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Art must not flinchc

Turn your back on insanity by aligning yourself with the natural orderTurn your back on insanity by aligning yourself with the natural order



We live in an insane world. There really is no other way to describe it. And it is we human beings who are responsible. For we humans invented insanity. There is no insanity in nature. Although we, as humans, are a part of nature, we do not embrace what nature does. As a whole, we prefer to embrace our invention. We are like the mad scientists you’ve read about in comic books. And our hubris, though infinite, is just as comical.

Jackson Pollock, when he was criticized for not making representational depictions of nature, said, “I am nature.” What a statement!

We are nature! Nature is truth, and through the arts we express that truth. If something calls itself art and is not an expression of the natural order, then it is not art. It does not serve our nature, our truth. It is, instead, a lie—a grotesque invention. We, who call ourselves artists, must choose which vision we wish to serve. What truth do we wish to reveal? Where does our passion engage the truth and reveal in our art the natural order?

It is easy to see that order in the landscape or a painted vase of flowers or the human figure. These images give us a respite from our insane invention. I love to paint these kinds of images; they are a solace. For me, they are like prayers of gratitude.

Before beginning a new piece, I have to ask myself what vision I am serving. Why am I making this particular piece of work? Is it worthy of my time? Is it truthful? Does it follow the natural order? Does it give credit to my birth? Does it give credit to those artists who came before me, and to my ancestors who came as lowly and heroic immigrants passing through the walls and gates of Ellis Island? Am I passionate about doing this work?

But let us talk about the insanity. You know what I mean by insanity: endless wars, the confusion of political expediency, the rape of natural resources, killing for greed, decapitations motivated by religious ideas and the honor of state, and the lies of leaders. What can we do about it? Is it even possible to do anything?

It is only possible for us to serve our truth. We cannot do anything else. I can only serve my truth, and you can only serve your truth. Of course, my truth could be a big lie. I could be ignorant or irresponsible or greedy or just careless. And believing my own lie, I could as well be serving the insanity, serving Mammon. I could, in truth, be a servant of those very corporate, religious, and political structures that promulgate the disease through the media networks.

Before I am an artist/server, I am a human being. I was born and grew. I have to eat and sleep. Like any human, I am stuck here in this insane world, and, like any human, I feel it is necessary for me to complain. I can raise my voice and shout my grief and whine about being plunked down in this absurd insane asylum, where there is no real asylum, no refuge. I could easily condemn foreign policies and the inordinate price we pay for our internment here. Nobody would listen. No one would hear. They would just be waiting for their turn to mouth off. And besides, no one wants to be shouted at. I have found that for my complaints, there is a more effective and creative way: aligning myself with the natural order.

I was asked to write a commentary, “Art must not flinch.” Better still, “Artists must not flinch.” The way I see it, all artists have a mission to bring beauty into the world—but not just beauty; we can do that very well. I collect graffiti. I ask my studio visitors to write something on my wall. Someone wrote on my wall, “Less beauty, more truth.” Now that is some great graffiti, wouldn’t you say? You are all welcome to use it; post it wherever it is appropriate. Making pretty art is nice. Making beautiful art is a pleasure. Making truthful art is sublime. Having a mission to find the truth and make sublime art frightens me. Then, after finding it, exposing it—“exposing” because “expressing it” does not account for the naked vulnerability the process demands. Exposing the truth in a piece of art is utterly and completely frightening.

Imagine Francisco Goya’s series of 82 prints, “The Disasters of War.” They are truly terrifying; most of us avoid it. We flinch. “Truth,” “sublime”—these are very big words, with very big meanings, and I am a very small artist.

   At times in my work, I have felt that I am creating a letter, a sort of correspondence with another intelligent being who lives on another planet, light years away, in another galaxy, and I am describing what it is like to be here on Earth: “Dear Alien Life Form, this is what is happening on Earth … .”

David Settino Scott is a local painter. Send comments to Executive Editor Ryan Miller at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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