ARTICLE: The Death of University Art Programs, Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

 

No “Social Practice” Art is complete without selfies 

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Mark Twain once observed ““The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The same analogy can be applied to the almost right and right principles of “social justice” versus “justice.”

“Social Justice” claims to be about fairness, which is a highly desirable outcome. But the term is a manipulative Newspeak euphemism for envy, revenge and oppression.  What social justice actually does is crush people into group identities which have been assigned favored and non-favored status by  power hungry establishment elitists. Preemptively claiming group guilt or privilege is an abstraction which does not recognize the actuality that people are individuals, responsible and accountable for their own actions. It’s the opposite of real justice.

We have come to call this collusion against the values of Western civilization Postmodernism. Social justice ideas are the propaganda our corrupt governing class uses to distract and inflame their mob rule shock troops. These cunning perpetrators use art as one of the weapons in their arsenal to undermine the rule of law. The totalitarians utilize their money and connections to enforce the results they want. Our universities are willing accomplices to this abuse of the arts.

Artnet reports on their latest maneuver:  “Yale School of Art Launches New Art and Social Justice Initiative” . They positively preen about it:

“The program, developed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art, Marta Kuzma, is funded by a recent $750,000 donation from an anonymous Yale alum. The money will be put toward research, scholarships, projects, and other academic resources across the graduate school of art, as well as a series of lectures and panels open to the whole university, aimed at exploring the intersection of art and social engagement.

“The initiative is largely a product of an ongoing conversation between faculty (Kuzma, in particular) and graduate students about addressing issues around artistic production amid the current social and political climate. This is, however, part of a larger trend, with numerous MFA programs reframing themselves around ‘social practice’ art.”

The fraud committed is exposed in the first line of the New York Times article Artnet linked: “Carmen Papalia’s M.F.A. project doesn’t look much like art.” A blind student led a bunch of virtue signalling lemmings on a closed eye tour. In true millennial style, the participants made sure to broadcast their  panic attacks and subsequent engorged wokeness.
Such gestures don’t look like art because they are not art. An exercise in generic consciousness raising  has nothing to do with a skilled and insightful personal expression of spiritual values. It’s a gimmick, a publicity stunt to advertise the politically correct values of the participants.
Postmodernists thinks they can use language and prestige to reprogram the fundamental needs of humanity. The establishment wants to redefine the timeless experience of art into knee jerk genuflections before the idol of Social Justice. In my upcoming book, “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,” I note the following:

“In the blind alleys we were directed into, the criteria being used to evaluate the works seemed on the surface completely arbitrary. But in fact, the feebler the efforts were, the more opportunities it gave to launch into peripheral diatribes regarding half-baked sociology, aggravated psychology, convoluted technobabble and the like. This was the kind of talk that got these teachers really excited, subtly reinforcing that this was where our attention ought to be focused. They were indoctrinating us into the Postmodern way.

“Rewarding certain behaviors encourages more of those types of behaviors. And so most students were dutifully herded into producing slapdash experimental works, and talking about activism, therapy and pedantic minutia, rather than trying to understand if an artwork functioned effectively on its own terms, as art. It was easier to adopt the lofty lecturing tone of the instructors, to curry favor by asserting the approved beliefs and attitudes.

“Encouraging attitudes of grievance and victimization, or highlighting incidental matters of process or technique, does not lead to powerful art. But it does lead to the generation of thought police, dependent personality disorder types, and detached technocrats—all useful cogs for the Leftist machine. The indoctrination continues.”

The New Aristocracy of the Well Connected are desperately funneling resources to maintain their current dominance. This anonymous Yale grant is just the latest example of Postmodernism’s key priority: controlling the narrative. It won’t work. Contemporary art is undergoing a crisis of relevance.  Pouring money into training a new generation to create non-art for the SJW scene will only make our current culture industries more irrelevant than ever.

See the previous articles in The Death of University Art Programs series linked below:

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

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EXPLOITS: In the Eyes of a Painter-and a Major Announcement

Oh the irony: The unfinished work “Self Portrait with 5 Eyes” by Richard Bledsoe

acrylic on canvas 36″ x 36″

 

It’s been an eventful two months.

October 4, 2017, started off great. My wife Michele Bledsoe  and I both had the day off of work. I had a 6 am Arizona time Skype discussion scheduled with a college class in Louisiana. I gave a presentation about the art movement Remodernism and my own artistic experiences.

After the Skype session, Michele and I followed up on a birthday present I had received: tickets to Scottsdale’s OdySea Aquarium. Animals fascinate me, and I was intrigued by the opportunity to see watery creatures right here in the desert.

It was a great time. We got there just as they opened; being early on a Wednesday morning, the place wasn’t crowded at all. The aquarium provided a whole multimedia experience. At an interactive exhibit, I stuck my hand into a frigid pool and petted a sea anemone. I marveled as its little tentacles wrapped around my finger. We watched a 3D movie that projected whales life sized. We took a ride in a revolving theater which rotated to show four different environments, full of amazing animals. Michele filmed the whole thing, and made a wonderful Youtube video of it, linked here: A Trip to the Aquarium Video. 

The marine creatures on display were beautiful. We watched rays, sharks, catfish, seals, otters, penguins, and crabs in action. There was huge, intricate installation of a coral reef, swarming with dazzling fish. The aquarium even featured a few rescued sea turtles. Several have a condition called “bubble butt.” Damage had introduced a bubble of gas inside their shells, and they can’t dive. The aquarium rehabilitates these turtles by attaching weights to them, which restores their equilibrium.

A sea turtle with bubble butt 

After the wonderful visit to the aquarium, Michele and I had a mellow day planned. We were going to go out to lunch, then spend a quiet evening at home, painting. I was trying to complete an unusual piece for me: a self portrait. I depicted myself in front of a strange geometric background I invented on the canvas. I’d been working on this piece on and off for months, and I was eager to finish it.

But first, I wanted to run an errand, and get new glasses. I’d had my current glasses for years, and I felt like I wasn’t seeing well through them anymore.

We went to a typical glasses place in the mall. At that point, everything changed.

When looking into the bright lights of the eye exam, I realized that I had no vision in about a third of my left eye. I only saw darkness.

The optometrist reviewed the results, and immediately set an appointment with a retinal specialist. Immediate as in, go straight to the eye doctor, right now.

We went. During the exam, as the doctors peered into my eye and reviewed their scans, they kept saying, “So close!” I finally asked what was so close. They explained my retina was almost completely detached, barely holding on. I needed to have emergency surgery. They would introduce a bubble of gas inside of my eye to try to hold it together. This made me think of the sea turtles I had seen just hours before. Life is full of the most amazing synchronicities, when you look at it the right way.

The surgery couldn’t be scheduled until the next day. More synchronicity seeped in during the operation. I was sedated but conscious during the procedure. They covered my face with a perforated blue blanket while they worked. The operating theater lights shining through the tiny holes blurred and shifted as I looked up at them, creating a uncanny replica of the blue and white background I had painted on my self portrait. I guess I knew what was coming in some way. As I laid there listening to the murmured conversations of the surgical team, images of coral reefs played through my mind, like the one I has seen in the aquarium, but darkened, like it was night.

After the surgery, the really fun part started. To heal, I had to spend a week lying on my right side. We were grateful it was the side, because often this type of operation requires spending a week face down. Imagine trying to lie face down for a whole week, we kept saying. That would be so hard!

I could see the bubble floating inside of my eye. Because of the way the eye flips things, it always appeared on the opposite side of where it actually was. I called myself the human level, after the tool that uses a bubble to test the straightness of flat surfaces. Around the bubble, the vision in my left eye was like looking through curved jello. Eventually this bubble will go away on its own.

The first follow up visits with the doctors went well. Then at the 2 week mark, they discovered my retina was pulling off again. I had to have a second operation, an even bigger bubble, and ended up having to spend 8 days laying face down. I don’t recommend this experience to anyone. We did rent some special equipment to make it easier.

I was even face down for our 14th wedding anniversary, on Halloween.

Happy Anniversary! 

Since then I have made steady improvements. I can now see over (actually under) the bubble in my eye, and the retina is still in place. We expect a full recovery. It’s been a very challenging time, but I went through it without fear or discouragement. There are several reasons why.

Michele was incredible through this whole situation, everything a wife can be: loving, supportive, encouraging, and creative. She took care of all of our business while I was most incapacitated, and took great care of me. I am so fortunate to have her.

Another reason was my faith. I knew I was in God’s hands, and He was looking out for me. In fact, I actually believe all this time, when I was forced to pause my normal frantic busyness, was a very special gift God granted me.

You see, for years I have been writing a book. On top of working, painting, volunteering, and generally having an active life, I’ve taken time after work and on weekends to formulate an extended analysis of the culture: how we arrived at the artistic crisis of relevance we’re undergoing, and how it can be fixed. I’ve worked persistently, but progress was slow.

I recognized an opportunity in this sudden, unexpected illness. If I was going to be home bound for an extended period, I would use the time wisely. I would finish my book.

At first I tried to work on our laptop, but I couldn’t manage it. It was a terrible strain to try and read.

So we came up with alternative method. Last Christmas Michele gave me a little recorder so I could easily capture all the ideas I’m always having. While I couldn’t read and write, I could talk. I started dictating my book into the recorder.

Michele transcribed my thoughts into the computer.

Eventually I got well enough to be upright again. In honor of my improvements, I made a one eyed painting. I recreated the anesthesia visions of coral reefs I had during surgery, and added a tribute to my constant companion the bubble, which is such a crucial part of my healing process.

Richard Bledsoe “Reef” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″ 

But even more significantly, I finished the first draft of my book. It still needs review, revision, and formatting, but the content is there. We  are self publishing, so we don’t have to jump through any hoops of publisher submissions or approvals. The completed work will be available in early 2018 on Amazon, and through other sources as well.

The book is Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization. I wrote this book for a general audience, not just the art scene.

Remodern America discusses what art is and why we need it. It explains why Modern art happened. It reveals the current destructive Postmodern culture, and the corrupt establishment that created it. Best of all,  it describes Remodernism, the new ethos which will replace failed, deceitful Postmodernism.

I will continue to give updates on the publishing status here on this blog. Stay tuned!

As a sneak preview, the following is the introduction of Remodern America. It sets the stage for the contents of the book. Please spread the word. Enduring changes start in the arts, and a big change has already begun.

 

Remodern America: 

How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western 

Civilization

Introduction

What is the spirit of this age?

History will recognize this as the era the general population of the United States realized the governing class and its connections, far from acting as responsible public servants, had mutated into an elitist ruling class.

These elitists decided amongst themselves that, due to their superior intellects, credentials, and social status, they deserved to control how everybody else lived their lives. This mission of conquest was camouflaged with egalitarian rhetoric.

In exchange for the burden of managing their inferiors, this New Class exempted themselves from the expectations they imposed on others. Those underlings who supported the ascendancy of these would-be rulers received some special considerations as well, a semi-privileged status-but their greatest reward was to bask in the reflected glory of their masters.

The elitists had a plan, and it almost worked. Over decades, the institutions that sustained American culture have been infiltrated, their missions transformed.

Government, media, education, the arts-the occupying elitists within dedicated all resources towards undermining sustaining Western values, all to better serve the consolidation of unaccountable power. They used their influence over the various means of cultural communication and expression to exert pressure at all levels of society to embrace collectivist goals, distorting the concept of equality.

As part of these maneuvers, art was pushed into a crisis of relevance. Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. In doing so, the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected block access to powerful resources. They deny our society the inspiration to live up to ideals, the encouragement to think and feel deeply, the yearning to harmonize with truth and beauty. As a result, the mass audience has turned away.

People instinctually reject the superficial and nihilistic contemporary art championed by an imperious would-be ruling class. We currently call this covert corrosion inflicted on the foundations of Western civilization the Postmodern era.

A small sect usurped disproportionate power over the course of the entire nation. Now the terrible results of the corrupted establishment’s agenda are clear. Under their reign we are less prosperous, less safe, less free.

The elitists ran out of credibility and resources before their work was complete. Now we, the people, must to make sure they run out of time as well. The dominion of the deceitful despots must be demolished throughout the culture, on all fronts. Around the globe challenges are rising against the longstanding world order. The story of the 21st Century will be the dismantling of centralized power.

As always, this course of history was prophesized by artists-those who are intuitively aware of the path unfolding ahead. Their works become maps so that others may find the way. The new directives emerging in our culture must be acknowledged. Enduring changes start in the arts.

The entrenched interests are desperate to deny the uprising, but denial won’t stop us. The Postmodern era is finished, but it won’t go quietly. The vast project of reconstruction will commence as we dislodge the failed status quo.

What is the spirit of this age?

This is an era of joyous insurgency and new beginnings.

Welcome to Remodern America.

-Richard Bledsoe

 

Bold Talk for a One Eyed Fat Man:

Richard and Michele Bledsoe 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

EXPLOITS: The Case of the Condescending Curator

*Update: Richard Bledsoe will be offline for an extended period due to an unexpected medical situation. I am Richard’s wife, Michele Bledsoe – and for the interim I will act as his hands and eyes. 

The following is a section from a major work-in-progress about art and culture Richard is writing. 

“It’s a fashionable world and even good artists go out of fashion.”

-Robert Storr, art world academician 

 

Through my early art school days in 1980s, while I focused on keeping up in classes and learning about the distant geniuses of the past, I was less knowledgeable about contemporary art. Although I was highly engaged with cultural interests, I didn’t know a lot about the art world yet. My punk habit lent itself more to musical trends, and film operates in an entirely different realm than the rarefied atmosphere of the art gallery.

It was my second year studying painting when consciousness of the dominant contemporary visual art scene started to seep in.

First of all, I was surprised to learn in my painting and drawing courses that painting was, in fact, dead.

To understand the logic of that idea requires understanding that the institutional art world is a fashion victim. Despite the airs of conviction and sophistication participants in the arts like to flaunt, the reality is many of them are desperate followers of trends, fads and cliques.

In this particular era when I was at Virginia Commonwealth University, the correct jaded and ironic pose to strike was that painting had run its course as an art form, that it was exhausted and had nothing left to say. We were meant to be embracing new means of expression.

In the early 1990s, while I was still at college, VCU imported a genuine New York museum curator for a lecture to demonstrate this for us. All that traditional stuff was passé, he inferred. He had seen the future; in fact he’d be one of the ones who got pick what the future would be. He was doing all us Virginia hicks a favor by coming to give us the inside scoop.

And what was the glorious destiny of the art world to come, according to this bigwig?

That’s right: political installation art!

If you don’t know what political installation art is, you probably haven’t been in a gallery or a museum for the last thirty years. This curator and others of his ilk created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Under their stewardship every serious arts venue has become saturated with various forms of propaganda instead of art. Political installations indeed became the future of art, because that’s precisely what the few people entrusted to make the decisions about such things for our entire culture wanted to happen. They were partisans for the Postmodern corruption of the arts.

A recent example of what happens when “art” gets political 

During his lecture at us, the curator displayed a series of slides. I forget exactly what they depicted; they were recent works from some Biennale or something. What the pictures showed were rooms full of trash, misplaced mundane objects, and pointless aggregations of random items.

Fortunately the New York intellectual was there to translate for us, explaining how what we were seeing were not presentations of craftless junk, but Important Statements on homelessness, nuclear disarmament, and gender roles.

I left this lecture baffled yet angry. If painting was dead, what the hell was VCU charging all that tuition for?

It wasn’t the money that made me mad. It was the sheer folly of it all.

There’s some idea floating around in pop psychology that if something makes you angry it means you feel threatened by it, that it’s a challenge to your preconceived notions, and it’s an opportunity to grow.

In some cases this is true. However, often I’ve seen that concept thrown out as an attempt at misdirection, to change the subject away from some blatant travesty or transgression.

If you don’t put your values and beliefs to the test consistently, then you can be vulnerable to the suggestion that the problem lies in you, not with whatever absurdity raised your ire. Next thing you know, you are on the defensive, filled with doubt, and ready to eat whatever they’re trying to feed you. It’s a horribly manipulative process, and the gatekeepers of our culture have made themselves masters of this kind of distraction.

The only defense is to know yourself well, flaws and all, and recognize Who the only true source of authority is.

We’re all far from perfect, but that does not mean we have to succumb to the devious machinations of the wicked.

I recognized this so-called art was a lie. I felt it in my bones. It was as instinctual as breathing. I couldn’t put it into words at the time, but I understood I was witnessing a betrayal, a coup, an assassination.

What I experienced was the entirely justifiable rage felt when witnessing an attempted swindle unfold, perpetrated by a type of huckster who wasn’t nearly as clever as he thought he was. It was the classic fallacy of the appeal to authority. This guy was some big shot curator, thus his declarative statements were to be supposed to be received as wisdom. But what I saw was some patronizing poseur projecting all sorts of ridiculous significance onto heaps of torn cardboard.

He was just about the most naked emperor I’d ever encountered up to that point. Unfortunately I would soon be exposed to many more.

 

COMMENTARY: 1962 – The Changing of the Avant-Garde

 

Andy Warhol, 1962

“As disturbing as it was, we continued with the Pop generation, which in the meantime has made its own reputation.”

-Sidney Janis, American gallerist, 1896-1989

*Update: Richard Bledsoe will be offline for an extended period due to an unexpected medical situation. I am Richard’s wife, Michele Bledsoe – and for the interim I will act as his hands and eyes. 

The following is a section from a major work-in-progress about art and culture Richard is writing. 

1962 was the end of the Modern Art era. Much like the Salon des Refusés ushered in the Modern Era in 1863, it was another art show that gave evidence of a definitive shift in the culture.

The influences had been gathering for years, before coming together in a definitive event. In this case the tipping point was an art show located in a temporarily rented store front – a pop-up gallery, we would say these days.

The International Exhibition of the New Realists opened on October 31, organized by New York City gallerist Sidney Janis. With this show, the Postmodern era had arrived.

International Exhibition of the New Realists, 1962

We’ve come to call it Pop art, the opening gambit of the generational shift in art and culture the Janis show encapsulated. It featured future superstars Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claus Oldenburg, Yves Kline, Christo, and many others.

The reigning dominant critic Clement Greenberg’s grip has slipped. His preference for abstraction had dominated the 1950s art world. After the exile of representational art, it was back with a vengeance, but also with a twist.

Pop art was easy to like. On the surface it was bright and playful; instant gratification art. It aspired not to inspire, but to be ironic. The recognizable imagery depicted was coming not directly from life, but was reproduced from the filtered and stylized presentations of industrial mass media: advertising, Hollywood, newspapers, comic books and television. From its inception, The Postmodern era was informed by the illusions, distortions, and manipulations these mediums employed.  Postmodernism is very useful for those who have something to hide.

But back in 1962, it was a scary Halloween for Janis’s existing stable of abstract expressionist studs. Some of the biggest names in Modern painting quit his gallery after the audacious show. Departing artists Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, and Adolph Gottlieb had struggled for decades in obscurity before the agendas inflicted on the art world turned in their favor. For a brief time, they were the pinnacle. But in the early 1960s a new set of ideas was rising.

The art on display in The New Realists show was not just another variation on Modernist priorities, another facet of Modernism’s typical fragmentation. The new way was basically a repudiation of everything the aging Modernists thought they stood for.

I select this Janis show as the Postmodern starting point because of its consequences. The changing of the guard was plain for all to see in the tempest in a teapot scale of the art world. The Action painters were driven to take action, but it was already too late.

Displaced: Philip Guston, Jimmy Ernst, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko

ARTICLE: Establishment Art Institutions Aren’t Worth a Bucket of Spit, But They Will Subsidize One

Ragnar Kjartansson: Spitting Mad 

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Pity the poor Hirshhorn Museum. They occupy a prime piece of real estate, right on the National Mall in the wretched hive of scum and villainy, Washington, DC. And yet, as a museum dedicated to contemporary art, the institute just doesn’t seem to get much love or respect. I feel sorry for the uranium magnate Joseph Hirshhorn, who originally  endowed the collection. Little did he know how radioactive his legacy would become.

An article about a recent acquisition the Hirshhorn made may give some insight as to why they lack esteem. Smithsonian.com is eager to explain it in this article:“Why the Artist Ragnar Kjartansson Asked his Mother to Spit On Him.”

Mind you, they don’t give the real answer, which would be an ambitious artist is performing the obligatory pandering required for advancement under the current corrupt Postmodern junta that dominate the arts. Rather they let the artist speak for himself: ““Art is so serious, it’s too serious to be serious about,” Kjartansson informs us.

Well okay then. Thanks for clearing that up. A trite little statement of doublethink nonsense to justify the non-art offered up.

The article does us the favor of explaining the video work:

In the filmed performance piece… a 24-year-old Kjartansson, still in art school, stands in a blue dress shirt as his mother, recognized in their native Iceland as the accomplished actress Guðrún Ásmundsdóttir, hauls off and spits on him.

There is silence, and a dramatic pause in which they exchange gazes, and she does so again and again.

Every five years since the first video in 2000, Kjartansson has repeated the action in the same location—before a bookshelf—and added on to the film. When the fifth iteration is shot in 2020, it will come to the Hirshhorn as well, as will all future versions.

A new segment of this debased piece of pretentiousness coming in 2020? We can hardly wait.

The article also has a link to the video-at least 6 minutes of it. The entire epic currently runs 20 minutes.

I have not watched the video. Why would I? Why would anyone?

Having it linked here also raises the interesting question of how a museum can “acquisition” something available as a Youtube link. Perhaps they’ve gotten hold of the director’s cut, featuring deleted scenes and an alternative ending. The article does note there are no immediate plans to put the “piece” on display, so at least we’ve got that going for us.

What is so discouraging is imagining the amount of behind the scenes meetings, discussions, budget planning, and project management that went on to facilitate bringing this loogie into the collection of a major American museum. It’s sad the way the left has as destroyed the credibility of our country’s enduring institutions. The arts fell long ago; currently the activists are working on NFL football. It can all be summed up by the timeless tweet by Iowahawk:

 

The partisans we are talking about here aren’t capable of generating something new. Their model is like a virus: infect a host and reduce it to a virus replicating factory, until the host withers away. Move on to the next host, and repeat.

We live in the dying days of the futile Postmodern campaign to destroy the timeless human tradition of art making. Postmodernists are so saturated in groupthink they can’t tell the difference between producing art and producing saliva. They are so deep in the echo chamber they don’t hear how, outside their bubble, indifference is shifting into impatience, soon to grow into rage.

It doesn’t how many out of touch museums embrace this stuff. Establishment efforts failed because humanity instinctively rejects the absurd assertions coming out of elitist academia and art industry bureaucracies. We aren’t buying the cultural Marxism they’re hawking.

They hate us and they are lying to us, and no amount of puff pieces claiming reality and make-believe are collapsing in on each other can disguise their contempt. It’s not a video of a mother spitting on an artist the Hirshhorn has obtained. It’s evidence our incompetent, entrenched culture industries don’t even bother to hide their disdain anymore. They are spitting on Western Civilization, art, the family, civil society, and all of us.

“It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry.”

The Remodernism Manifesto

EDIT: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the state of the arts.

An Artist Against the NEA, Part 2: Subsidizing the Rich and the Art of Breaking Windows

Rene Magritte, an artist who understood the correct use of fallacies

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The hive mind of Washington, DC is all abuzz these days. A big part of their collective angst hovers around the idea that this time the Federal government is expected to produce an actual budget. It will the first one in years. Needless to say, everyone in positions of authority  wants to make sure an allotment of sweet taxpayer honey keeps flowing their way.

Whenever the topic turns to reining in out of control spending, the National Endowment for the Arts comes up. It seems like a reasonable cut to consider, since there are much more urgent situations which need funding. But to culture industry careerists, that’s just crazy talk.

Of course all the organizations who are currently latched onto that particular public teat feel entitled to remain there. Just ask them, they’ll tell you.Or just read some of the hundreds of op-eds that have popped up around the country as a lobbying effort. Most advance the notion that without the bureaucratic benevolence of Uncle Sugar, redistributor of wealth, there would not be a single spark of creativity left in America.

Most of the articles follow the same template. They plead that its a given that arts organizations are poverty stricken, that arts spending boosts the economy, that support is needed while artists produce quality culture enriching works. The NEA is desperately needed for these reasons.

What is the reality? Postmodern art worker types like to pretend there is no such thing as reality, that the world operates based on just what those in power decree. Cultural elitists behave as if their virtue signalling and theorizing acts as a shield against universal truths such as cause and effect. Accountability is something to be deconstructed and explained away. However, there are many questions to ask about the default assumptions of their assertions.

For a different perspective about need, this headline pretty much sums it up: Feds Use Arts Funding to Subsidize Billion-Dollar Nonprofits. The article shares the findings of watchdog group Openthebooks.com, and summarizes their findings about the NEA’s umbrella group: “The National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities issued $20.5 million in grants to ‘asset-rich’ nonprofit groups with assets of $1 billion or more in 2016 alone.”

For instance, Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute has received millions of dollars in grants for their swanky ski town film festival. And what is their estimated annual revenue from the event? $37 million.

Robert Redford: Like a Rhinestone Rent-Seeker

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New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is probably the top example. Since 2009 they have been awarded $1.22 million in grants and contracts from the NFA-H. And what are the Metropolitian’s assets estimated to be? Four billion dollars. That is billion with a B. There are other examples of the payola changing hands in the full article.

The Met: 4 Billion is not enough, they need handouts

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Why is taxpayer money being funneled to organizations that could easily be self-sustaining? Observation suggests it’s all part of the perks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. It’s one of the ways the privileged class flatter each other, generously  passing out other people’s money. Would these powerhouse entities cease functioning without receiving kickbacks from the public treasury?

Of course not all arts organizations are stuffed with money like those insider superstars. What about the more local community efforts? How will artists be able to exist without qualifying for subsidies?

The pitfalls of those gambits are covered well in an insightful article from PJ Media’s John Ellis: The National Endowment for the Arts is Bad for Artists and Should be Defunded. He states:

“…It’s way past time to defund and shutter the National Endowment for the Arts.

“From the organization’s website, ‘The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.’

“That mission statement prompts a few questions. (Well, the first one isn’t so much a question as an eye-rolling musing.): 1. Yeah, it’s easy to fund things with other people’s money, NEA. 2. How does creating a false market for art promote and strengthen creative capacity? 3. All Americans? Really, NEA? Are you sure that ‘all Americans’ have the requisite skills to participate in the arts?”

Ellis addresses the fallacies at the heart of the economic stimulation and quality results outcome arguments by referring to observations about human nature, and a well known flaw in logic.

“The first question/eye-rolling musing is countered by artists and those who hold the arts community’s purse strings that arts organizations provide an economic engine to communities (by the way, I could write a whole other article about the absurd, silly, politics that I saw first hand while I worked directly for a specific arts funding organization—and by ‘funding,’ of course, I mean that they took taxpayers dollars and with a kindergartener level of pettiness disbursed that stolen taxed money amongst their friends). The NEA and their supporters will trot out research about how many dollars are added to local economies due to things like theatres, symphonies, and museums. Of course, as almost every person with at least half a semester of Economics under their belt is screaming, the NEA’s argument embraces the broken window fallacy.

“The economic stimulus felt and supposedly generated by the arts community comes at the expense of other markets. Chances are, the tax dollars given to arts organizations would have been more effectively used elsewhere to benefit local economies. All that money pumped into the local economy by arts organizations would have been pumped into the economy anyway. The taxpayers would have decided which markets to support. And those markets would’ve naturally grown, strengthened, and added jobs and wealth to the economy. The National Endowment for the Arts model artificially props up mostly unwanted markets by using tax dollars that get funneled through inefficient and wasteful bureaucracies.

“Segueing into the second question, artificially propping up an unwanted market does not benefit the arts. It does benefit the people who work in the NEA office and the many local organizations that help funnel taxpayers’ money to arts organizations, though. What it does to the arts is create a marketplace that supports bad art. If you don’t believe me, buy tickets to your local community theatre’s production of Seussical the Musical. Besides the money you spent on the ticket, your tax dollars helped pay for that crap. In other words, even if you don’t buy a ticket, your hard-earned money is still being used to stoke the egos and fill the free time of wanna-be actors and directors.”

You oughta be thankful, a whole heaping lot. For the people and places you’re lucky you’re not.

Ellis raises very valid concerns about what exactly is coming out as the result of these appropriated funds.

Now personally, I’m an old punk rocker. Punk’s creeds of individuality, distrust of authority, and sincere belief in the transformative power of participating in your own culture are ideas as American as baseball.  I learned early to value passionate intensity in art, which can lead to less than polished accomplishments. I’m inspired by all sorts of creative expression by unconventionally talented individuals. My paintings tend to be dark and strange.

Richard Bledsoe “The Collective” acrylic on canvas 30″ x 30″

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My music collection is filled with albums that could strike terror into lots of people.

Face up to the Butthole Surfers

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In my time I’ve attended DIY art and music happenings in places ranging from bowling alleys to Chinese restaurants, from student living rooms to trailers in isolated desert communities. I’ve organized many events myself, looking to give artists a chance to share their creativity. A key trait linking all of these shows is the Y in DIY: do it yourself. Make it happen, with none of the strings that come attached from being reduced to a supplicant for crumbs from the tables of the powerful. If the effort is genuine, it will find its audience.

The hey-kids-lets-put-on-a-show exuberance that drives “amateur” dedication to the arts is at the core of the art movement Remodernism, This grassroots renewal of our culture is rising to destroy the elitist mind games of Postmodernism.The NEA is doing nothing but sustaining the current corrupted model, where to be deemed worthy you must conform to the establishment’s agenda.

Artists with integrity recognize that far from promoting the arts, a compromised, insular organization like the NEA is actually shackling free expression to their ideological biases. The true future of the arts is going to be determined by those who do not submit their productions for official approval. Art is about so much more than acting as a cog in the crony combine.

ARTISTS: Bill Lewis

Bill Lewis at his exhibition, “The Dream in the Orchard”

June 2017, Below 65 Gallery, Maidstone, Kent, UK

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  “In our lives as creative people we can encompass every movement in the Arts from the days of cave paintings through the Renaissance to Modern Art.  However, we do this in a way that is individual to each of us.”

-Bill Lewis

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Part of the thrill of being involved with the international art movement Stuckism is getting to interact with talented artists from around the world. Through the group, we start off with much in common already. Stuckism appeals to those with a passionate belief in art as means of communion. It encompasses an idealistic view of what the arts mean both personally and for society as a whole. It’s exciting to see how every person contributes their own vision within the framework of these principles.

I discovered Stuckism, and its overarching philosophy of Remodernism , during some late night web browsing. I worked up the courage to ask to be an official part of the movement in 2010, and was granted the status of the Phoenix AZ Stuckists. We’ve hosted a series of exhibits in Phoenix in the years since, including 2014’s International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors, which featured 28 artists from across Europe and the United States.  Through the Stuckist group website and social media, I was soon communicating with people from all over the globe who had embarked on their own versions of the same artistic journey.

English poet and artist Bill Lewis  (see his website here) reached out to me initially about an idea we shared. He too saw Stuckism as just one facet of the broad potentials of Remodernism, a system of ideas that can renew our whole culture, a potent alternative to the deceits and manipulations of Postmodernism. I was amazed to learn this artist who was sharing his thoughts with me was one of the original members of the whole endeavor; in fact, was a big part of what had brought all those creative people together in the first place. For my part, I had one of the clearest episodes  of synchronicity in my life instigated by Bill. Something is at work here.

In his writings and art, Lewis is a story teller. He has a way of homing in on the significant expressive detail: with a gesture, an expression, an image created by either paint or with words, Lewis is able to capture the heart of the matter. I believe his spiritual sense of life and years of studying myth have trained him to look to the essence of things, and to present his discoveries with the proper sense of significance. The works are graceful because they are true. They are elegant because of the care shown in their creation. Despite their profound themes, these are not heavy and ponderous pieces.  They are enlivened with playfulness and rich colors. His poems use sly humor with great impact.

Bill Lewis ” Donde Esta Don Quixote

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Bill Lewis “The Sleeper”

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In 2017 Lewis produced a new book of poetry, “The Long Ago and Eternal Now” (Amazon Link Here). The work incorporates his own black and white illustrations.  It’s his second collection, and expresses his sensibility and interests in clear, evocative language. They say the way you do something is the way you do everything. When I look at the paintings of Bill Lewis, and read his poetry, I think of Magic Realism. Not just as a literary convention, but in the context of looking through the mundane and seeing the miraculous underpinnings of it all. It’s a gratifying experience to see the world as he presents it.

 

 

As someone who was there from the beginning of the ongoing revolution in the arts, Bill Lewis has much to say about how it has unfolded and influenced his creative work. In the interview below, Lewis shares stories and insights about his experience as a Remodernist poet and artist.

Question: You are one of the original members of both the Stuckist movement and its predecessor the Medway Poets.  How did you come to be involved with these groups?

Bill Lewis: First I should tell you how the Medway Poets came about. In the early 1970’s I was living in a little village outside of Maidstone (which is the County Town of Kent).  A small group of us formed a poetry reading group which met regularly at a pub called ‘The Lamb’, a Fifteenth Century building by the Medway River.  The group was called ‘The Outcrowd’ and the core of it consisted of me, my oldest friend Rob Earl and his wife Betty.

In 1977 I got onto the Art Foundation Course at the Medway College of Art and Design (as it was then called) in Chatham (one of the Medway Towns).  It was here that I met Billy Childish.

I invited Billy to Maidstone to read with ‘The Outcrowd’ and in exchange Rob came over to the Medway Towns and read with Billy and I at a gig at the college.  About this time Alan Denman who was a lecturer in English at the college, started a regular cabaret/poetry evening at a pub called ‘The York’ near Chatham railway station.  Incidentally, ‘The York’ was not only one of the roughest pubs in Chatham but in the whole of South East England.

At one of these evenings we met Sexton Ming who was one of the most eccentric and funniest poets I have ever met.  The night he first arrived it was raining really hard and he asked if he could read and Alan said yes, but before he did so Sexton asked if he could bring his mistress, Mildred, in out of the rain.  We said of course, the poor woman must be soaked.  Mildred turned out to be a broom handle with a papier-mâché head and a wig.  Later whilst Sexton was reading a poem her head fell off.  The audience were in fits of hysterical laughter.  This became a pattern over the next few years; you never knew what Sexton was going to do next.  Everyone I know has a Sexton Ming story.

Billy and Sexton got on really well and started to produce fanzines and booklets together.  Billy was in a band at the time called the ‘Pop Rivets’ which later transformed into ‘The Milkshakes’.  Very soon a Medway sound developed and in the next few years there were hundred of bands in the Medway Towns playing the Medway Delta Sound. Lots of people read at ‘The York’ but gradually it became clear to us that several of us could work well with each other as a group.

The last two poets to join the group were Charles Thomson and his then girlfriend, Miriam Carney. At this time we still hadn’t got a name for the group but as were starting to be asked to read at other local venues, we needed to get a name.  I came up with the idea of calling ourselves ‘The Medway Poets Group’ because at that time the Medway Scene was becoming well know outside of the region.  We didn’t have a “house” style as we were all into very different things. Charles was influenced by Betjeman and Auden at the time and Billy had discovered Bukowski and Fante.  With Sexton it was Zappa and Beefheart and I was reading a lot of Neruda, Ted Hughes and French poets liked Jacques Prévert.  Miriam’s poems were very personal and about her relationships.

Medway Poets

We had started to get some interest from outside the Medway area, especially when a well known poet called Richard Berengarten from Cambridge (who was writer in residence in the nearby town of Gravesend) brought his entire creative writing class over to see us perform.  In 1980 Richard got ‘The Medway Poets’ their first major gig at the Kent Literature Festival and in 1981 at the prestigious Cambridge International Poetry Festival.

Whilst we were performing at Cambridge I met Robert Parker Sorlien who was a Professor of English at the University of Rhode Island.  It was Robert who was to arrange some of my first readings in the USA.

The Medway Poets split up in 1982 not long after a television company called TVS made a documentary about us.  By then Charles and Billy were not getting on and it was clear that the group couldn’t function with their animosity towards one another.

In 1987 ‘The Medway Poets’ attempted to get back together for a tour that I arranged with Amnesty International.  We were supposed to read in five towns throughout Kent but by the third town old animosities broke out and so it was only a part of the group that finished the tour!

We all carried on working separately over the next decade.  During that time I was doing readings in support of Chile Solidarity.  In 1988 Carlos Rigby, a Nicaraguan Poet and storyteller, performed in London where he came across some of my books.  He ‘phoned me from the Nicaraguan embassy before he left London and suggested that I might like to witness what was happening in the Revolution.  My wife Ann had just been made redundant so we paid the mortgage for 4 months and took ourselves off to Nicaragua Libre.  Whilst there I gave several poetry readings, met and became friends with Claribel Alegria (the award wining Salvadoran poet) and Alicia Partnoy (the Argentinean Writer whose book ‘The Little School’ gave a harrowing account of her incarceration in a concentration camp during the ‘Dirty War’).

Darwin J. Flakoll (Bud), Bill Lewis, and Claribel Alegria. Photo by Anne Lewis

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1989: Sandy Taylor, Bill Lewis, Alicia Partnoy, and Adriana Angel

 

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I also met Sandy Taylor, the poet, translator and co-founder of ‘The Curbstone Press’.  It was Sandy who arranged for me to read at a literary festival in Connecticut. Sandy, along with Robert Sorlien introduced my work to an American audience. Almost every year in the 1990’s I would do a mini poetry reading tour on the East Coast.

In 1997, a miracle happened.  Having pursued our individual careers for a decade, ‘The Medway Poets’ managed to get together for one last gig at a literary festival in Rochester, UK.  Charles and Billy seemed to be able to tolerate each other and there was a brief period of entente cordial.

Reunion Tour: Bill Lewis and Billy Childish

In 1999 Charles and Billy started a group called ‘The Stuckists’.  The group got its name after Tracey Emin (Billy’s ex-girlfriend who was now one of the ‘YBA’s’) left and angry message on his answer phone telling him he was “Stuck, Stuck, Stuck” in the past as he still painted. The ‘YBA’s’ didn’t think much of painting and were more interested in post-modernist theory and conceptual art.

Charles approached me and asked me if I was still painting (because as you know Charles, Billy, Sexton and I were the members of ‘The Medway Poets’ who also painted), I told that I was but didn’t show my work as I was primarily interested in writing. He then asked me if I wanted to join ‘The Stuckists’ and I thought, why not?

‘The Stuckists’ had their first show in the autumn of 1999.  It was called ‘Stuck, Stuck, Stuck” after Tracey’s angry ‘phone message.  ‘The Stuckists’ were billed as the first Remodernist Art Group.  We thought there would be lots of other Remodernist groups emerging but what actually happened was that lots of groups calling themselves ‘Stuckist’ began to appear all over the world, in part thanks to the Internet.

Q: How do you create your paintings?

BL: They usually begin with an idea or image that I can’t get out of my mind.  I attempt to put that image down on canvas and then quite often strange symbols and figures appear.  I don’t always understand what these mean.  I think of my paintings as magic mirrors that reflect back to me the inner working of my psyche.  Sometimes it can take years before I understand what a painting means in its entirety. For example, one of my better known pictures entitled “God is an atheists and she does not believe in me” has a woman wearing a blindfold whist applying lipstick, at her feet, kneels a man, holding a menorah and a crucifix.  The woman is sitting on a chair and under the chair is a small white dog, a bull terrier.  Years after I painted it someone pointed out to me that ‘dog’, in English is an anagram of ‘God’.  This never occurred to me when I was painting the picture.

Bill Lewis “God is an Atheist and She Does Not Believe in Me”

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Q: Do you feel your work as a poet influences your paintings?

BL: I don’t really think of myself as a painter.  I am probably the odd one out when it comes the original group of ‘Stuckists’ because I can go long periods without painting but not so with my writing.  I am always thinking about writing, working on things in my head even before it hits the page, but sometimes I need to see an image and I have to make it a visual image.  I have certain obsessions.  I think all artists, whether they write, paint, make films, are obsessive. The same images often crop up in my work.  I understand some of them but others are a mystery to me.  I actually don’t think I am a very good visual artists, whereas I do know that my writing is of a higher quality, although my friend, Simon Mills (www.simonmills-artist.co.uk) who is an absolutely brilliant landscape artists, tells me that he thinks my visual work is an extension to my poetry.

I think it is the poetry of things which is the truest part or reality.  I believe that reality itself is metaphorical. Once you understand that you can slide between metaphors you can avoid unnecessary conflicts.  The problem arises, of course, is when someone believes that their metaphor is the only true one and that metaphor is a fact.  A fact is of little use to me when it comes to art or poetry. I always prefer fiction to non-fiction because it is true and non-fiction isn’t.

Q: How do mythology and spirituality inform your work?

BL: I have studied mythology for about 40 years.  I am not an academic.  As I said before, my only further education is one year at Art College, but my study of myth has been extensive.

I discovered the work of Joseph Campbell about the same time that I read the work of the radical American theologian and Prophet Matthew Fox, who I later met and had many enlightening conversation with.  Joseph Campbell’s theory of a hero with a thousand faces is something that I have used in my illustrated lectures on myth and Matthew Fox’s holistic and inter-connected view of spirituality is very useful when coming up against the ecological disaster that we call the modern world.  I gave my first lecture on mythology during one of my poetry reading tours of the USA.  I was due to read my work at the University of Rhode Island and it was suggested to me that the night before my reading I might like to talk to a group called ARIL (The Association for Religion in Intellectual Life).

I was a bit nervous as I had left school at the age of 15 without any qualifications but Robert Parker Sorlien said that it was a friendly group and that my extensive studies did not need pieces of paper to validate them.  I thought to myself ‘I can talk to a group of students’ but when we arrived at the hall and they started to file in I noticed that the youngest were in their forties.  I turned to Robert and said ‘you have got a lot of mature students at your university’, he replied ‘No Bill, they are all faculty members, they are Professors’ … it was my baptism of fire but the evening went well! Since then I have given talks to a very varied groups of people.

I think all great art is spiritual.  I don’t believe in God in the way that most people would use the term but there is a mystery at the centre of all things.  Sometimes I call the mystery ‘the Universe’ or sometimes just ‘the Great Mystery’.  You can find this mystery in religion but not always.  I think we need more spirituality and less religion.  I think my personal view of reality can be summed up in a line by the Nicaraguan poet, Ernesto Cardinal.  He writes in his long poem ‘The Song of the Cosmos’, “When I look at a star, it is the star looking at itself with my eye”.

An installation detail from the exhibit

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Q: What are your observations on the renewal of the Arts?

BL: I am not sure how we can have post-modernism because it implies that Modernism is dead and yet there are really great modernist writers still writing.  Jeanette Winterson, for instance, refers to herself as a Modernist and the late, great, Angela Carter also referred to herself in a similar way.  The fact is the Establishment never liked the idea of Modernism because Establishments by their nature are conservative.  They claimed that the writings of James Joyce made an end for Modernism this just isn’t true.  Stuckism and Remodernism for instance have within their rank and file Neo-Expressionists, Neo-Cubists, Neo-Surrealists, in fact, all of the styles of painting that came out of the Modernist experiment.  Modernism was not a movement as such but an umbrella for all the experimentation of art that emerged in the 20th Century.  In our lives as creative people we can encompass every movement in the Arts from the days of cave paintings through the Renaissance to Modern Art.  However, we do this in a way that is individual to each of us.  If you make a Cubist painting no other Cubist will have made a Cubist painting exactly like that before because it comes through your own personal intelligence.  The same goes for all the other styles and “isms”.  There are as many styles of paintings as there are human beings.

One of the things that I think Stuckism achieved is a renewal of interest in figurative painting which only a decade ago we were being told was dead.

One last point; most people think that Stuckism was anti-conceptual art but in fact we were conceptual artists but we painted our concepts instead of putting a found object in a gallery and sticking a piece of paper on the wall explaining why it was art.  Damien Hurst claimed to be a conceptual artist and yet in a recent interview he said ‘I don’t like art that makes me think’.  I wonder what kind of conceptual artist would say that.

Bill Lewis “Feathers”

Inspired by the novel “Night at the Circus” by Angela Carter