Welcome to Artists, Lovers of Art, and Unknown Friends
[Although this first post is addressed mainly to my fellow artists, I hope that this site will interest anyone who loves art, anyone interested in the topics that I take up here, and anyone whose singular curiosity or wayward impulse draws him or her to this corner of the Web. This first post will continue to be available under the “My Purpose Here” tab at the top of this site’s home page. I hope that you’ll join me here again – and join in – soon.]
Yes, in some ways what you’ll find here will be like what you find on other sites: descriptions of gear and techniques that were used to produce a particular image, reviews of exhibitions and books, meditations on admired work by famous or little-known photographers. But you’ll also find types of writing and subjects that you may not find elsewhere. I hope that when I write, say, on the death-longing that shapes certain kinds of commercial photography, or on the reasons why beauty makes Edward Burtynsky’s “ugliness” more powerful, you’ll find that we’re swimming in deeper waters than usual, or climbing farther into the mountains.
If you’ve been graced (burned, inspired, or deranged) by the art-making fire, then you know that keeping it going, stoking it, trying to spread it, is like being a resistance fighter in occupied territory. You have to cope each day with the assaults of a society whose values are aggressively opposed to your efforts, that aims to stifle any voice calling into question the value of its trinkets and trash. You have to resist the bribes for turning a blind eye to official wrong and mass delusion. You have to bear up against outer voices telling you that what matters dearly to you doesn’t really matter at all. You have to fight the inner voice insisting that you don’t have the know-how, the gear, the courage to carry out your mission. (If you want to see this story on film, try Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician.)
Even genius (and sometimes genius least of all) fails to bring immunity. I think with sadness of Tu Fu, one of the greatest poets in literature, who spent most of his years as a civil servant in exile, far from friends and cultured society, his poems known only to a few fellow writers. Or I think of Edvard Munch (whose work my wife and I, then living in Chicago, drove through the mountains in a blizzard to see at the National Gallery in Washington). He was brutally persecuted for his gorgeous, ground-breaking works by the bourgeoisie of late 19th-century Norway. No doubt you have your own essential list of such examples.
We say, “It’s a miracle that real art gets made at all.” I like that cliched sentence because it says not only that the odds against us are great, but that what happens despite them is indeed a miracle. Such miracles, time and again, sustain us. As I hope that this site will also do for you.
I’ve worked not only as an art photographer and poet, but as a lawyer in private practice and in public service, and as an arts administrator and advocate, dealing with deceitful corporate executives, corrupt public officials, sexual predators in federal agencies and in the ranks of feted (or is that fetid?) poets, members of the Mob, and other such fellow creatures. I know that what happens in novels and movies happens outside of them, too. But all my experience in the alleged “real world” hasn’t shown me that art is frivolous or inconsequential. Quite the contrary.
In this site, I’ll bring to bear not only my experience in the arts, but my encounters in those other societal realms in order to make my case for what matters. In my social battles, as well as in my artistic labors, works by Beethoven, Balzac, Coltrane, Kurosawa, Bill Brandt, and Robert Frank, among many other artists’, have guided and strengthened me.
Art doesn’t sit on a shelf apart, and it shouldn’t be judged as though it did. It has its life and its force in the heart of the world that so often belittles it.
I hope that what I bring to this site makes you, too, want to bring more sustenance to me and to your other fellows here, in our ongoing conflicts and luminous engagements. And I hope that I can do here what the best art does: open doors to the fact that life is greater than its representation in reality shows and political harangues, that it still contains visions, demonic seductions, inexplicable power, mysterious danger, and miracles, both within and beyond the borders of art.