I had a college professor who repeated, like a mantra, “All art is politics.”
Not true. As an artist, I can safely say that, “All art is whatever color paint I have in front of me today.”
I get the professor’s point. We’re all embedded in a culture, our culture, the culture and time and place we live in today. To the extent that you think politics is the most important thing in life, you’re likely to believe that politics equals culture.
Art is politics only when you consciously sit down and plan your art, beforehand, to be a political statement, and an obvious one. I’ve tried that. It produces my weakest art, probably because politics is weak broth for anything serious.
The strongest art comes from the unconscious gesture, an assault upon the blank canvas with whatever those paint colors are in front of you, with no idea where you’re headed.
Even then, the “all art is politics” cult would say that your unconscious is shaped by politics, and ultimately determines the nature and/or subject of your work.
No. Besides what colors have hardened and which still flow, my art is determined by my mood, by whether the cat just threw up, by whether it’s raining out or not, by whether I’m constipated or hungry or zipped on caffeine. Politics still hums in the background, but no more than hums my blood sugar level, flies dying on the windowsill, random prayers or oaths, how bad the Orioles lost last night, whether or not my favorite shirt is wearing out, or whatever.
Only people addicted to or obsessed by politics would favor politics as a bigger mover of the world than religion, family, or acid reflux. Art reflects what we obsess over.
I obsess over color. Therefore, I say, “All art is color. Or the lack thereof.”
There may be Red States and Blue States. But I live in purple. It’s the only way to stay sane.