My response to the above title posting, on LinkedIn, is presented on my Blog because it is too long for LinkedIn.
The author accused me of not reading her post. And so I answered the following:
The publicly proffered assumption that I had not read your article is unfounded and discourteous. I had. Several times even. Getting to the crux of your post was a bit complex. I did not “get” whether it was about mental health issues or a need to market your services.
You state: “I have talked with so many amazing artists.” (immediately adding): “Inevitably, these artists HIDE! They question whether they are good enough compared to other artists. They question their own value and validity as artists. They suffer from . . . impostor syndrome. . .they cling to it like it’s going out of style. Meanwhile, mediocre artists. . . sell like mad.”
I can only surmise that of the “so many amazing artists” you encounter, a large segment of them seem to suffer from anxiety, feelings of incompetence and a fear of failure. They see themselves (as you state) as fraudulent in their positioning of themselves as “artists”. In the sentence describing your dealings with them you infer that they should also feel like victims since your chosen quest is to “emancipate artists from sitting under the doctrine of the gatekeepers who keep them chained to a life of failure and starvation. (!!!) After 52 years in the visual arts (successfully I may add) I have never known it to be that discouraging an environment. . . Difficult? Yes. Discouraging ? No. And this despite the fact of my work being consistently rejected by the gallery and “art scene”. Maybe it’s all in the way we look at things. Rejected, I chose to go it my way rather than give up.
That being said, your post is nonetheless a serious one. It implies that there are several mental health issues “out there” which need to be looked into. When anxiety is as prominent as you cite, would it not be best to redirect the sufferers to legitimate therapeutic interventions rather than to a marketing strategy?
Though anxiety and depression are rather prevalent in our times, these symptoms should not be considered acceptable (normal) simply because there is more of this than at any other time in history - even in children and adolescents.
I also suggest that, despite our 21st century penchant for romanticizing mental health issues as they purportedly relate to “artists”, this milieu is no more prone to mental health turmoil than any other professional environment. Dr. Judith Schlesinger’s second edition of “The Insanity Hoax” dispels any notion that feelings of being impostors to a degree of dysfunction or anxiety are particularly “attached” to the art world”. In the grand scheme of things, creatives should not, a priori, be assumed to be overly sensitive or acceptably (read artistically) predisposed to mental health concerns.
Don’t I know of artists who have issues? Yes. But then, the artwork related to their distress is reflective of a personal quest to salve their distraught souls. Once this is achieved they begin again to create to reach out beyond themselves. Any of them I’ve encountered these past 52 years of artistic life have always created “despite” their issues, not because of them. As with extreme tinitus to a musician or mental health concerns to any one of us, these are annoying asides to the quest to create, not catalysts or drawbacks.
To an essay entitled: 10 Behaviours People Find Condescending - (presented in LinkedIn on February 15, 2020 from the website: Entrepreneur)
I offer this response:
More often than not, the behaviours described in this essay (when they are actual negatives) are basically rudeness born of a lack of upbringing or the consequences of a social integration gone bad.
(Note: I will not comment on those points made which are obviously basic social no-nos. Why? They are universally accepted as such.)
Rather I will refer to those areas within this essay which caught my eye. From the very beginning, phrases such as: “everyone knows” are presented as statements of fact. Generic comments, in general, (no pun intended) cause my ‘wary radar’ warning signs to flash wildly. Why? The conclusion is immediate: the contents of the essay presented are not reflections of scientifically based information on social behaviors. In essence, pointing a finger at, under a generic “everyone knows” position, is always an assumption of grandiose proportions.
Also, making emotive statements such as: “if you walk away from another person feeling worse about yourself, there’s ‘a good chance’ you’ve been condescended to. . . .” is, again, a dangerous assumption. If accepted as a statement of probability, is it then possible to assume that there is an equal and opposite chance that ‘we could be somewhat, possibly, maybe, very, if not overly sensitive?'
We do live in an era of blended innuendos - where bullying insensitivities, micro- aggression sensitivities, victimhood, authoritarianism, right and left wing extremist actions and reactions strive to cohabit. All of these must be taken into account if we seek to establish credible terms of reference re human actions and reactions, thoughts and feelings.
The first described example of a behaviour considered by "people" to be condescending is: Explaining things that people already know.)
Why is it we assume another person knows we already know something? How do we conclude that their insistence on informing us of what we already know is a 'calculated' annoyance? How is it that we automatically determine this behaviour to be condescending? From an opposite viewpoint, is it possible. . . that it is we who are incapable of differentiating this purportedly calculated annoying action from the passion / awe being expressed (as in the reference example re Mandela)?
The very idea we assume someone is saying or doing something purposefully,without objective proof, is both arrogant and condescending. Does this not automatically self-elevate our perceptions of who and what is actually superior/annoying - and this should be the baseline for all?
The idea that everyone can read cues is a rather generalized expectation. It assumes we are all knowledgeable in the monstrously huge realm of psychology - and this in an area and time in which there is less and less direct contact among humans due to our digital attachments and virtual reality proclivities.
The generalized statement: “Anyone with a shred of self-awareness” falls into the generic category (again) of assumptions; if not superiority of perception. Self-awareness, self esteem, etc. are seriously important considerations - not because they actually are but rather because they are “in” - they determine who "fits in" and who doesn't. . .
What, in our era, is self awareness, self-esteem? It is the determination of who and what we are and how we should be based upon the determination of others within our society.
This is more a submissive consumerist stance than it is a valid self worth evaluation. It ignores, if not denies, the importance of self-respect which is a more accurate measure of our true worth as it usually would stem from a hopefully rigorous personal review of our own capacities and determinations in light of personal and societal commitments.
As for #7 : Demeaning nicknames like “Chief” or “Honey”
Yes. Chief may be a guy word and honey and sweetie a gal thing. . . That these are terms deemed to be condescending and/or dismissive is a rather dubious contention.
So, I'll stick to my primary argument. I remain wary of phrases such as "most people" know this or know that. Why? Because, at best, it is a rather flawed assumption and, at worst, a conceited perception. And objectively or factually, "most people" means nothing.
More to the point. I've experienced being called sweetie and honey many times in both my personal and professional travels. It is an endearment which I would consider odd in certain areas of the world and "oddly missing" in other circumstances. Such "different" verbal signs of recognition and acceptance are part and parcel of specific environments and how we perceive them is often a matter of our own over-sensitivities to, judgments of or reactions to "difference".
That being shared, I would suggest we should never determine such endearments as negatives in geographic areas such as the south of the United States or Bermuda (especially in regards to women calling someone “honey” or "sweetie"). We just may get our snooty duffs kicked out of the offended areas for “assuming” a superior perception of a warmth which at times openly flows from the heart of one motherly person to their closest relatives and at other times is a warm welcome or response to a stranger considered worthy.
Cultural practices are not universal and should not be treated as such by those who consider their viewpoints holier-than-thou. And in our era, where many cultures share common ground, we should be careful as to how we impose "our " considered superior communication habits.
Essentially, an evident “judging” of men who do this wrong or women who do that wrong is, in and of itself, an arrogant assumptive stance; a “they” should change their ways attitude, born within a realm of anxious perfectionist times. As previously stated, this is a dangerous proposition. It implies (appears to be) a demanding of others of that which we would never impose upon ourselves.
A Venice Evening - watercolour & gouache - 8" x 16" - 2019 - $1100. framed - SOLD
Une soirée vénitienne - aquarelle et gouache - 8" x 16" - $1100. encadrée - VENDU
Venice evenings are rarely the same. The colours of the hazed skies vary from aqua ro pinks and yellows and oranges and warm and cool greys. And the wters empty themselves as the sunsets bring on early and later dinners and the hordes of visitors and resilient Venetians head home for the day - before the evening events begin anew. . . To paint Venice is a privilege few are lucky enough to experience and be blessed by. What a painter misses here is not the fact that they have missed painting the variations of each season. No, what a painter is agrieved by is that he or she has not painted every day of their lives here. Thus the miracle of arriving in Venice and the drama upon leaving Her.
Les soirées vénitiennes varient, varient tellement qu'il n'y en a pas unes qui se copies les unes sur les autres. Elles sont toutes colorées de leur propre éclat, de leurs propre robes de pourpres et de bleues et de jaunes et/ou de violets éclatants - autant que par les manteaux gris chauds et froids des ciels qui s'échangent les fourrures de leurs nuages comme les soies variées des soleils. . . Peindre Venise est un privilège. Ce qu'on oublie c'est que les saisons ne comptent pas. Ce sont les humeurs de Venise en tout temps qui sont richement valables comme sujet de toiles. Ce sont ses couleurs, son architecture, ses gens, mais surtout ses humeurs qui y donnent une richesse sans pareil. L'arrivée à Venise est un miracle. La laisser une perte dramatique pour l'âme.
Bouillie, marée montante de la rive sud, Bermudes - aquarelle et encre - 8" x 16" - 2019 - $1100. encadrée
Incoming, High Tide, South Shore, Bermuda - watercolour & Ink - 8" x 16" - 2019 - $1100 framed
Le mouvement, le son des vagues, lorsqu'elles s'avancent, s'imposent, s'étale, s'étendent et disparaissent entre nos orteils pour en laisser une autre se déployer à nos pieds. . . Un ciel qui se transforme, une surface parfois rugueuse, acharnée, parfois lisse et soyeuse. On ne sait jamais ce que la mer veut nous dire. Tout ce qu'on sait c'est qu'elle raconte toujours, à perte de vue, formant toujours une autre inspiration, un autre rêve. Il n'y a rien de plus ennivrant que de créer sur place, devant elle, son portrait;, son portrait d'aujourd'hui.
There is nothing like it - the ever-evolving shapes and movements, and colours, and sounds of waves crashing over the sands, bringing in, pushing in an incoming tide, imposing itself further and further up upon the shore; ruffling and rolling the grains of coral sand and shell fragments before it. And all the while the ultramarine and cobalt skies dapppled in clouds and sunlight oversee the transformation of the green-blue watercolours of the mother lode. How privileged I am to sit and sketch and render it all - at least today's version of it.
Pas tout est bateau, eau et canal à Venise. Il y a tout de même les Vénitiens. Et ceux-ci, parfois, se permettent une distraction, une modernisation des rencontres, des partages. Pendant près d'une heure, ces deux bonshommes m'ont permit de réaliser une esquisse assez avancée - éventuellement terminée au studio à Ottawa.
Not everything in Venice is a boat, a canal, water. There are also Venetians, young and old. And some allow themselves, as we do, the luxury of a modern version of sharing and camaraderie. During nearly an hour, the total concentration of these two boys allowed me the privilege of rendering them - almost completing a full sketch before they moved on. I completed the drawing in Ottawa.
Off the north shore of Bermuda last year, i fell in love with this little gem of a boat, swaying on nary noticeable waves, and gently flying its colours proudly. All that was missing was its paper-hat coiffed captain shouting pirate "ho,ho,hos" and "avasts". The stories boats do tell. . .
Un tout petit bateau canard danse doucement sur les vagues quasi invisibles. Affichant ses couleurs au brises intermittantes, il me fait rêver, imaginer son bout de chou de capitaine au chapeau tricorne en papier, debout sur le coq. . . épée chancellante. . . menaçant l'ennemi au large. Que de rêves nos imaginations soulèvent lorsqu'on admire un souvenir d'enfance.
Talent acquisition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What the hell is that???
“As the pressure to identify talent intensifies, companies need to address a more holistic view of every stage of the candidate’s journey, from candidate to applicant to new hire. Hiring is too important to get wrong, so bringing data together to predict where to find top talent, and which individuals will be successful within the organization is critical???????”
Really??? This is how we are obsessively "hiring" people today - as if the world will fall apart if we dare to let one decision go awry? No wonder everyone is becoming anxious and depressed.
Talent is an innate capacity to be enthralled by and to practice at a high level - in a specific subject which baffles many others who are not as "talented" or bedazzled by that activity or interest. Basically, talented people are different from others who are not. And THAT is what makes the a good fit in any organization. They have unique perspectives to offer instead of being just another "same" cog in a boringly irrelevant wheel.
Talent aquisition? Are we not, rather, talking skill acquisition here? Eerily, it doesn't seem so.
The solution in the discovery of who are the the talented individuals among us who are best equipped to fulfill a certain "corporate or group think task" is to drop the purported "accuracies" of modern mindshift determinants. Why? They seem to only pinpoint the bad boy concerns of a "clique mentality", those bordering on a fascist obsession for sameness, for oneness, for homogeneity - today's requirements for acceptance and OKness - euphemistically describing a person as one who "fits in".
Basically, today we are increasingly destroying the diversities, the differences required to assure progress - and we increasingly do this through a virtual reality pinpointing of who the "right fit" persons are to work within "our" common goal environment - as if all co-workers should be clones of each other in order to be acceptable and, as a result, productive!
(Shades of the 19th century concept of assembly-line worker bee modules and models.)
Such attitudes "fit" right in with our contemporary "management beliefs" that everything must be quantitatively assessed rather than qualitatively measured. No longer is the goal excellence, but rather the impossibility (illusion?) of "perfection". And ironically, we don't seem to take much of a measure as to whom this right fit profits most.
What we fail to see is that selecting only those who "fit in" encourages a densification of homogeneity which eventually eliminates the very possibility of difference, of problem solving, of creativity, of progress, of success. Group think based on "purported" scientifically refined workforce data too often ends up creating an illusion of security through a specific think block committee mindset which eventually (in most cases) destroys the collective goals inherent in a specific purpose orientation.
In the end, we are screwing ourselves daily to achieve illusions rather than goals. We’re like obsessive “clean-nuts” needing to make sure we are perfectly sanitary in everything we do in order to be perfectly healthy (which is impossible) and who then only end up being “perfectly ill” because perfection only causes allergies, asthma and other environmentally based diseases born of the illusory perfect "state of being".
In the past 20 years I’ve seen fully functional, incredibly diverse and successful corporations go under because of the "viral importation" of such a mind set. - this need to render perfectly homogenous (i.e.: the same as "moi") that which is wondrously diverse. (Remember when everyone needed to have an MBA?) Take a look at some of those companies which put their futures in the hands of a “highly intelligent those” who may have had the brains to get their "papers" but had no wherewithal to implement the knowledge acquired. Like Midas, in the end they destroy everything they touch - for the sake of the sought after gold.
Even very recently, I have been witness to organizations increasingly eliminating everyone who, though highly skilled, functional and successful, are suddenly deemed to not “fit in” based on algorithm determinants of a more holistic (?) (read: pseudo-scientific) approach to "personnel selection".
Result? A swift decline into irrelevance. (Some of these institutions, after only a few months of implementing that “just right hiring process”, have already begun sliding out of view into oblivion.
If it sounds like we are becoming robots. . . We are. We obey the latest dictate when in fact to survive and thrive we should disobey more often.
Just because someone fits in, in a populist sort of “data” formulation way, does not guarantee success of any kind in any area. Humans are much more complicated than that. and the day we poo-poo that truth is the day we become submissive to our own ignorance about the wonders of being alive and creative and motivated. As in portraiture, to create "the just right face", each part must play its unique role, all the while seamlessly interconnecting which each other part. A cheek is never a nose, is not an ear, is not a chin. Yet, without each difference, a "successful" face can never be made whole.
Being neither good nor bad, swift nor slow,
time passes. . .
Simply being what it is. . . Time.
No matter the qualities attributed to it,
time cares not to be friend or foe,
helpful or hindering;
passing as it does over,
and through us;
unseeing and unseen.
And this it does,
regardless of any and all efforts to clock it,
worship it, suppress it,
ignore it, use it or abuse it.
It frustrates our need to analyse it,
relegate it, consume it.
Whilst ignoring our neurotic cravings
to control it, manage it,
equate it, subjugate it.
And though we try to buy,
rent or sell time - to stop it, watch it,
conserve it... all is for naught.
Though we take “time off”
or try to “make good time” or think
we make "good use of time" . . .
All is irrelevant. All is in vain . . . and vain?
For time ignores the existence
of all things, all plans, all beings.
It is its own void. . . and not,
It is its own reality, enamoured of nothing more
than its own virtual existence;
master of its own creation,
evolution and potential,
denial or disappearance.
The “times” we hold dear are not
as they pass unsympathetically,
even as our fantasies concoct warm memories of their passing. . .
Moreover, we do not,
though we think we do,
It is not ours to hold,
nor ours to tell.
Time is amoral.
It communicates with no one and,
even as we speak of it,
it shamelessly ignores us.
our quaking demise
nor giving value
to life’s quivering breaths,
it cares not
whether we are or are not.
Have been or ever will be.
is to pass through time
as it passes through us. . .
To exist is to worry over it
but to never “know” it;
just of it.
And through all of this,
Time will always be
that most famous of accused:
the source of our ineptitude,
our fears of solitude, our griefs and angst
Yet, how can we blame time
when we fail to see it
for what it has always been
and forever will be...
nothing more than the figuration
of conceptually timing
the gradual disintegration
of our every atom
as it, in turn, effaces itself,
diminishes itself, negates itself
from the very essence of its passage,
and ours . . .
Time is but a figment of our imaginings. . .
an enigma which never pretends to be
nor has it ever promoted itself to be
anything more than what it is :
Bernard Poulin - (1966 - edited 1982)
Within the 52 years of painting professionally, there were 46 of those where Bermuda played a major role in my achievements. I created 268 artworks of Bermuda and its people. 118 were portraits the rest were of the land and sky and waters surrounding the islands. Still is a place of wonder.
To thank Bermuda for its never-ending welcome throughout these years, on July 14 of 2019 I donated 4 paintings to the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
Warhol died in 1987. But make no mistake, he's still around. The effect of his persona continues.
He not only saw through the thin veneer of his time, he eerily saw where it was taking us.
And that says more about his innate genius than the sum of his seemingly
endless kitsch presentations.
But how is it he saw what we did not see until so much later?
What would (could?) he say and do "about us" if he were still with us?
Would he continue to focus on the icons of his day or would "we" now be the center of his attentions?
Andrew Warhola affected and continues to affect the perceptions of the world
All of "us" have been taken in by his observations and his manner. Does his influence please us? Should it? Maybe yes, maybe no.
It would seem that all depends on what we do with what we learn from
linking his past observations with our present behaviours.
All in all, it wouldn't hurt to better understand the roller-coaster ride we're presently on.
Soup Can Ethics
By the mid 60s, Andy Warhol was a fixture; “the” brand; the symbol for “self-commodification”. Thus, to the game of contemporary visual art creation & distribution, his persona (the painter, sculptor & conceiver of ideas) summarily elevated itself to the status of "artist = art". A strategist, Warhol considered this the right defensive move for the times. With an increased demand for all to be free and equal (à la Allen Ginsberg) Andy sought to maintain (protect?) his “place” in the grand scheme of things evolving. Though a calculated move, this final morph from Pawn to Knight to King was nonetheless dangerous. But then. . . he was Andy Warhol.
Rather take that step, in his own mind, than accept the humbling reality that was increasingly being touted by a rising rabble of “average folks” - i.e. : those within a flower power context who now considered artwork-making “groovy”, and artists?. . well, just “anybody” who did such stuff - i.e. : those who “played with” and did fun things called “art”. Odd assertion this. . . At the same time that the “doing of art” was being brought down to an “anyone can do it” level, “being seen to be an artist” (having royalty status) was becoming a generalized “craving-to- be”.
The Who’s Who In The Game (Chances Are. . . )
Though pundits now discourse the influence of Warhol on Banksy and Hirst, in the grand scheme of things, that seems rather irrelevant. More important is : how does his enigmatic personality and legacy relate to we contemporary drawers and painters - we, who are not of the chosen few?
On the bright side, we can always dream of the day our work gets a pass - is seen to have something important to say. But then, what are the chances? In a world of multi-million (billion?) artworks produced daily, our “masterpieces” are more likely to be considered pretty good at best and at worst, just “pretty”. In Warhol’s case such rejections, meaningless as populist logistics generally are, were not an option. In lieu, he threw it all in our faces. And, being smarter than most, his timing was perfect and he won the toss.
Dreams Are Made Of. . . Uhm?
But how is it that Warhol would ever be related to us and we to him? Well, Warhol seemed to have forecast western society’s eventual adoption of a pervasive Kardashian-superficiality - i.e. : a trumpeting of an “anything is possible if you wish it to be so” mantra. Nonetheless, the 60s failed to carry forward the equal and opposite consideration that the uniqueness of mastery, of genius, of daring-do would remain, as always rare and elusive. In essence, the Warhols, Caravaggios, Benvenuto Cellinis, Fra Filippo Lippis, Gauguins, Daumiers and Fischls of this world (despite their bluster and delinquencies) were and still are stand-outs - different somehow; not of the rabble. They were and are more than many of us can aspire to be - not because they were at times nice, at times abominable, but rather because their work was and is so damned good. In essence, to aspire to is fine. But the achieving of illusions, of getting a star on the walk of fame, is more often than not a realistic aspiration only if we’ve been dead for a bit. And even then. . . The odds are still better in Vegas.
Though The Times They Are A Changin’. . .
As much as the 60s art world was immersed in creative bravado - in a reawakening of the power of stimulation and propaganda, contradictory feelings nonetheless filled the air. If changes were to fully occur, alternate realities had to first respect the laws of change. New ways of doing things had to allow the past to say its goodbyes, if goodbyes needed saying. In essence, to emerge intact, any new and improved “ballsy” era (read: Pop) had to both take root in something solid (if it was to survive at all) and, at the same time, deal with an emerging populism that demanded “its own elevated place” on a global scale.
Basically, what we had in those years was a melding of 3 world views : the classic “old”, a usual irreverent “new” and an unexpected ever more brash perspective which had (and still has) a “who gives a f**k!, I can do that too!” disposition. And with the 70s well on its way, Warhol knew what was going on and what would inevitably be. And because he was a keen observer, his name, personality and visions came to survive that of the many who sat at his side and even of she who shot him. Yet. . . Does the new always survive and even crush the old, the classic, the established perspective?
Old Remains New If It’s Still Around To Irk The New
The classic perception that artwork is nothing if art does not emerge from it has always been (and continues to be) a threat to a contemporary society’s ever “newer” visual aspirations and neo-meanderings - be they as superficial and crazy as they seem to be, actually are. . . or aren't.
During Warhol’s reign, the world's masses were being baited, lured-in like innocent fish to a Disneyland effect : i.e. : the beginnings of a never ending entertainment = happiness shtick. If side-shows were what got and still get eyeballs, side-shows it would be and, for that matter, remain even more Machiavellian to this day.
With the rules of the game bent and on the verge of snapping, everyone began to slowly sit up straighter through the late 20th century; hoping that in the end they too would be considered a find, a prodigy, a genius, a wunderkind - above the rest of the proverbial fray - at least in their own minds. But then, as ten year old musician Ariel Lanyi wisely stated a number of years ago : “. . . a prodigy is basically someone who can play fast (impress?). . . not more than that. . . (one who does not) understand music.” (the art of it all?).
That is not to say that “fast (brash?) side-show” entertainment was then or is now a sure thing recipe or even a bad one in any era. Some daring, if not “ôser” performers made it in the past and some still do. And by sheer numbers, in our time, bets have to be on the flamboyant fare of the great unwashed and not on the offerings of the select few actual “genii”. When it comes to “arousing”, titillation of the “masses” counts for more. The elite are about import, the masses about impact. As an emotive collective, it seems we are more into the latter. When push comes to shove, at least in every second generation or so, what is popular holds more sway than what deserves recognized achievement or respect.
Everyone’s an artist and everything is art
In essence, Warhol’s assessment remains correct. The rising tide, the rising no-voice class has been, uhm. . . rising for some time. Though the me, myself and I generation was evolving slowly, by the 1990s it had already begun showing its true colours - as muddied as they were.
Me - Oil /huile - 24" x 36" - 60cm x 90cm) - 1995
By 1995 our collective cravings had us “‘acting like” (whatever that means), if not actually being, artists (as romantic and supercilious both that wanting and acting-like are). And, erratic as that “becoming” has been and still is in this 21st century, it continues to be powerful enough to edge many "real" creatives out of what suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harriet increasingly want for themselves : i.e. : to be seen. . . to be seen to be unique, to be known (popular) and to be loved as more than just ordinary folk who spend their whole lives being nobodies, in an increasingly nobody world.
Creativity, or so it seems, has today become more about therapy than creative élan. Where the therapeutic process of creativity was once related to a “self bettering”, and artistic creativity about skill set acquisition of a new and wondrous language, today creativity is a melded and moulded commodity. it is more about emoting - about how we feel in our never ending bursts of sads and happies.
And in that, what about Hirst and Banksy? Who cares! The visual arts are a lot less about influence these days than they are about “I, Me and moi”.
I, Me, Moi - Digital Rendering - 10" x 28" - 2017
Are we "Art" or is art "us"?
Andrew Warhola knew enough about “old art” theory to bank on his notion that the viewers of his artworks were in actual fact (and without their even knowing) the subjects of them. Yes, his marketing genius skills were noteworthy. But first and foremost, his work was a stalwart reflection of his times and of the future. We the people were reflected in the faces of his iconic actors, actresses, politicians and other subjects "in high places”. And we still are.
For all intents and purposes, his artworks were the first “cell phone selfie reflections”. We looked at them, into them and ironically wished ourselves pictured. And as Warhol snapped those “pictures”, Marilyn, Mao, et al got us wondering, smiling, cavorting and posing.
And so, back then, there began to evolve a clearer and yet still ignored picture of how the masses - how "we" were all formulating a contentious stand of status against “every man collapsing”. In that, we have found (and keep finding) every man (ourselves) in an envious grudge match - one in which we incessantly reach out to grab for ourselves even a minuscule morsel of the crumbling status that is "status".
Up the down stair case
So. . . Was this then, and is this now, a down-slide time or an equalizing of the spoils time? That all depends on which side of the fence we sat on in the past and sit on today. For those who, from time immemorial, have classified themselves as “nothing more thans” - i.e. : as simply labourers, working folk, “ordinaries” - this latest century has been offering up a seemingly encouraging light at the end of the tunnel. But then. . . Is it really a beacon? Or is it more a siren’s touch-screen luring? . . . Are we sending out messages of what we want or is it the advertising in our world of never-ending consumption which is gradually consuming us?
Populist, day-gone-by amenities, like “Thank god it’s Friday” & “Freedom 55", have evolved into newer and better acquisitions of cars, nose, cheek and lip jobs, hair-transplants, save ourselves from disaster insurance contracts, funky jello hairdos, yet another tatoo and other “superficial positives”. For some time now, as a collective, all of these have been making us “feel good”. But have any of them or do any of these marketed compensatory ploys add up to even just one full blown joy?
The fifties brought us TV. Today? Not good enough. We want multiple giant screens in our homes, that we watch less and less of, and ironically take along miniaturized copies to incessantly stare at while walking into telephone polls . 1963 gave us touch tone phones, 1973 walk and talk units, The mid nineties heard the first word spoken over an eventually identified as “internet thing”. And since, much continues to be seasonally introduced - like new cars, as if inventions have to wait their turn to be launched as the next “new and improved” something or other.
And, as time passes, our new and improveds also quickly become “not good enoughs”. We wanted more in the 60s, 70s, 80s . . . And as Warhol mused on. . . We want more now of what is not easily attainable, if at all possible. Cause what we end up having "the most of" today are increasingly unmet instant gratification needs. And the more we crave deeply, the quicker our fantasies fade into the discouraging illusions that they are.
Though not all of us are made to be seers, masters or power mongers. . . all of us, it seems, wish to be seen to be more. From the lure of the television-like print close-ups Warhol created in the 60s, we’ve come to misguidedly embrace, to be fascinated more by the illusion sold than the reality of a falsehood depicted. Excellence in communication was/is, once again, trumped (no pun intended) by the medium being the snake oil message that it is. Warhol knew that. If he were with us, he would know it still.
Openness & Transparency Vibes
But with advertising, promotion and marketing, have we not become more open? Have we not? Have we? What are we? . . . with our right clothes, right cars, right accessories and right doses of Zoloft or Paxil? Are we OK? Better? Getting there? Will the right “new and improved” cell phone be the next aphrodisiac to our never-ending wantings? Never mind the inner joy thing. That’s just too hard to recapture from childhood. And anyway, what’s available? What’s actually up for grabs? Bring on the next Google, Amazon and YouTube promo!!!
It’s as if we've reached a manufacturer’s dream pinnacle of nirvana; a never to be matched orgasm of discovery as our every fiber aches to find that lost "better being” that is us - that ever sought selfie self - with not even a hint of an “other” disturbing our quiescent descent into the bliss of uniqueness. Ah, to be left alone - not in our usual anxiety borne loneliness - but rather in the safe solitude of a connected disconnectedness such as we have found via the Facebook, Instagram and Chatbot personas we have created.
From The 20th To The 21st
Can it be that what Warhol sought was a discovery of the self; which he then projected onto the images of others rather than onto those of himself? In his quest to be seen to be, did he ever become the erudite elitist; the bearer of the ennobled title of "artist” - an identity which he seemingly had to have? Was Warhol in search of that “brand” we so intensely crave to be identified with today - rather than have it identified to us? Was AW, for all intents and purposes, following our dream of being hot-branded? Is the search for self-branding one of our own design lest we appear to "fail" when we are scorched by everyone else’s hot iron stamp? Or is it a desire to be seen to be as big as every other previous master - without all the trouble of working at it?
Yes! . . with time, "I’m an artist too" has come to supersede the ubiquitous “I am an artist”.
Now, that may be easy in the arts and craft world where adult coloring books now contain “art-101" exercises. But claiming a status equal to that of a Sigmar Polke, Corot, John Singer Sargent, Hokusai, Barnett Newman or Pollock remains a rather extended if not narcissistic stretch. And so, is this where we now stake our claim - on an identity, on a brand, in our “selves” rather than in the independent powers which lie within our creations?
We should be careful. . . Getting away with arrogance now demands a better proposed game plan than was historically implemented in the Pop era. Did we ever truly say our goodbyes to the “past” - or are we just “hangin on” to its guarantee of authenticity. . . just in case? Our dithering is more than obvious. And the today context in which we find ourselves is no better than in the past. The modern world, in its quest to be equal and free, has failed to bring on the goods. Or. . . have we become the failing factor in our quest to "be"?
Is it the environment which has failed to give its masses a recognition of their innate wondrousness as individuals and as a collective? Has it failed us in the offering up of truth? Has it instead promoted myths to which we now so ardently adhere? Has it failed us by encouraging a virtual rather than an actual self-worth; failed us by allowing the superficialities of consumerism and commercially promoted self-esteem campaigns to define who we should be rather than the best we can strive to "do"? Is it all about us being excited and happy, about being great because we think we are? Or is it about us at all?
To Be Or Not To Be. . .
I am sure if he were around today, Warhol the spirit guide would ask himself this very Shakespearean question. In essence, is “being” our thing? Or, is “doing” (working), the one essential in the creation of the state of being, which is crucial?
In "our" art world, is it the creator being artist or is it the created spirit within an artwork being art which cries out for validity? Is it realistic to assume that the mystery that is “Art” exists only because we think art is what we think is "art"? And, despite a lack of capacity to communicate, to speak to the mysteries we think we have created. . . is it nonetheless "art"? Or is it simply a figment of our imaginations that paintings, sculptures and other expressions of excellence exude mystery? Who’s to say?
But then, there's the rub. This very question questions never wanting to be considered possibilities, such as : Do we create art when we create artwork? Or is “art” a mysterious independent by-product of that physical rendition called a drawing or a painting? And if so, is art always there lying dormant in whatever we produce? Is it always ready to pounce, to emerge simply because we say it is there to emerge? And is that what makes it “more than"?
And what if it fails to emerge? And worse! What if there’s nothing there to emerge. . . ? Does that make us no longer “artists”, as we so vociferously proclaim we are? Does it downgrade us to a student level, to an amateur grade of neurotic oddity; an apprentice aspiring to an illusory “Académie” - to a wanna-be-in-waiting - craving “the” higher Hollywoodian calling we all seem to so desperately aspire to?
Or should we simply “do a Warhol” and proclaim from on high that everything we make is art and subsequently everyone who creates is an artist? We could. . . But then. . . Are we anywhere near to being Andy Warhol?
I am, therefore I am. But Am I really? And if I “am”, what am I?
From the onset of the 20th and 21st centuries, fascination for the truly unique and for the mysteries of an emergent enigma has faded - has even been supplanted by a greater gravitas-envy for the “position, status and recognition” afforded a creator of imagery, rather than for his/her process or end product. Warhol knew that. Flower power connotations and left wing radicalism face-offs aside, the increasing “now wants and needs" of contemporary generations (as he predicted through his work) continue to assail us.
And with that, what we have is a sad mid 21st century problem where the “screams” emitted are more Munchian then ever - more than even Warhol or any honest 60s “hippie” could have conveyed with actual feeling. That this predicament has become ever more than the mystery that Mona Lisa has ever been is evidenced by the dichotomous craving for selfie heights; for reflections of the wonders of “moi” which so often remind us that, emotionally, we now are more akin to being victims of ever increasing pressures than we are heroic hopefuls.
And yes, that victimhood we concomitantly embrace with “wishing”does not bode well with the equal and opposite wanting to be seen as “more than” - the “whatever” we now desperately crave as a birthright. There is an historic phrase - an expression in French Québec which remains to this day a reminder that the past is often nothing more than the first day of the present. “Né pour un petit pain” - “born for the smallest loaf of bread” - i.e. : born (to be) less”. Though it may reflect on past feelings of subservience, its existence in our mind’s eye highlights the effects such feelings continue to inflict upon the social DNA structures which incessantly haunt us. When we reach out, are we asking for too much? In other words, will our contemporary choice of a victimhood status always be in conflict with our wanting of more for ourselves? Guilt and lust are two opposites which never stop spitting on each other; vying as they do for supremacy over our lives.
Victims R Us - Oil/huile - 36" x 12" - (90cm x 30cm) - 2006
We are probably the only era which would have enticed Andy Warhol to re-become Andrew Warhola - to look at himself and to us for inspiration rather than to movie stars and to the socialite “elite”. I would wager he would have found all of us more fascinating than the celluloid crowd. Ours is a titillating anxious lot. We are serious worriers. Our dramas are real, not made-up. We fear (made to?) aplenty. We are more depressed than any other peoples at any other period in history - even when compared to times of all out war. We nurture depression as a kindred spirit and seemingly encourage the very thought of ending it all. We more easily submit to musing on how ever much time we have left - possibly based on however long our Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac or Lexapro prescriptions will last. And so, as a people of a numbed era, should we return to cell phones and iPad screen soothers to reflect upon the more palatable virtual realities defining our existence? Or should we ponder the relativity of our concomitant creative élans gone mad?
That being said, are selfies the images Warhol would throw in our faces today? AW would have a field day if he were around. . . Even though he was used to being a star and having “stars” as subjects, he nonetheless represented the reality that is us - the absurdity and/or superficiality of “their” reality in the 60s, so much like ours today; where we embrace the superciliousness of "our truths" rather than the truth.
Through his magical screen print “figurines” with overdone lipstick, and theatrical faces, Andy spoke of them in a pliable plastic way - without emotion. What would he do with the lot of us today? Could he do anything? Would he feel anything? Would he fit in or be frightened off by the danger within our times which seems ever more ominous than that ever felt during the peace movement vs mid cold war travails of his era?
Safe? Secure? Fugget-about-it!!!
Warhol, had he stayed around, would have had to deal with our “agitated contemporariness”. He would have had to deal with the environment of it, the ambiance of a normalized OCD uncertainty where an eerie ambiguity allows us, on one hand, the “freedom” to choose anything we wish to choose. . . and on the other, the distress; the fear that we will not choose well. Melodramatic or what!?
Our times demand we react to either one extreme or another. And to feel whole, we tend to react to both at the same time. - be it of the right or of the left. In our quest to trust, we find ourselves needing to believe so deeply we can’t but adhere to specifically promoted illusions, while abandoning our own capacity to decipher what is or is not real, good, bad, correct or false.
Basically, we are become “sectual” - of a cult. In our desperate cry to exist, we more often than not wade safely in the shallows rather than dive into our ideological wanderings and wonderings. We constantly return to the only surety we think we know - the self - the “moi” - that vessel which, before the mirror, is always both horribly incredible and incredibly horrible in its capacity to decipher what is. Ours has become a "victims R us" world.
The Compensatory Art Of Our Times
And so we paint puppy dogs and flowers and abstracted sentiments. We struggle to emulate, to copy, to make our scribbling real - to be the same as what we hope we are “correctly” looking at and taking in - as if that is what matters and has always mattered to “artists” since the beginning of time. I can only think of one contemporary film script which comes closest to such “fatefully bizarre realism” : (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - by the Coen Brothers). That we are lost in our losings and even in our findings is an understatement of weird Warholian proportions - within which I am sure Warhol would have thrived. Or would he have?. . .
The Present Is nothing more than the offspring of its past and the parent of its future. And the more shallow the times passed, the shallower our upcoming seconds and hours and years become.
Andy Warhol was well aware of the increasing vapidity and fragility of his time. He grew within the environment of that era as the King of it all - knowing full well what his work was saying and about whom. He knew even more that he was not Hans Christian Andersen forging a tale of overbearing royalty. In fact, his tale reminds us that we all seem to crave to be that self-same royalty - “emperors, each displaying our very own unclothedness". . .
Warhol’s work identified and expressed who we were as a collective within a specific time frame. He did not pretend his work was otherwise. His statements were clear, highlighting as they did, how evermore vulnerable “we were becoming” to manipulation, to vapidity, to flag waving allegiances, to the pointing of a finger at an "other", lest we one day become that "other". In essence, his recognition of the branded "nothing" we have come to embrace is the prequel to an ever increasing acceptance of evaporating freedoms. But then, what Warhol did was what an artist does. He or she speaks to the truth of matters “that are” - whether recognized or not - and of the consequences that will emerge from that ever constant becoming.
As an a artist, Andy showed us who we were and yet “we did not know of what he spoke”. We simply saw his “artsy activities” as simple elements of yet another “art movement” in which self-deprecation was nothing more than a new and improved "entertainment" which was yet again nothing more than the side-show freakism we now seek through reality-TV finger-pointing - and that, in order to feel better about ourselves.
Warhol's time was ever more than even he could fathom at the time. It was a forecasting of things to come - a harbinger of the same yet different vapidities and fragilities increased ten-fold in order to meet the ever-exaggerated needs of our “new and improved”, advertised, promoted and sought after "well beingness". In the analysis of that which was Warhol, what he has become is much more than the sum of his works.
Today, our cry is to be recognized as more than our efforts merit, to be seen to be more and, through instant gratification, to achieve the nirvana of a “superficial happiness” no human can actually afford to want or be able to deal with.
And so, from being mesmerized by John Singer Sargent watercolours and the sculpted wonders of Michelangelo, to the enigmas of Hopper, Hokusai, Riopelle and Wyeth, we have grown (?) to venerate a soup can from which can only emerge the art form of our present needs: the emptiness, the vacuum, the space in which we seem to hide our marinating anxious spirits. Dare we open the Pandorra's Box that holds them close?
Warhol’s genius was his mind, not his output.
Putting it all in historic perspective is not a put down of the artworks created by Andy Warhol and his collective of “Factory” adherents. Warhol knew that artworks, when great, are the deepest “reflection” of an era - not of its creator (as insipid as those reflections may on the surface appear to be). Artists have always done their job well when they knew what their jobs were. But then, as we don't really know what an artist is today, can we know what our role is? As with all Masters before him, Warhol didn’t play at being guru or leader. He did what masters have done since the beginning of time. He presented his observations, stepped back and let us read into them. . . Or not.
In the end, all which has been written here boils down to "nothing exists in a vacuum" - not even an idea or a perception - and this goes for everyone, including A.W. This was true in the mid to late 60s, and in the ember ashes of it all in the Warhol 70s, as it remains true to this day. The artists of a time simply meet our collective and individual need to constantly re-introduce ourselves to ourselves - if we would only look deeper. And if Warhol were alive today, he would be striving to create the ever more intense complexity of the mirror-reflections we know as selfies - the very selfies we have become; that we have been transmogrified into being. In fact, he would have found a way to represent our actual “becoming” within the addictive electro-luminescence into which we now “normally” stare and click for hours on end. This because why? To rediscover the who or what that we have become, and that we are continuously becoming? The who, we have lost and daily, desperately search for?
But then, would even Warhol know of the level of symbolic superciliousness required to represent the listlessness of these times, the consumerist inducement of joyless happiness, the increasing anorexic disappearance of the self, the feelings of “feeling less than” simultaneously coupled with an equal and opposite growing narcissistic search for greatness? Probably. . . Andrew Warhola “was” Andy Warhol. . .
To Summarize. . .
As THE Pop King, Warhol understood crowd-pleasing, mob elation and the serious consideration of that which is “popular” - as in : "suited to ordinary people" (this, from English references dating back to the 1570s). And in our populist era, popular tends to define itself as : therefore legitimate, therefore professional, therefore authentic - therefore marketable, therefore sellable - rather than the actual *artifice that it so often is.
Seinfeld once warned us about “nothing” wishing itself be “something”. The comedic reference was funny then, but is it still? Possibly it’s now too real to be funny. As there are always icons to represent who humans are during the various phases in their evolution, there must also be a recognition that we eventually “are” the icon, the rising Barbie - and, in turn, the sinking Botticelli Venus.
Venus Rising - Digital Creation - 11" x 10" - (28cm x 25.5cm) - Ed: 50 - 2008
With lowered expectations and feelings of “less-than” often come a much more easily acquired aggrandizement, a self-reverence and the arrogance of an acquired taste for ignorance. Warhol profited from these growing needs within an environment of less - especially of freedom. He was a predictor of who we would become because of what will have happened to us - and because of what we will have allowed to happen to us.
Andrew Warhola, Andy Warhol, marketed his wares as reflections of us - his fawning admirers. And in so doing, he impertinently and astutely wielded the hot iron which “branded” us then and continues to brand us now. . . “his cattle” to this day; whilst he, the elegant creative cowboy atop a bonny steed, "has rid off" into the proverbial sunset.
*artifice : (see “Reclaiming Art In The Age Of Artifice” - J.F. Martel - Evolver Editions, North Atlantic Books)
Bernard Poulin. . . I paint, I draw, I write