04 April 2011
I just want to make art - but is that okay?
I really just want to be an artist. Why am I engaged in politics? Why do I devote so much of my brain to the issue of climate change and public policy? I really just want to draw. If our world cannot get it together, what hope do I have of making a difference? I have already proven that I cannot even coax a group of academics to share a vision, let alone the rest of society.
It comes down to this: I feel I have an obligation. We collectively are in a bizarre state of denial about the impacts our culture, our economy, our way of life is having on our environment. It is much easier to deny than take action that might be uncomfortable. I am guilty of this. I find it much easier to pursue the formal composition than it is to address the more difficult problems of our culture. I am still transfixed by Edgar Allen Poe's observation about poetry:
"Every poem, it is said, should inculcate a moral; and by this moral is the poetical merit of the work to be adjudged… We have taken into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem’s sake, and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in true Poetic dignity and force: - but the simple fact is, that, would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls, we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified – more supremely noble than this very poem – this poem per se – this poem which is a poem and nothing more – this poem written solely for the poem’s sake."
-Edgar Allen Poe, The Poetic Principle
I am torn between morality and poetry. In some ways, Poe is right - a lot of bad art has been made in the service of morality. Then again, we have the Clash, Kathe Kollwitz, Francisco Goya, and Leonard Baskin to remind us that art can be both.