curtains, wallpaper, office space, chair, etc. etc. are all created by similarly talented people. Many of who go to galleries, many inspired by what they see.
     Art is an intrinsic and necessary aspect of society that contributes to our economy and mental health, not to mention increasing our ability to communicate with one another creatively and beautifying the world in which we live.
      Sadly, there are artists who are so ideologically driven that they can’t distinguish the difference between creative self-expression and an obligation to be a good citizen. Not helping our cause are artists who can be just as corrupt, arrogant and blindly ideologically driven as any politician.
     In an Ottawa community, Jack Purcell became known as the “stick doctor” because he contributed to his community by fixing hockey sticks and sharpening skates for local kids. A park was refurbished and named after him. A sculpture to honour him was erected, but instead of a sculpture resembling anything like hockey sticks or skates, the designers erected what looked like oversized rods shaped like question marks – or rackets. That’s because Jack Purcell is also the name of a famous badminton player.
     The architectural company submitted the wrong plans to the city, not bothering to do any more research than to Google the name, Jack Purcell. Even so, wouldn’t a description of what was required, details on Jack Purcell be part of the proposal? Wouldn’t any artist/architect visit the community, call a family member, look for appropriate images, an image of the Jack with the kids that Jack helped? Or couldn’t they have come up with an image more creatively and deeply associated to the subject, other than sticks? Of whatever shape? Clearly the city and the architectural company didn’t think much of Jack Purcell.
     In Calgary, although the sculpture has a certain degree of humour to it, sculptors created a giant hoop with streetlights atop. It’s called Travelling Light. This cost the city $470,000.00. The mayor and much of the Calgary public hate it. The sculpture is meant to represent the wheel of a vehicle. The streetlight represents the streets on which the wheels of our cars are connected.
      The two projects are very similar in look and approach. They employ stripping, a modernist inversion technique of removing as much decoration or symbolic association in order to get as purely close to the basics of the subject without distraction. It can create some clean and cool sci-fi looking work, but used poorly and by a lazy artist, it’s an excuse for a lack of imagination and artistic skill. There’s nothing really wrong with the approach, but if all sculpture became this similar people would eventually assume that artists who create public works aren’t really necessary, to all our detriment.
     We artists of all stripes really need much more funding, modernist and popular, fine art and low art, commercial and private. As much as artists need freedom to operate and express themselves, they don’t exist in a bubble, especially when their art is displayed publicly. The Ideology and arrogance of a few artists has the potential to destroy funding for the rest of us, and we have to be thankful because Ontario has been much better than other provinces in supporting the arts. We give a great deal of ammunition to the likes of Hudak, Harper, and Ford when we artists are at our worst.

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