Tuesday, June 13, 2006

War...What is it Good For?

Whenever a young soldier returns home to his family with body parts missing, or worse returns in a box, people start to question the war of the day. What seemed like a good idea at first, “we’ll just help out our friends,” “we’ll just protect our oil source,” “we’re just the good guys in this world,” whatever the justification, the people sour on the idea of sending their “brightest and bravest” off to war. There is an instinct to protect our homes and families that obviously leads to these grandiose conflicts. With respect to any soldier and their family who is currently engaged in today’s war, I grieve for them. This blog is not about political statements, but information. Now that we are into this stage of the war in Iraq, I have become more curious about contemporary artist’s movements for peace; because, historically, artists have used their forum to express their dissatisfaction with war as a viable form to address conflict. This is especially true in more modern times when the wars have gotten bloodier and the death counts more extensive.

An excellent book on the topic is “Art Against War: Four Hundred Years of Protest in Art” by D. J. R. Bruckner, Seymour Chwast, Steven Heller . An excellent article on the Dada Movement, which was particularly shocking visually, by K. Kimberly King focuses on this aspect of art. A comprehensive exhibit of the movement is currently showing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, through Sept. 11, 2006. Also well known were the three Mexican muralists: Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros who came to the U.S. in the 1930s and used their art to express their political philosophies.

And then there was Da Vinci who was probably the most hawkish artist I can think of because he profited so much from designing war machines for one of his wealthy patrons.

Growing up in the ’60s and ’70s as I did there was “Flower Power” which probably was responsible for more bad art than good, but the peaceful point was made. Actually more musicians stand out in that period than visual artists. You had Yoko and John holding a bed-in press conference in their Hotel Room at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal in 1969. You had Bob Dylan singing “Blowing in the Wind,” Pete Seeger’s “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?,” made famous by the Mamas and the Papas, and of course “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” that is used in so many movies.

After Nine Eleven - Andrew Neighbour
- Digital Painting

What attracts me to art is the sheer raw expression, and beyond that I can’t place my finger on any particular element that makes me look at a work and say wow, whether there is political agenda or just self-exploration, or sheer boredom motivating its creation. I believe most artists create because their inner voice screams to come out. Some artists are socially conscious, some are humorous, some are dark, many are into pushing the envelope, some are design driven, others just plain weird. It is one of the most fascinating communities in the world. Don’t you think so?—Ruth Mitchell

(c) 2006 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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