Focus on Art

By Rob Mohr

steve jobs 2


“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world”— Harriet Tubman

Francisco Goya with drawings, etchings and paintings depicting the violence caused by greed and the quest for power, forever changed the culture of Spain and France. Van Gogh’s ability to share human emotion through his paintings added new dimensions to art’s impact on Western culture. Henry David Thoreau, the founder of Transcendentalism, protested against intellectualism and organized religion, while encouraging humanity to renew its relationship with nature. The Bauhaus in Germany, and Black Mountain College in the North Carolina mountains, through multi discipline arts education, spawned hundreds of students, teachers - and Abstract Expressionism which forever changed Western culture and art forms. And, in a modest way, the writer’s, music, poetry and visual arts groups in Ajijic and Lakeside, have had lasting impact of the culture of Jalisco.

The arts record humanity’s collective memory, and visions, dreams, and utopian projections while preserving what fact-based history cannot. They enable us to communicate among human cultures in an environment free from greed, resource control, and the violence of war. Arts are not personal events; they engender communities where people come together even when they see the world in different ways. They enable a society to understand itself and evolve in a progressive and healthy way.

To be a successful change agent, “an artist must guard their interior integrity from the pressure of reality” (Poet Wallace Stevens). An honest look at life is the art’s ultimate subject matter; then their creative seeing will become insight for participating communities of men and women who desire wholeness in life. Artistic interchanges effect humanities understanding of social, political and ecological challenges, and lubricate the search for sound solutions. Like artists of the past, today’s artists are called to portray social reality in ways that enable people to see what they really look and act like. Many artists create protest art, and offer counter solutions to societal challenges.

When discourse fails, protest art offers a unique mirror through which the greedy predators, oppressors, and perpetrators of violence might grasp the destructive nature of their actions. Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now revealed the utter emptiness of war and violence. Victor Hugo’s book Les Miserables exposed the reality of poverty and the thoughtless marginalization of vast numbers of England’s people. Francis Bacon’s Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, completed in 1650, offered stark comment on corruption and manipulation by organized religion. Eben Barnard protest through song A Rage Against Darkness encapsulated the disintegration of society and the enslavement of its people.”                             

My people forced to decide    .

To conform to the system

Their souls engaged

I feel a rage.

Graffiti by street artists like Banksy (his identity remains unknown) provide sharp and insightful critiques on human oppression and marginalization. His painting of Steve Jobs (who is the son of  Syrian refugees) shows an early Mac computer in Steve’s right hand and a full cloth sack over his left shoulder. Job’s portrait signifies both a refuge that US President Trump would exclude, and a capitalist entrepreneur who has amassed great wealth at the expense of the health and welfare of poor and marginalized peoples. “Art is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality.
—Wallace Stevens                                                                                                                 

Through the arts our culture, and society come into too clear focus, and we humans are changed by what we see.

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