“Feeding Enthusiasm” An Afternoon Primer In Affordable Taste

Alena Levina: “Vadim and a Flock of Bullfinches” 2016. Oil on cardboard, 30 x 32 cm

I am not sympathetic to humanity that has food, clothing, shelter, and fuel lined up securely for at least a year, who keep extra for rainy days, and so much extra for the sunny ones, yet have no desire to spend a very small percentage of this extra on visual art. Just by virtue of breathing, contrary to present-day political correctness, is anyone awesome. There are good painters everywhere, who could even become the world’s champions with half the effort my frozen community spends on promoting its dime-a-dozen hockey player with the twelve teeth. Likewise, that so many refuse to practice art in such bloated economies is a mystery to me. While the ones who do create, are more often than not, living a hand to mouth existence, or forced to take on the uncreative work, the work of the world—actually the work assigned to the masses by the few masters who control it. I think so many in the comfortable living world feel incomplete because they do not know how to let the artist into their lives. Sometimes there is even revealed a thinly disguised disdain for the creative ones. “Look at how much fun he or she is having at our expense!” That, from a two-car garage coal miner. He might think the world has always needed coal. Tell him that the forest provided fuel until past nasties just like his present CEO cut down all the trees to heat steam to power factories, to take the serfs off the land, put them in a box, or underground, lock all the doors, and pull the shades. The coal miner practices cognitive dissonance more so than the study of history. My great-great grandfather didn’t need coal. Neither do I. Then who does the coal miner work for?

The millionaire, and also for the illusion that he too will one day become a millionaire.

Art and recreation are the joys after the four human needs are maintained. Wait, I should add a fifth—acquisition to antibiotics. Then comes art and recreation. These are the creative manifestations of what it means to be human. You just can’t get on happily without them. Why would you want to? 500 years ago, the Mohawks threw a ball around with a sinew net tied to a stick. It didn’t cost them a thing for joy. Who cared then, or now, what a breakfront was, or a Mazda 6, or iPhone 6? Those are all lonely status symbols observed alone, without stories, action, nor adventure. Art is a very important path back to communion. Art celebrity and Hollywood are the antithesis of art. The MoMA does not bring people together for them to be together. And George Clooney is just an enormous, hideous vanity, and probably never loved a painting that didn’t cost someone a coal miner’s lifetime salary.

It is waste to be so wealthy, yet so poor in taste. Walk into any middle class home and ask to see the original paintings not made by a loved one. It is a rare find in our garbage heap American culture. At least in my experience. And the crime is that a painter will sell an original piece for next to nothing. And more often than not, will just give it away, especially if he sees the same enthusiasm in the eyes of the potential buyer.

Within the past few years I have developed a desire to acquire painter’s paintings. I see work from artists all over America, Spain, England, Greece, India, Russia of course, South Africa, etc., and I long to hang the pieces I like in my own home. I have started a private fund to raise money for this adventure, but am reminded daily of my responsibilities as husband and father who has lived a hand-to-mouth existence until quite recently.

Alena Levina picked up her portion of grant money this week at the Western Union in Moscow. I have divvied up my pay from the award to share equally with the painters involved in the project. It is a modest sum, and I would give more if I had it. I know her feelings when the exchange occurred. I know because I am an artist who has longed for just crumbs of recognition for over 20 years. Getting paid for fine art painting is as rare as having coins tossed at you for tap dancing on a remote shoulder of highway in Montana. When the paintings hang for the exhibition, I hope to sell every last one. I have from now until November to build an appreciation for art among the populace of this old, tired county in upstate New York.



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