Last night (or early morning) a painting of mine was put back on a train in St. Petersburg heading to Moscow. It was one among several exceptional pieces by other painters who have gracefully invited me into their world of high art moves. “High” as in “spiritually deeper” in the traditional sense—something other which I have not experienced in a lifetime.
Locally, in America, I have had no luck in finding a group of painters who work together to achieve together. Very difficult to seek out when visual art among educated people in the U.S. is relegated to the experts to define in galleries and museums. There is no art market in a middle class that can afford something like a new coffee-maker just for aesthetic purposes. Oftentimes, painting seems such an unnecessarily lonely pursuit, as evidenced by websites such as Painter’s Table that archive contemporary painters. I used to go there to study and sense what other like-minded people were up to. No kindred spirits there! Quite the opposite. Just interviews with established (that means “represented” artists), from well-appointed studios in Connecticut or Brooklyn, or video from New York galleries with gallerists talking the desperate talk of promotion in order to pay the rent.
An art problem embedded deep in my culture. America is resting on its laurels. Painters themselves look all confused. Too many want to make “it”, and “making it” means success, and success is measured in wealth, or in the case of the professional painter, being able to make a living via painting. God help me if I ever become one of those “professional” painters! Careerism is the bane of our culture—That it has sucked in seers and sages to represent the American way is proof of the decline.
Kara Walker, a tenured professor at a major university making perhaps $100,000 a year pretend-teaching, sculpts sugar in a warehouse with paid helpers, heaps more sugared wealth and fame upon her status, is revered in the press, congratulated for stimulating an upper class of expressionless, myopic careerists, and the artist as spiritual pilgrim is ostracized wittingly, or hopefully for his or her sake, unwittingly.
I, for one, will have none of that nonsense!
Here is painting:
No artifice! Humility packaged up and delivered safely by train. Nobody got paid, although I would pay these two dearly for transporting a sliver of my soul to St. Petersburg and back.
Several years ago, Kara Walker’s traveling circus show came to our town. My wife and I went to her opening. Ms. Walker sent a graduate assistant or the like to speak in her stead. No hint to the audience of being sick or physically unable to host her own party. I stormed out of the gallery infuriated, vowing never to play games with these players again.
Good for me. Kara Walker represents the disease of contemporary art. Stuckism, as performed by these intrepid painters, leave her and her kind far behind spiritually, and for good reason.
Some photos by Alexey Stepanov of an amazingly well-organized make-shift show in St. Petersburg, followed by a short video with Alena Levina explaining the work, I hope, kindly:)
Alena Levina making high compliments?
Read about it in the media (if you read Russian)