Sunday, February 21, 2010
Exhibiting the Complexity of Culture
Art Without Compromise by Wendy Richmond
Chapter 2 "Identity and Authenticity",
section 6 "Exhibiting the Complexity of Culture"
Before I begin a discussion about this section of Richmond's book, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who took to the time to evaluate and critique my work over the weekend! Your comments are very, very helpful and I'll continue to ponder them as I move forward. Working in a vacuum is OK for awhile, be I need to engage in dialogue about my work from time to time to stay on track. Thank you for your generosity and for tolerating my self-indulgence!!
And now, back to Richmond's book:
Here, the author continues her exploration of the influence of culture upon the arts in the context of representing one's national identity. Her conclusion is: "Perhaps the strongest argument for learning about other cultures through the arts is to consider the ways that we, as Americans, are represented in other nations. Hopefully, there will be support for venues in the world that provide alternative ways to the ones delivered by the mass media."
She precedes this conclusion in her text with a discussion about contemporary Chinese art that has been exhibited at venues around the world and represents the modern Chinese culture as a fusion of the past with the present, and concern for the future. These artist provide the world with insight into the cultural transition that is occurring in their nation. Richmond cites several specific examples and I'm certain that my savvy readers (you!) are familiar enough. Today, I prefer to focus our discussion on the overarching concept of this book section rather than to delve into these specific examples.
As an artist, do you view your work as representative of your nation? Intentionally or not, does it provide to the world a glimpse of your own culture? Should it? Does it matter? I don't have the answer to these questions, and must admit that it really doesn't matter to me. As Richmond discussed earlier in her text, we are the product of our culture and, therefore, our art must in some way reflect it even if we're not making a conscious effort to do so. Even so, should an artist necessarily be preoccupied with the purpose of creating art that is representative of his/her nation or culture?
I included an image of Edward Hopper with this post because his work and viewpoint typifies the America of our recent past. I don't know that it was his intention to reveal the culture of his nation to the world, but that is one of the consequences.