top of page
  • Facebook

Been Thinkin' About...Wild art

I stand in the darkened gallery before the early 20th century American art, "The Lantern Bearers." The image is luminous, posing more questions than answers. I want to know more about the art, but then again, I don't. Truthfully, I would rather experience art on its own terms, not the terms of history or a biographer or any outwardly imposed social construct. True art speaks for itself. I am enrapt, until a shuffling and discordant murmur pulls my focus away.


A covey of museum attendees are pushing toward the same painting. Most are wearing headphones, the paid voice in the head directing them this way and that. That disembodied voice apparently tells them to stand in front of this painting without a mention as to whether anyone else is in the way. I step back. Tweed and expensive leather are the order of the day. Two attendees are the clear leaders, carefully coifed hair, genteel but understated rain jackets. It is a rainy afternoon. The sensibilities of National Public Radio are on full display. The group's intent is clear. There are those who are there to listen. And there are those there to be seen — seen by their others, seen doing something important, something cultural, something prestigious. I am eclipsed by the crowd. They then move on, making self-indulgent noises as they pass into the next gallery, headed to the late-20th century. I am again alone before the art.


Art does strange things to people. We make weird divisions, such as "those who are artists" and "those who are not." We further divide into "those who understand art" and "those who do not." Perhaps it is true that Americans have never really understood art after all. In Italy in particular, that cradle of the Renaissance, art is beloved by commoners like myself. Art doesn't have to be high-brow. The roughneck laborer has as much right as anyone else to be moved to tears by the glorious power of human emotion made physical in marble or on canvas. Here, we love our divisions of the mind much as we love our subdivisions of the neighborhood. A place for everything and everything in its place. Nerds, jocks, preppy do-gooders, rednecks, white collar, blue collar, the hard-working, the indigent, the obedient, the gritty fringe, we must all be viewed through the lens of a title, an identity, an appropriate place in the world. Heaven help those who just want to be.


Art is meant to break down those borders, break down those expectations, incite us to do that most human need of all, simply to feel. Instead, we use art to shore up our own assumptions, solidifying differences into something resembling concrete. "I could never make art, I'm not artistic." "Oh, you're an artist?" Whole flocks of people with too much time on their hands live-action-role-play as "art community." "No, we don't do that," you might counter. Yes, yes, you do. I can tell because you all dress alike, birds of a feather and all. One of the reasons I love the art of cosplay is its honesty. "Cosplay? Isn't that where adults dress up in Halloween costumes?" Cosplayers are very genuine about the characters they pretend to be. The rest of us pretend too, but then lie about it, to ourselves most of all.


Art is meant to remind us of our shared humanity. Modern-day artists, the well-known as well as the obscure, are our heroes, our court jesters, our parable truth tellers. They are not the painters of pretty pictures — although beauty and aesthetic indeed are crucial — and they are not copy machines, churning out "just something else that might sell." Instead, artists are those who commit, the ones deep in the throes of existential crises in the dark of the soul, the ones all-but-too-shy to share, the ones whose painful tears wet a slow and broken path. Wild, beautiful, evocative, provocative artists who are willing to commit, they throw caution away if even for a brief moment, and change the lives of those before them. This is not for the LARP-ing, self-important, self-indulgent crowd, or the fainthearted. This is the true wild art of the people, just as it always has been. Just as it always will be.


StateoftheOzarks Writers Artists Night 2024 is currently accepting art applicants on Apply now.


bottom of page