Delightful and Disturbing

Wow… so yesterday was a bit controversial… on a couple levels.  That’s GOOD.

First, we got reprimanded for promoting illegal activity (and even making fun of the ways to not get caught… which I still think is hilarious).  Let me say here in public, what I also wrote directly to this commenter, who since, retracted his comment of critique and offered up a more positive response…

My goal here is to promote ART. Both the conventional (legal, publicly condoned/sanctioned) and the unconventional (which yes, at times, can be illegal).  I am not a proponent of altering or defacing private (or public for that matter) property without permission.  That’s ME… those are my values. For the most part, I believe the laws enacted by our representative government are designed for the benefit of society at large.  Though there have certainly been many mistakes along the way… we learn as we go.  I also said in a past post (see There Are Laws About These Things…) that I believe it’s up to each artist to decide for him/herself what is acceptable behavior, and what risks are willing to be undertaken.

We live in a society based upon liberty.  And the First Amendment to our Constitution (its position at the top of the list indicates its primary importance) guarantees us all the rights of free speech.  Yes, this can be interpreted in a mind boggling number of ways, exampled by the current legal challenges to campaign finance reform (who knew money was speech?!?)  But I would argue, and I’m sure others have too, that displays of art can be considered speech as well.

This doesn’t give the artist the right to deface another individual’s property… that person has guaranteed rights as well.  But it does guarantee the artist the right to display his message (his speech) somewhere.  And here is my beef… we’ve left few public spaces for the artists.

We’ve got plenty of abandoned, dilapidated properties in this city that certainly aren’t being tended to by their owners.  Artists take advantage of these sites because they have few other options if they want to display their art publicly, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.  If kids are running around w/ paint, chalk, posters, and wheatpaste in an effort to be creative, isn’t that a hell of a lot better than running around with guns and drugs?

Let’s find ways to support their creativity… channel it in positive ways, eh?  Some cities have designed skate parks for skateboarders… can’t we set aside Art parks for Artists? I personally think this would be way cool.  And a magnet, not just for artists, but art patrons and tourists alike.  My upcoming interview with Mark Bode talks about just such a project in San Francisco.  Check back soon for that…

The second controversy from yesterday’s post involved the content of the images.  A friend of mine said she found the newsprint photographs of what I assume are developmentally challenged individuals, disturbing.

I believe there is plenty of great art that can (and is designed to) delight us.  That’s one function. But there are other functions as well, and sometimes the best art, the kind that moves society forward in new ways of thinking, is, well… disturbing.

I’m not saying the wheat pastes from yesterday fall into that category… maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  What I am saying is that we can choose to live in a sanitized world where we are spared from disturbing imagery (think of the Bush era’s manipulation of the media to prevent us from seeing any of the deceased soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan).  Or we can live in a world where we confront reality… disturbing as it may be at times.

Having said all that, today I will delight you with something I think few would find controversial.  It’s another pet hospital mural by our friend Stefen from Land of the Sky Blue Waters.  It’s titled “Promenade at Lake Merrit” and was created in 2004, and dedicated to the protection of Lake Merritt in 2005.  Enjoy…

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3 thoughts on “Delightful and Disturbing

  1. Ryan Sullivan

    So glad to see that your efforts here are creating a discourse on the important topic of public art in Oakland and hopefully (wink) beyond. Funny how just the other night I was saying that graffiti and guerilla artists might be turned off by the heading of your piece “There Are Laws About These Things” and then someone with a perspective on the totally opposite side of the spectrum chimes in about soon to follow “Wheaties” piece. I really think it’s fantastic that you have captured people’s attention and they are talking about this stuff. It also reinforces your response to the question “What audience are you trying to reach with this?” You responded “Everybody.” I think you are onto something here. Great work!!!

    1. studiodeb333 Post author

      Thank you! My friends keep telling me I should cut myself some slack and not try to post everyday, but I actually find it’s easier that way. I get a rhythm going. If I start skipping days I definitely lose my momentum… It’s so much easier to be lazy!

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