Art and Controversy

Why am I painting this?: To learn from Manet about being bold and presenting more than just a painting, but an issue.

I just watched an amazing documentary of Manet, one of the father’s of Impressionism.  His paintings looked like portraits or scenes, but they were more like an editorial of deep political/internal issues of the times with carefully placed figures and object that hold meaning.  Often they were “unacceptable” to be judged by the art society of that day, which put Manet’s entire career on the line.  Still he sought to speak through his paintings, and I think that is a part of what’s missing in my art as well.  A reason.  Often, I paint nature, simply because I love it so much.  However, sometimes a question or issue burns in all of us, and for the artist, it’s his/her job to express.  So, I’m taking the risk of opening myself up to controversial issues and raising questions in others.  If I’m going to be an “artist” with character, I have to be willing to speak.

11x14" Acrylics on canvas panel "Disconnected"

This scene depicts several of what I think are very real issues today.  Modernization and luxury seem to place us in a virtual reality and disconnect us with the original sources of information.  There are four subjects in this painting: God (presented as the sun), Religion/Spirituality (presented as Christ), People, and Technology.  All of these are in one location connecting them, but they are disconnected.  There are three sources of illumination, nature, spirituality and technology, all three which may present an entire set of beliefs for different people.  While nature and spirituality depend on the sun for “illumination”, what about us?  Where is our spirituality headed? Not even the campers themselves seem to realize what each other is doing. (Yes, we’ve all seen the table full of texters at a restaurant).  Nature teaches balance and reality.  Spirituality presents the opportunity to understand beyond what we see; to understand our character.  Technology is presenting the biggest source of information we’ve ever known and new ways to connecting us, but can it be also pulling us apart?  So, ultimately this begs the single question:

How much is too much? 

Regardless of my own personal beliefs, the reason for painting this is to force the viewer to question him/herself.  As an artist, if we don’t remember why we’re painting, it’s just paint.  The power of painting has changed history.  I think this is something we should all strive for.


2 thoughts on “Art and Controversy”

  1. Great issue here, Stephen. My thoughts: the new technology is creating a ‘web’, a matrix, that we are all part of – Could it be this is an evolutionary phase in which we are actually beginning to realize how we are truely ‘one’ … not separate – though it may certainly – currently – appear that we are all absorbed in our iphone/ipod/computer realities while ignoring the real people around us…maybe this is a step toward some sort of ‘coming together’ in a way we have not/can not envision…who knows what our evolving form will take in the distant future…….. what would “One Body” look like …?
    I think your painting is a wonderful depiction of this dilemma and how some of us see it –

    1. I sure hope so. There’s no question of the benefits! I’ve never met you in person, though I definitely regard you as a friend and will always be grateful. I guess we are all discovering a new “oneness”! My only fear is that we lose sight of nature in looking to the web for beauty. It the closest standard of raw perfection I know of. It’s the only objective source of knowledge and “real” truth not formed by someone’s opinion. It is what it is.

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