Thursday, December 17, 2009

Judgment Triptych/Coltrane Chapel

The Triptych is finally done. 7' high each by 68", 7'x17' total . The Chapel is designed. Two 5'x10' wings of musical warriors guide us in, a circle of Angels dance in greeting before us. Trial awaits.

It has no single religion or dogma attached. It is personal accountability. We must all answer for our lives at some point, even if you do not believe in God. On your deathbed, you must go over your life, and come to a conclusion whether it was worthy or not. Some are sociopaths, some are saints. We all are sinners. And even the worst of us has some redeeming quality. Is it enough?Should we wait til it is too late? What do we leave behind? It is not for us to judge you, but your own conscience. And whatever may await.
Today is always the day to atone for our ways and renew our faith in life. We will not be here long, what have we done? Is the world better for our having been here? Was love in our lives? Did we sacrifice for others? Did we give as willingly and happily as we took? Was our life in balance; mind, body and soul nurtured and worked for the benefit of all?
The left panel is Trial. The Angel of the Lord stands before us, awaiting his command, to let in or destroy. The Trial is going on, defense to the right pleading our case, of frail man and his weaknesses, as well as his triumphs. The left the prosecutor demands perfection, and reveals our failures. God looks on from upper right, his verdict in waiting.
The right, our failure, Doom. The Angel takes vengeance as Gods anger burns. Yeshua cries for our soul, for in the Quran as well as Bible, Isa, Jesus, is there at the end times. But he is always there to plead for Man, for he is pure. The middle panel we have Acceptance, we are welcomed and God glows in joy for we are loved. But do we?
The Age of Meism and Excess behind us, our most recent Gilded Age over. Judgment of Humanity is here and we have failed as a society, but there is time while we live. Do we make the most of it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Revitalization of LACMA

Making it reflective of the general populace of Los Angeles, and relevant to humanity . Things it has strayed from more and more over the decades since its inception. There is a drive to tear down the old buildings, spend hundreds of millions we don’t have for something new, again, and remake it as a popular place, which it no longer is. I have been three times lately and doubt there were more than a hundred people each time, on Saturdays no less. Only special events bring people to the museums. Events that require funds and promotions, not making it a part of people’s lives, a place that the various communities of Southern California can call home.
There are some very good things about LACMA, its collections are slowly improving, and overall has been showcased in comfortable and appropriate ways. But much more can be done, and a new edifice to the few is not going to improve its standing in the population of 12 million it is supposed to serve. The recent architecture has been appropriate for its subject, shallow contemporary art in a building looking like it is made of tinker toys, a covered area that makes one feel he is pulling up to a gas pump, obviously reverenced from Ed Ruscha’s Standard Station painting.
As with most things pop, it only references itself, as it has little connection to the reality of the many, except in pretending to see ideas in common items. Conceptually giving them meanings they don’t truly have. And so separating its creators from the world they are supposed to serve, by claiming intellectual superiority, when it is truly just myopic arrogance. And the lack of creativity and improvisation in interlacing and layering different styles the true antithesis of Art, the inability to see commonalities and potential the outcome of decades of Academic teachings. Which are about separation for control and market value, not appreciating life, and creating profit, not the passionate joining of humanity.
The new architect Director Govan is interested in is from northern Europe. His ideas and lines are appropriate for a cold, snowy, and forested environment, but have no place in a Mediterranean clime with Latin America as its largest coming influence. We are a hot and dry culture, where buildings are designed to keep us cool, not warm and dry from wet and cold. Our architecture is of outdoors, of living with nature, not separating ourselves. We need a festive environment, one that brings different cultures together, and makes it a place of communing, of disparate peoples joining and creating a cross fertilization of structures and forms.
The buildings we have are easily mutable with some creative energy. Current architects leave no room for innovation or change, all steel and glass and stone, with no ability to create swirls of color, harmonies that unite us in common joys. Yet we have left them beige, boring, not attempting to give them an energy we can easily, and cheaply provide. It is called paint. A foreign substance to most artists these days, color is what creates form, and together, a feeling of belonging. The current Ahmanson, Bing and Hammer are dull outside, but in that they have pillars and panels besides the stone, they can be painted and changed over time, nothing is static forever. The ancient Greeks painted the Parthenon, not cold white stone, but festive places to unite as a culture. LACMA can do the same, and for very little monies.
I have created an example, the Ahmanson with burnt umber pillars and yellow gold in between their folds. Burnt orange, of the sunsets, atop the roof, and the façade of the walkway. Burnt red along the wall panels both upper and lower. The same color will be on the pillars of the Hammer, mixing with its pinkish panels. From the Tar Pit area it will have the appearance of wood, as redwood trees between the foliage. Various golden yellow and orange will be on various singular panels of the two buildings, with the same Thalo Green of the pillars of Times court in the under passage. The green will also be on the lower level panels of the Bing, with Thalo blue ones on the upper panels and the walkway façade, with brilliant white pillars and golden yellow interior on both.
This is but the setting, the courtyard will have a gazebo type bandstand, with perhaps a climate controlled storage against the Art of the Americas building to store an upright grand, which is fine for such a venue. On the stand concerts can be given, allowing performers, both of acting and acoustic music, allotted times to enhance a Central Park style involvement of the audience/viewer of the Museums, for music will be integrated into the visual art of LACMA, not just in concerts. Behind the stand a scale replica of our greatest local artistic treasure, the Simon Rodia/Watts towers can be made. Not in ceramic, but replicating it in wrought iron, made at a local foundry, something LA used to be known for.
And as the outside will become a meeting place and lively creative atmosphere, so it can be moved inside. Entering the Ahmanson, and descending the steps to the lower level another Los Angeles image icon will await. Perhaps our most famous buildings is not something new and humongous, but the downtown Bradbury Buildings interior space. As the elevator service is slow and so useless that I usually take the stairs at LACMA, a similar Bradbury style elevator in the middle can rise to the top floor, with iron and wood walkways alternating in different directions to the floors. This will activate a totally unused space, a so far wasted opportunity. A new sunroof built around the elevator, with colored panels rising up behind redwood colored pillars. Golden on the lower level, then sun burnt orange, the third Thalo green and blue at the top. Slight modulations will enliven it according to the light, changeable murals could be hung on the tan rock panels, and outsized posters of past LACMA events as well as collection artworks can be displayed.
This will make a sterile and useless space come alive, and with sofas scattered around the floor area, with appropriate music’s pumped in, a meeting place of people in a cold and distant city can bring about an interaction we lack in our cultural institutions. Most of the galleries are fine now, much better than in the past with the white cube concept banished for the most part. The adjacent new Oceanic room is wonderful, the light and simple earth tone colors allow the richness of the wood and organic substances to shine through. The Pre-Columbian room is interesting, but does need the eye popping wood stained to a less distracting Cocoa bean color.
Separating the newer Contemporary works into the BCAM is good, so as not to weaken the creative art of these buildings. However, the waste of wall space is incredible in the Broad. The lower level of the Serra behemoths are dull and lifeless, place rich and living colors on the empty walls around them. A painter I know of in the Bay area, Bob Nugent, has done a huge 200+ foot painting of the Amazon, which would enhance the rusted colors of the Serra’s, and at least give them the appearance of nature, that they are of the Colorado River valleys, not just tons and tons of wasted, rusting steel.
The now neglected entrance between the Bing and Art of the Americas building could be rebuilt into a series of musical pavilions, with the great sounds of the Americas lined up against its walls. Brazilian, Caribbean, blues and Jazz, the musical equivalent to Modern Art, can be entered with appropriate visuals and perhaps smells of those lands and cultures, and music should be introduced throughout the Museum. Silence is not needed in visual art, the best of which is the physical embodiment of music and poetry. Not prose, which is but illustration. Or ideas which are solely of the individual, and not mankind.
The Japanese Pavilion is an eyesore. The sickly green is not of Japan, and washes away the sensual masculinity of Japanese art in waves of mossy decay. Repainting the walls an off white, and replacing the dirty plastic panels with a more rice paper colored and textured protecting white would help set off the strong designs of the scrolls and screens. A dark wood, from railings to the ceiling to the tops of the kiosks would create a more virile and strong environment and create a much better light. The old May Co. building could be used as a giant canvas, one to paint murals upon, but it is the easily rectified Time’s Courtyard that can become a crosscurrent of LA, where peoples form various communities can meet and interact.
Buses should be connected to outlying cultural venues to bring in populations who don’t usually go to LACMA, and take those who are there outbound to see our cultural treasures. Such as the Watt’s Towers, which LACMA should be involved with in saving and promoting, and the Buddhist Bell and park in San Pedro. Places in San Gabriel, the San Fernando and East LA should be involved in bringing new talents and peoples into the isolated WLA and Miracle Mile areas, which are far more secluded than they think. Outreach between parts of the city and its ethnic communities is essential , and has been neglected. This is the way of the 21st century, making art relevant to humanity again, exploring nature, defining who we are, and seeking a way to be more, to have purpose, to seek god.
This is not only possible but necessary, for we are at a time of great change and opportunity. A time to explore and grow together, where the old ways have failed us. New ways must be created to conserve and protect our world, and unify to strengthen one another. It is no longer about I, about me, about the individual. It is about Us, with each person resolving to be a part of the whole. To grow as one, for we will fail together if we do not. Waste is no longer an option, personal glorification a detriment to humanity. A new time is upon us, a time to put aside childish things.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art and Purpose

We have come to a point in History of great change, both in how we must live to survive and thrive as a species in this world, and in our view of ourselves. Of our place in the Universe, in our relationships to one another, and our Purpose for being, our relationship with God.

We in the West have lost our way. Consumed with ourselves, our lives built around things of this world to give us self-worth, and inward desires that place our own personal happiness and well being before all. Where the virtues of humility, sacrifice, and responsibility have no worth. We have become disconnected, from one another, our world, god, and ultimately, from ourselves. We replaced what is good and humble about mankind with personal avarice, collecting things, placing our self worth on what we have, instead of who we are, where character counts. Fulfillment and Purpose are ignored, and so we are hollow. The contentment of being at one with mankind, nature and God has been denied, leaving us un-satiated, always craving for more. The relentless pursuit of temporal happiness, of individual glorification, of instant self-gratification, has left us voracious, and without peace in our hearts. Avarice replaced responsibility as our highest goal in life.

Art has always been the embodiment of Purpose in humanity. It was the physical manifestation of who we are as a people. It identified each group, whether tribal, national, ethnic, or religious based. Markings of cloth, pottery, housing, temples, even personal jewelry and body paintings or tattoos identified to all who one was. How each was different, and yet included in ones own separate group .It could identify each individual within the society, into castes, slaves, rank or wealth. But Creative Art always bound us together, all in the group were of the whole, of one mind, of one Purpose, of one family.

Art signified our meaning within existence, of Nature, of the world that surrounded us. We sought in the stars and seasons why we were here, to understand them, to better survive, to know when to plant crops, to harvest, to take shelter. We explored the animals and plants around us, giving each a role in our lives. Finding places on the Earth that we felt most connected to it, where we could bond together, and be at one. Creative Art visualized this in an attempt to understand, to be at one with nature, so we could thrive as a people. It sought the patterns and structure within the world around us, so we could grow as a whole, and fulfill our role within society. It explored in its own creation, finding balance and truth in the reflection of the layers of existence around us. It sought to heighten the passion of living, by revealing what is, simplifying the chaos we felt surrounded us, when truly there was order, a Purpose that could be found and revealed through Art.

Art decorated and enhanced our Temple’s to God. In clothing, decorations, pictures and Icons, we attempted to connect to more. We created Holy places, where one could focus on what was beyond us, to receive knowledge and grace. To worship what was beyond our understanding, to find Purpose in life. Reasons for our existence. Creative art sought God in each other, in nature, and ourselves. We worked out in each piece the multi-layered patterns of life, what revealed the existence of more, of an energy beyond the sum of our parts, that gave each work an inner life. A glow of truth, that reflected the Purpose of Gods creation. It sought a personal connection to God. A feeling of being intensely alive. Through purely visual means revealing, uncovering, embodying the very essence of life that God has given us. An inner peace, a knowledge beyond words that we are all one.

Creative Art sought to visually reveal all, through line, color, and structure. As in Music’s melody, harmony and rhythm, it is at its best when poetic and flowing. Not literary, not telling others how to think, what to feel, not illustrating individual ideas and desires. With Modern Art, we came to view all of humanity as one. No more differences in surface, both unique as individuals, yet bonded as a common humanity at heart. For in mind, body and soul we are. Cezanne sought to create ones own visual language, where Philosophy, Science, and Theology were unified. Humanity, Nature and God as one. Mind, body and soul revealed, and Purpose achieved. Forms were created to express not ourselves, but what is, not just as we perceive our world, but what we know and the truth we feel.. It was a way to approach god, to worship his Creation, which we are all a part of.

But during decadent times, art reveals how apart from God we are. Where the individual’s fears, desires, and arrogance create a gilded age, one where man becomes the measure of all things, and attempts to be god himself. To assume to control life, where luxury is the goal, where things have more value than character. An age of excess, where there are no consequences, that man puts himself on a pedestal, and the individual is all. A time of division, of splintering for marketing forces to sell and buy, where everything is a commodity, including art, and man.

Contemporary art did this. The same forces that were in control during the age of the Salon, the last gilded age, reasserted themselves, through art academies, and shallow mediocrity was enforced. Where the way to art was as a commodity, a bought degree, a control of mind, where the individual was marketed as a glorified being, an artiste, and so special in his own eyes, if not the world’s. For this edifice became less and less connected to reality, to humanity, to god. They came up with their own separate ideas of what art is, a pretense to power, to be the Pharisee’s of art. Controlling what was presented to the world to amuse, gratify, and enhance the desires of their patron’s, the very people who brought our current economic and ecological disaster upon all.

That age is now over. A new time is upon us, where we must reappraise who we are. To reconnect to one another, to nature, to God. Man is not the center of the Universe. We are a creation of gods, a part of the whole. His mercy and love are all we have, his Purpose our contentment, our denial our doom. For God’s purpose is for mankind’s benefit, not useless rules as that of the Academy’s, created for the professional artists career. . Creative art must again reflect Us, over I. We are important, not the individuals ideas, nor exhibitionist desires and arrogance. But where works are inclusive, not exclusive. Where we attempt in each work to uncover who we are, as we explore our world, and seek to reflect Gods will. For we have lost our Purpose.

Creative Art is a means to approach Truth, not own it or claim to know Gods mind, the ultimate blasphemy, as arrogance goes before the fall. Each work must be humbly approached, where the motif is but a part, the entire work being an exploration, resolving supposed contradiction, which are of our limited minds, not reality. No person, place or thing more important than another, we are all made of the same stuff. All a part of creation. But built up in a complex layering of relationships, simplified to approach the Truth and Order within, to know Purpose. It cannot be owned, for it is Gods, not ours, but we can share in it. As One. We can recognize Truth, and follow it, art being but one path among many. This is creative arts roll in life. For we all have a purpose within society, to allow mankind to grow, thrive and live in balance, in inner peace. Art abandoned this long ago, as did our entire culture. Now is the time to find our way once more. We must, or we will fall. Together.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Failure of MoCA to serve the needs of Los Angelenos

MoCA does not represent the goals, aspirations, needs, or varied artistic creativity of Los Angeles. Contemporary art in general, has been about amusing and serving the desires of a tiny minority, the wealthy, and keeping art academies in business. It has no relevance to the life of Americans, and certainly not Los Angeles. No public funds should be used in any way. All efforts to keep the Museum financially stable, is completely on the audience it serves, the rich, and the Art Academies that rely on their patronization. If they cannot keep it afloat, it does not deserve to exist.
Privatizing the main site would be best, Museums such as the Norton Simon are of much higher quality, and involves far more and disparate peoples than MoCA ever has. The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach has far greater outreach, and relevance to the community it truly serves. Its finances are stable, and within reason, for public use, not private sources who use MoCA more for its own desires than the public good. Art has always been to define a community, who a people are, and their search for meaning in life, of god, and family. Contemporary art in general does none of this, being about self-expression, desires, and defining decadence in a Gilded Age of self-worship, which has now ended. The equivalent of the Academy of the nineteenth century, its day is over, if it ever truly had one.
The Modern Art of the Panza Collection should be sold to a modern museum, preferably the gallery at LACMA. They now have more than enough wall space, and need to keep upgrading an improving level of creative art. It could be kept, as the only truly valuable work in the Museum, being stolen fair and square. As Manhattan was for a few baubles, in the great American tradition of land deception and breaking of treaties. Or housed at the Geffen, and selling or renting the main site for another type of museum or other public usage. Selling the other works, whose prices have crashed forever, true worth now to be seen, could keep the Institution alive. And hopefully bring more of LA into it, looking for more and better art to inspire the imaginations and hearts of Los Angelenos, few of who know, or care, about the Contemporary, or its art.
But the desires of the few, no matter how well connected or financed, should not induce the City or County of Los Angeles into any deals. A reprioritizing of values is now underway, the new Administration holding out the promise of uniting us as a whole, being about We, rather than the Meism of Contemporary “Art”. Sacrifice is now called for, not to promote the few, but by the whole, for the whole, including the wealthy, who hold the resources of our age to an inordinate degree. There are far greater needs at stake, our children, our homes, our livelihoods. Our planet and basic human values, God and Nature, Art has not addressed these fundamental human needs for generations.
And until it does, should not be financed by public funds, through grants, incentives, deals, property or direct cash infusions. Let the market it serves determine the outcome.

Imperial Clothing

Imperial Clothing
by Donald Frazell

Marketing The Cult of Individualism
This basically sums up the state of “Art” in America. Why? Because as with the Romans and British before us, America is a place of commerce, engineers and industry. We are a practical people, with one great genius. Selling a product. Coca Cola, Chevrolet, or the NFL, our marketing leads the world. It takes what it can use, from evangelism in religion, to music from our ethnic populations, to modernism for advertising; business brings to the world what it can convince them they need.

How has this affected Art in our country? From a weak history in visual arts, we institutionalized Art in academia. Fine Arts catered to the wealthy, bringing them the sense of luxury they required. Our crafts were democratized, simplified forms from countries of cultural birth, gaining a simple grace and sturdiness. On the streets and countryside, the arts of common people blended, taking from their neighbors what they could use, adapted to new environments, and flourished. Music, dance, furniture, housing, and house ware all grew and took on new character. The Fine Arts continued to emulate Europe, and also weak copies of arts from Asia. Only in the new fields of film and photography did we create new forms, ones that influenced the rest of the world. With our emergence as a superpower after WWII we convinced ourselves of our superiority, that our culture, and therefore our Art, must lead the world.
We created truly great collecting institutions in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and private collections from the Frick in New York City, to the later Norton Simon in Los Angeles. In the post war era, every city wanted a Guggenheim to promote its greatness, and, of course, market for business and tourism. We went on a building binge, architects from around the globe vying for commissions to create the newest edifice proclaiming civic pride, and individual immortality. Museums, as with NFL stadiums, are selling their naming to the highest bidder, ensuring commercial sales in the sports venues, and personal immortality in all the Arts. For Art is believed to be eternal. Marketing genius.

What to put in this exploding acreage of empty wall space? Most of the great Art of the world had already been bought, or stolen. From the collections of Morozov and the Steins, to the Elgin Marbles of empire, and grave robbers from around the world. As artists like Van Gogh and Matisse became known, celebrity reigned with the explosion of media during the twentieth century. A vast new source of material became available, as investment, and speculation, making even the worst study or sketch of “name” artists valuable. New “schools” vied for attention to be documented, promoted, and sold. A new industry was born. The old Academy had been destroyed by the Post Impressionists. Now, everything was fair game, no standards to be created, fought against, or reformed.

Mega shows blossomed in the 1970s, after the success of the King Tut traveling exhibit, just as the supply of new creative arts was drying up. Hype, and attendance money, ruled the day. Cézannes apple had been sliced into such small slivers, there was no substance left to Modern Art. Pop, disposable art born of media, and psychological fetishes took over. Horrible shows proliferated. Ads promoting the glories of Picasso raged at many Museums, based around one quality piece to be reproduced ad nauseum as bait. The rest of the show comprising of a few mediocre pieces, and a lot of trash. For while no artist ever created as much significant work as Picasso, no one created, and preserved, as much garbage also. And collectors, read speculators, have wares to hawk, and increase their investments worth. Minimalist navel contemplating exhibits "filled" nearly empty galleries, eye stimulating and mind numbing op art flourished. Pop posters enlarged from the newest rags were plopped on walls. Supposedly shocking sexual art, illustrating self-loathing and perversion, totally lacked in sensuality. The harder they tried to be "new" the more they seemed childish rantings. And critics wrote volumes about the supposed glories of exhibitionism, and pseudo-intellectual games about viewer-artist-gallery-museum-blahblahblah-relationships All to get attention for themselves, for career, and $.

Museum budgets expanded, fundraising exploded, monies from membership and museum shops became means of revenue, no longer education and appreciation. Advertising campaigns to bring in new viewers grew, special shows drew hordes, earphones attached telling them what to think and feel, explaining the artists motives and emotions, when such things are truly irrelevant. With rising insurance costs, tickets became exorbitant, and museums competed to get shows. Where taped messages led the masses to buying trinkets and posters demonstrating ones good taste in Museum stores. They had to compete with forms of entertainment, and so, became it. And people missed truly significant works.

One example, from the 1980s, was the second Van Gogh show at the Met. It was a truly wonderful show, having many of his works from Arles and with Gauguin. But as the hordes fought in bunches before the paintings, viewing by number from the audio stuck in their ear, not thinking for themselves, a truly significant show right next to it was virtually unattended. Two rooms held the complete watercolors of Cézanne. His works influenced the century as no other, the watercolors having particular inspiration on post war work. But as the hype machine had focused on the Van Gogh show, no one attended. Three times I viewed it, no more than two others in the room each time. Marketing told the public to come and see this one show, huge lines and hefty ticket prices kept people focused strictly on the special "event". For people had disposable cash, and had been taught to appreciate art as a commodity, whether they understood it or not. The purpose of art never having been explained, the Trivial Pursuit generation saw all things to be used, to entertain, and personal desires given primacy. Not the accumulated knowledge of man, to be added to ones appreciation for life.

Sales: Galleries and Critics
Now, everyone wanted to be the next famous gallery owner or art critic to discover “the next big thing”. They became the rock stars as much as, if not more so than, the artists. For they made money and went to parties, which people like Woody Allen made infamous. Artists were romanticized, their lives captured and presented for consumption in huge coffee table books, so everyone could not just understand and appreciate art, but actually get into the minds of heroically hyped “Gods’ of Art, and therefore be them. But no true artist wants to have his life dissected and simplified for consumption. They are workers, making objects to stimulate and connect people to life, to feel it intensely, and find meaning. The artists lives themselves are irrelevant, the work is all. When successful, it should trigger spiritual feelings of fulfillment, and purpose. Passions should be the same as when entering Yosemite Valley in the spring, the works of God surrounding us, of eternity, of life, of belonging in the immensity of creation. The Sistine ceiling conveys this powerfully, as does Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and Goya's Third of May. The Olympics have now been similarly packaged, sentimental stories told by sympathizing, emoting hucksters, while the purpose of the athletes work, their performance, gets lost on hidden cable channels. Their stories are soon forgotten, to be replaced by others, and their hard work in competition never seen or appreciated.

So now artists, like pop stars and athletes, are packaged for consumption. For pop, the package is the product. Meant to be viewed, used, and disposed of. It has no shelf life. It is the product of media, to be sold by the new self-promoting Vollard, or professional hypester Rosenberg. Critics and gallery owners now become more famous than the producers they hype, by naming new movements, and attaching their stars, paychecks, and careers to their stable of wannabe professional artists.

But the product was disappearing. After a last gasp of Modernism in the WWII generation, from Pollock and DeKooning to Diebenkorn and Tamayo, inertia grasped the art world. What happened? The media and salesmanship had overtaken meaning itself, with critics quoting Marshall McLuhan every other article, to justify their paychecks. When the quote itself had been a warning, not a goal. A burgeoning need for product hastened a new academy. Not a limited structural hierarchy as before, one that could easily be discredited and replaced by “the next big thing”. But one that could be controlled and defanged, one based on fallacy and vanity, serving the needs of the wealthy. One that became so marginalized mediocritized, and self absorbed, it was irrelevant to real life, and so removed as a true threat to the powers that be. Removed from everyday concerns, the masses lost all interest in it.

The art school of the nineteenth century was run by the official Academy, court appointed hacks that backed the status quo, with a few exceptional artists, like Delacroix and Ingres. After that all great artists were self-taught, or as Cézanne said, the Louvre is my teacher. All early moderns went to, and dropped out of, different art schools. No great artist has ever graduated from an art school. Or taught at one but briefly. Schools by definition are self-perpetuating and teach accepted techniques, and so self interested and conservative. They are professional and standard creating, analyzing past life, as an autopsy is to breathing. Infatuated with the individual, the paying student and themselves, and fundraising. In music also, artists from Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis have dropped out of Julliard and Berklee, going on the road with the real teachers, performing artists who had actually created themselves. In art it is always true, those who can do, those who can't teach, and get a degree. It is a commodity toward professionalism, not creative art.

The American art school had always been used both as a training academy to produce work acceptable to the current ideas of the wealthy, and as a finishing school for young ladies preparing for marriage into society. The two have now been blended, as grants are given by trust funds and charitable organizations run for and by the rich. They are playgrounds for their children, and others who have bought into the castrating ideology of “Meism”. A few are publicized as rebels and trendsetters, such as Basquiat, a middle class black youth of rather limited ability. A promising student at his best, romanticized to both promote and excuse the excesses and irrelevancy of sheltered privilege. A token, who had bought into the pop lifestyle and self absorbed ideology, using drugs not out of rebellion, but decadence. Government funds are lobbied for, and administered by, wealthy interests whose tax deductible contributions therefore come right back to them, rather than paying for essential public needs, such as education, healthcare, ecology, jobs, and funding a war they created.

Creative Arts
For what is creative art? "Art" covers a huge array of activities, such as applied arts, learned skills necessary for life and everyday activities that utilize creativity for a given purpose. But art lacks subdivisions to explain purpose, and one word covers a huge variety of quality and intent. Music has categories, for better and worse. Miles hated the term jazz, saying it was a white mans word, he was just making more music. But when categorizing by type, at least one can wind ones way through the variety of purpose and quality of music. Jazz is the quintessential American art form, blues, bluegrass, R&B, even country often having great worth also. But most is entertainment. Creative artists seek to master their craft to get beyond their own individuality, to become one with the universe and contribute to its growth. They aim to trigger in the viewer or listener an intensification of life, of caring for, and becoming part of our world. It is losing oneself in Nature, the Universe, God. Entertainment, pop in its current form, is about glorifying the individual, and so by identifying itself with a pop god, the mass becomes more than itself. Losing ones cares, not dealing with them, and feeling superior through their chosen deity. This can be addicting, a drug, and so easily marketable.

What is its purpose? For Purpose is everything. It is what it has always been. From cave art to Michelangelo to Picasso, it is about, who are we? Does life have meaning? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Gauguin asked these questions, as did John Coltrane. It is about God. Not of dogmatic religion, though art has always been at its service, but of the eternal. The search to build upon our past, not ignoring it, but adding our current experiences on those who came before, to understand what makes us human. It is about We. Understanding who we are as humans and our culture, moving into the future as a society, and world. It is bit-by-bit defining who we are and bonding together.

All great explosions in art have come about not because of individuals, but changes in society, knowledge of who we are, and our place in the Universe. Egyptian, Hellenic, Pre-Columbian, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic art all exploded into life when societies formed, civilization crystallized, and ideas about life matured. Tribal arts from all over the globe appealed to gods for life to continue, nature to spare them and nourish their crops. It defined a people, giving them identity as a whole, not individually. Ones identity within the group came next, and art strictly for group religion became a personal quest for meaning as well. Western art developed in the Renaissance because of new knowledge, that uncovered from the ancients, and physical knowledge, science, which redefined their presence in the universe, and who they were. Another bigger explosion, from Darwin, Einstein, and the Industrial Revolution led to Modernism. Attempts to redefine who we are led to new art built on the past, with our new knowledge added, much changing our notions about our very being. Artists such as Braque and Picasso no longer bothered to sign their works, they knew they did not matter any more than anyone else, we were all built of the same stuff, trees, animals, rock, air. It was not about individualism, not self-expression, which is for children, and those who wished to market them.

Current State
Psychology and fetishism now rule the day, forms of decadence, not vitality. The market are those who can afford over priced and hyped work, to both exhibit their wealth, and speculate on their investments. Pop has focused on music and film. It brings in more money on a mass scale. Interior decorators create atmospheres matching furniture and flooring, buying abstract designs and figurative art as wallpaper, for clients who seldom know what they truly want. But the majority of galleries for the wealthy are either accepted Masters, or work that reflect the needs and vanities of the clientele. Many have psychologists to deal with their unresolved issues and frustrations, finding success in monetary terms has not translated into happiness, which has become fools gold. Happiness actually being a short term state, which drugs, entertainment, and societies fixation on instant gratification, has made all important, mistaking it for life’s goal. When in truth it is a by-product of fulfilled purpose and contentment. Most painting is now their children’s work, reflecting insecurities and need for self-validation. They seek bought self worth, instead of earning it.

Modernism went beyond the previous prosaic and illustrative work with ones based on music and poetry, the oneness of all in the chaos. Line as melody, color became harmony, and the structure built by Cezanne on knowledge of our physical oneness with the world, gave rhythm. A rhythm European music could never build, but came about in Modernisms musical equivalent, jazz. But Modernism split Cézannes atomic apple over and over, until finally there wasn’t enough left to work with. As building a signature style for commercial purposes became more important than the works own integrity. Art is built of relationships. Stripped of them, it is simply decoration. Then, first pop, now self-expression and willfully ignorant self-adulation has taken over. Leading to decadence and arrogant distancing from the rest of humanity.
And the art schools supply their needs. The film Art School Confidential has a good bead on it. Ones about the sprawling myopic gallery scene and bloated museum industry have yet to be created. As Eisenhower warned of the Military-Industrial Complex threat, so the small art world should have taken heed of the Museo-Artschool-Gallery Complex, a self perpetuating agenda based on its own needs, not the real worlds. Culture is based on the past, adding links with acquired knowledge. Sciences are not taught in these schools. Not economics, history, religion, physical activity and development, all the things that make us human. No sexuality, no love, no passion, no sacrifice, no charity. Only a bloated sense of self-importance, as if the rest of the world should pay attention to their unknowing ramblings and desires. The lessons are dated, mediocre, and redundant. Creativity cannot be taught, it must be earned. Talent is nice, but many hacks have some of that. Cézanne by schools definition would have little, as did Einstein, but their devotion, study, and ability to bring together supposedly disparate ideas created new ways of viewing the Universe, so we are able to understand it more, from the information we are constantly receiving. This took years of self disciplined study, of the best and newest solid information, not a few years in over aged daycare centers. As Cézanne said, art is a priesthood. These are no monks.

This country has always been about movement, all its best traits are in growth and action. Not in the attempt to capture movement, or express oneself through the action of painting, or the exhibitionism of performance. But in physical movement of purpose, dance, music, sports, the effort to build. This requires focus, planning, thought and balance. And knowledge of a task at hand. Skills attained through years of training and trial. Many American Museums best features are the buildings themselves, others fail miserably, such as the Japanese Pavilion at LACMA. Which ironically features an excellent collection of screens and scrolls, which the rest of the museums lack, having a broad array of mediocre examples of art and artists. Many of these new Towers of Babel, and Ivory Mausoleums to benefactor’s fame, are filled with decorative wallpaper, disposable pop, and self-exhibitionist decadence. Really, we have more than enough wall space, now how about promoting some relevant art to fill it.
Sports can be more truly dramatic and exhilarating than most art. Michael Jordan with the ball, five seconds left in playoff action, provides more relevance to mans nature and passion than the latest Biennial. Dance is wonderful in this country, from the streets, to clubs, to troops. To, yes, even BET at times. But Music is our true contribution to the world. No, not the insipid redundancies of a Philip Glass, or cute witticisms of the Talking Heads. While Europe and Japan love jazz, and regard it as the equal of European musics (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Atonal.), the American Art World will nod its head briefly in its direction, then go back to its own limited concerns. Yet right here in this country Miles Davis has proven himself to be the musical equivalent of Matisse. Charlie Parker created the analytical cubism of music, be bop, while Coltrane explored synthetic cubism, creating the first truly international music, both technically, and incorporating music’s from around the globe. Together they created the quality and breadth of art of Picasso. Louis Armstrong provided the bridge between the old worlds concepts, and the new, as Cézanne did in painting. Monk gave us the poetry of Klee, the modernization of ancient regional sensibilities of Braque and Tamayo came in Gillespie’s Cubano Bop, Blue Note artists, and advanced bluesmen.

It is ironic how the American Art World puts everything outside itself in deprecating categories, especially Ethnic Art, yet what could be more ethnic than it? Hordes of young, white, metrosexual males and anorexic princesses live in self-proclaimed, and often City funded, Art Colonies. Thinking they are the heirs of Picassos floating laundry and Gauguins Marquesas, yet those artists, and traveling jazz musicians, never enjoyed forced air heating, indoor plumbing, and polished oak floors. Nor the young Bohemian's parking places for their Toyota Prius and daddies BMW.

The End
So what is the future of “high’ culture and art in America. There may be none, for now as in the time of the Academy, it belongs more on the Society page than Cultural. It has limited itself, both to its own inbred small circle, and from the world. There is no true discourse, no heated arguments over meaning, no passion, when everyday those privileged enough to have the time to create should justify their existence. For that is what art is, We, Relationships, Eternity, God. Purpose. These are the continuing concern of art. In a time of War, and coming economic turmoil, we must get back to who we are. And unite over common ground. Not behind a candidate, a religious article, or political doctrine. Those are the false gods of ignorance, hate and division.

Will a revolt come from within? The huge number of vanity galleries swamps the ability for talent to be seen, develop and attack. And lack the vitality, constructive self-criticism and passion to do battle. Will it make an end run around the system, and appeal directly to the masses? Possibly. But as in the innumerable numbers of cable stations, the fragmentation of focus keeps it off the powers that be. Tough times are coming. As with “new” art, there is no “new” economics, the numbers are horribly out of balance, and the time has come to pay the piper. Monies wasted on the arts, grants to the soft mediocre artists who need to toughen up, must end. All true artists will find a way. Get a job. Or find private commissions that are not tax write-offs for dad. And use the public’s money for real concerns. Education, healthcare, jobs, ecology, the physically and emotionally handicapped from War. A balanced budget.


We must open our eyes and hearts, if Art is ever to be relevant and vital again. The best and brightest, the most passionate, should not all be diverted to more pressing needs. For Art is needed. To unify, not divide. Veritas, adapt our needs to Truth, not to our own desires. Art is now false and a mirage. It sucks up to individual vanity. Look around, the Emperor has no clothes. Imperial clothing.


Born Donald Hugh Frazell, in Long Beach. Ca. 1959
Raised there, by a mother who graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art at the beginning of World War 2. Raised no nonsense, but with great knowledge of, and appreciation for, ancient Mediterranean, Pre-Columbian, and Asian art.
Attended Long Beach City College, at first with a History major in mind. Switched to photography, getting a degree, and winning many college competitions. Then moving on to CSULB, with again the intention of majoring in World History. Not so much to teach, but to understand why we are what we have become. For only by understanding our current ideas and how they formed can we contribute and add to our World culture. As many have evolved by irrational circumstance, some tested and found to be sane, stable, and beneficial to mankind. Though not nearly as many as we would like to believe. Most of our believes are simply reactions to the situations we live in, yet there is always more. And that sense of God, of the eternal, however brief and fleeting it shines in our lives, exists and endures. This is why I continue to explore through Art. For me, art is not self-expression, that we do everyday, in every decision we make, but has nothing to do with the Creative Arts. It is the discovery and revelation of the order around us, the purpose we must have to grow and become more.
I am a Modern artist. I seek structure in the chaos around us, a chaos we perceive, but truly is not. That we cannot see them does not mean that purpose and order do not exist. They do, and this is a strength I have always had, to see patterns, form, light, direction, flow, God in much of life. In photography, I use Black and White to cut through the surface, to see the growth and energy in the earth, the water, the world around us. Death and decay rebuild into new forms, to create life once more. It is eternal. We are not. Some feel inferiority before the endless Universe, a void. I see creation. Power. Passion. We are but a link in a varied culture man has created, and but a speck in the immensity of Life. This gives me great joy, and contentment, as I am part of so much more. And want to reveal this to others. It Exists.
I see all arts of the past to be about God, whether in the cave art found in European prehistory, or the ceramics and jewelry of Mesopotamia. The palace and paintings of Knossos. The clay figures of pre-columbian America. The screens and sword hilts of Shogun Japan. The masks and wood fetishes of Africa. The painted lodgings and ceremonial tattoos of Oceania. The embodiment of God as creative energy by Michelangelo on the Sistine ceiling. The understanding of matter in all things, air, water, earth, and the structure within, by Cézanne. The order of sounds, through melody, harmony, and rhythm in Miles and Coltrane, to reveal humanities passion. This is where I pick up the chain. The realization of line as melody, color as harmony, composition and structure as rhythm, the pulse of life. In Photography, the lines of earth, plant, animal, water and sky, the structure and order they reveal. The melody as they surge, coursing their way through matter, organic, and rock. The tones and textures enliven the forms, the light comes from within, for they are not pictures of things. but created designs, prints of the order and breath of life.
I began painting, as I wished to use the human form, color, and the flesh of paint, to discover further. To find another avenue of revelation. For God still exists. The concept perhaps beyond our comprehension, yet is all around us, part of us, and gives us purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. I am not interested in dogma, though Church and religious doctrines I know quite well, a huge part of history, as well as economics, environment, and war. To understand us as people, we must know our past, or we will miss the natural vanity and self. aggrandizement which we all possess, and must keep in check. I am not done, and will change as does life, but the underlying truth around us, the order in chaos, is what I seek. Always.

The Black and White photographs are 90% large format, and 10% medium format on 120 film, processed by hand by the artist. Scanned on a Scitex scanner, formed and enhanced in Photoshop, and printed on the Lightjet 430, all completely by the artist. The color photographs are 35mm slides, processed by Kodak, scanned and printed by the artist. Prints are up to 22x28, on 24x30 Fuji Crystal Archive glossy paper
The paintings are all in oils, on canvas and cotton duct, bought and stretched by the artist on self-made frames. Sizes vary from 4’ to 10’. Prints of the paintings are from large format transparencies shot, scanned, and printed by the artist. The photographs begin in 1978, the paintings begun in 1984