Thursday, November 4, 2010

First draft of an artist statement

Here is a draft of the artist statement I am working on, to be translated for the inaugural festivities  on the 12th.  There is still much to do, but the upper and largest portion is about finished.  Here are also some details, much of which will not be well seen from the ground.
Origins; an Allegory of  Creative Transformation

En este mural mi propósito es que a través de fusionar pigmentos de colores luminosos, sutiles y vibrantes así como veladuras, se celebre el propósito común de honrar la unidad de las artes musicales, plásticas y la danza para el beneficio de la comunidad de la comunidad de Santa Ana.

Muralism in the 20th Century, particularly in Latin America, was most often a form of social discourse that contrasted strongly with individual artistic work pursued in the privacy of one’s studio.  Though the distinction has broken down somewhat through postmodern tendencies, public murals—perhaps more so than other visual art forms—has continued to raise social, ethical and artistic issues.  A mural created for an art school dedicated to the metaphysical notion that artistic integration is of overarching value in the formation of culture and individuals offers very special and additional challenges for the muralist.  Indeed, what can be offered that would feed the spirits of those who enter such a school?  What does a painter have to say of value in this context to a musician, a dancer, a thespian, a poet, to the public?   Does a common impulse animate the separate artistic disciplines?  Are we collectively healed and civilized through art or does it remain a luxury for the elite and privileged?

For EMAI, I have chosen to paint a philosophical allegory concerning aspects of the individual as a creative being.  In this way I have side-stepped social issues, per se, in favor of more basic assertions of psychological and spiritual growth, which one hopes will result in greater civility and culture, however indirectly.  The message of the mural is therefore directed to artists of all disciplines and to an interested public.    In the tallest panel, the first of four, my intent has been to allude to the integration of the disciplines.  Subsequent panels will deal separately with music, dance and theater.   Generally speaking, I have sought to evoke an abstract sense of music through luminous color passages, patterns in rhythm and the transparent flow of veiled forms.  I have sought to celebrate the body in drama and motion, as well as note the conscious and unconscious ways we mask ourselves in social roles; those that define us and may sometimes keep our creativity muted and timidly conventional.

Structurally, I have thought in terms of various theaters, or stages of consciousness, represented vertically as a sequence of areas of the mural, radiating from the level of the golden proportion (about seven meters high) where I placed the infant in what I think of as the Theater of Solitude and Authenticity, alone and nascent in possibilities and latent expression, authentic, yet rather solipsistic, scarcely aware of the presence of others, including those that threaten him or her.  Though represented in this fashion, it is also symbolically about the place of origins, of adult artistic authenticity, of peaceful oceanic consciousness, the place within us in which we are in ultimate existential solitude. In this state, our being operates blissfully prior to the opinion of others and various social, cultural and religious constructs and imperatives.

As the individual awakens further we enter what I think of as the Theater of Drama and Romance, of love and celebration—an abundant place animated by the ebb and flow of strife and joy— inspirations in either case—as the individual seeks, gains and loses intimacy vis-a-vis others; all fueled by strong passions, desire and longing. Lower still, at the level of the ground, is the Theater of Roles, of social life, in which we identify with our place in the world, where we wear masks as we interact as adults, children, parents, friends, enemies, and all the rest.

Above the infant in solitude—read origins—is the metaphysical Theater of Imagined Powers representing the myriad ways we conceptualize and comfort ourselves with invented, imagined projections of parental and god-like personifications of forces greater than ourselves, some sweet and benevolent, some ferocious and intimidating, some sacred, some profane.  Whether they exist for us as numinous presences, as unexamined beliefs or conscious inventions, we must deal with our common tendency to imagine what lies in the shadows, to believe more than we know.  It is this realm that has the power to inspire or condemn, to foment faith, to haunt us, to lift us up or to oppress our spirits.

Above the Theater of Imagined Powers is the Theater of Elemental Forces, the impersonal and faceless dynamic realm that animates our world space—prior to distinctions of of good and evil, it an unsettled field of darkness and light, a primordial place of beginnings and endings perhaps beyond our capacity to think or imagine.

Whether our authenticity is latent, and then we transmute it into art, or through art we make ourselves new is an enigma; both are true.  Through the arts we risk a confrontation with who we are not, and who we are not yet, even who we never may be.  Through art we are expanded to sway in time to spontaneous rhythms of the body, to whistle a tune in play, to have visions that penetrate and soar.  Through art we tell stories that charm.  Through art we honor life with an offering born by dipping into primordial well-springs.

The challenge that EMAI represents to the community is not only to master the technicalities of the separate art disciplines but to become fully realized, expressive and generous human beings rooted in both individuality and the community.  One need only walk the corridors of this school to sense the commonality of the human struggle to live in joy, full of the sort of  courage, energy and intelligence that permeates the hearts and minds of young and old alike.  Here one feels the quiet desperation of mere existence receding, replaced by verve and an abundance of spirit.

This mural is given to the Escuela Municipal de Artes Integradas de Santa Ana and its community by Linfield College in Oregon, my home institution that graciously permitted me to realize this work while on sabbatical.   I hereby dedicate it as well to a supremely generous and wise artist-musician and scholar, my friend and colleague of many years, EMAI Founder and Director, Dr. Jorge Luis Acevedo Vargas.  May this mural incite discussion and provide a venue for contemplation for many years.

Ronald D. Mills
Professor of Art and Visual Culture
Linfield College
McMinnville, Oregon USA

12 de noviembre, 2010

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