Using Our Voice


The painting above is entitled "Season of the Witch".  I borrowed the title from the 1960's singer Donovan, my first love.  The title seemed to fit the image, but also, today seems fitting to the era we are in.  The painting is after a photograph in the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration archives.  It is 51"x 71", oil on thick handmade paper.View this email in your browser

I awoke this morning, to the news that ISIS had destroyed ancient antiquities, remnants of the ancient civilization of the Assyrians.  The Assyrian Christians are a people whose ancestry goes back to pre-Christian times.   They have survived centuries.   The art that has been lost is pre-Islamic, pre-Christian, pre-Judaic.    This is a loss for all mankind.  In an article in the New York Times, Anne Barnard writes:

     “An Islamic State video showed the militants smashing statues with sledgehammers inside the Mosul Museum, in northern Iraq, that showcases recent archaeological finds from the ancient Assyrian empire. The relics include items from the palace of King Sennacherib, who in the (Lord) Byron poem ‘came down like the wolf on the fold’ to destroy his enemies.

     'A tragedy and catastrophic loss for Iraqi history and archaeology beyond comprehension,' Amr al-Azm, a Syrian anthropologist and historian said."

     I watched with horror as members of ISIS viciously attacked, with glee, beautiful sculptures and bas reliefs; remnants of an ancient civilization turned to dust, set to the melodic chanting of a choir.  I recalled that the Nazis only confiscated precious art.  What they deemed degenerate they stole and stashed, but did not destroy.  As of yesterday, this art is now gone for ever more.  It has been pulverized--- lost to eternity.  

    In my head echoed “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,”  words attributed to Edmund Burke in 1770, equally relevant today.  And I thought, “What am I doing to stop this?  How can I protest this evil?  What can I do?  I’m an artist, and now, I suppose, a writer.  What can I actually do?”

     The following are examples of what great artists have done in protest of evil.

     In the history of the visual arts we find many examples of artists speaking through the visual, in images, rather than words.  During the French Revolution, another epic battle for freedom, Jacques-Louis David, a key player, painted “The Death of Marat”, about the murder of his friend and compatriot, Jean-Paul Marat, in 1793.  This from Wikipedia: 

     “It is one of the most famous images of the Revolution. David was the leading French painter, as well as a Montagnard and a member of the revolutionary Committee of General Security. The painting shows the radical journalist lying dead in his bath on 13, July,1793 after his murder by Charlotte Corday. Painted in the months after Marat's murder, it has been described by T. J. Clarkas the first modernist painting, for ‘the way it took the stuff of politics as its material, and did not transmute it.’ ”

     And then there’s the equally important “Liberty Leading the People”, 1830 by Eugene Delacroix.   Again from Wikipedia:  “Delacroix painted his work in the autumn of 1830. In a letter to his brother dated 21 October, he wrote: . . .’ if I haven’t fought for my country at least I’ll paint for her.‘   

     The painting commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. A woman personifying the concept and the goddess of Libertyleads the people forward over the bodies of the fallen, holding the flag of the French Revolution . . .  in one hand and brandishing a bayonetted musket with the other. The figure of Liberty is also viewed as a symbol of France . . . both an allegorical goddess-figure and a robust woman of the people. The mound of corpses acts as a kind of pedestal from which Liberty strides, barefoot and bare-breasted, out of the canvas and into the space of the viewer. “  

     There is also Goya’s “The Third of May 1808 in Madrid”, a painting of a firing squad completed in 1814. Again from Wikipedia:  "In the work, Goya sought to commemorate Spanish resistance to Napoleon's armies during the occupation . . . in the Peninsular War.  The painting's content, presentation, and emotional force secure its status as a groundbreaking, archetypal image of the horrors of war. . .  it has no distinct precedent, and is acknowledged as one of the first paintings of the modern era.  According to the art historian Kenneth ClarkThe Third of May 1808 is ‘the first great picture which can be called revolutionary in every sense of the word, in style, in subject, and in intention.’ ”

     In the visual arts a shift in focus has taken place.  In modern times artists have focused on the “formal aspects” of art; art has been deconstructed and abstracted and frequently made non-objective.  Many of us have found ourselves led away from the notion of using our art as a voice with which to speak on the important topics of our time.  As a result we artists have, in a sense, forgotten the potential power that we could have. Yet there is so much to say about what is currently happening in our world.  Perhaps it is time again to use our art to speak.

     As always, I welcome your thoughts and feelings in response to what i write.  Please feel free to respond directly to this email.  Thank you for taking time from your busy life to read this to the end.

As always, I remain,


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