"Artist's Pallet" contemporary abstract art. acrylic on artist's pallet. 19.5 in x 13.5 in.

Artist’s Pallet

"Artist's Pallet" contemporary abstract art.  acrylic on artist's pallet. 19.5 in x 13.5 in.

“Artist’s Pallet” contemporary abstract art. acrylic on artist’s pallet. 19.5 in x 13.5 in.

“Artist’s Pallet” contemporary abstract art

Like most visual artists, I am absolutely mesmerized by random patterns such as those formed by spills or scrapes or weathering. First there is the ineffable qualities of the image as a whole and how it seems to live outside normal human sentimentality and purpose. But then there are all the figurative and semi-figurative images that I see dancing in and out of the randomness. I’m sure I could spend a lifetime producing art from the random patterns I see in my workshop at the warehouse and never be bored or cynical about the process.

But then I think about my reasons for producing art.

For tens of millennia, art was inseparable from religion and magic. Art wasn’t a product to be marketed, nor was it produced for only a small segment of the population. Art was central to the cultural identity of the community as a whole, and it offered insight and guidance. In fact, it wasn’t too many generations ago when the act of creating art was indistinguishable from direct interaction with the gods.

Right now, the thin veneer of civilization is being scraped away, and it is no longer safe for anyone to ignore the dangerous ideas being used to manipulate the masses.

Right now, US foreign policy is being directed by ignorance and a mean-spirited interpretation of the Bible. The so-called Christians are no longer preaching “love thy neighbor,” if in fact they ever did. Instead, they spew the politics of hate and mistrust and the Apocalypse. All they talk about is Babylon and the Antichrist and the End of Days and “taking this country back” and the absolute need to enforce “family values” by whatever means necessary. Their agenda and methods are little different from the fascists of the 1930s.

The rhetoric of the Fundamentalist Right breeds monsters they can never control, but they use it anyway, and here is the reason why: In their ignorance and blind hatred, the worst thing that could happen would be a return to something like the Clinton years. A limited nuclear war would be much preferable, for that would only further their agenda and consolidate their power base. They do not need the iniquitous cities of the “blue states” anyway. They have “God’s country” and all the unquestioning believers that can’t wait for everything to end, the day of the big change, the day when all those “college-educated Negro-lovers” get what they have coming. There is no Fundamentalism in Syria or Iran that is any uglier or any more extreme than what you could find in Indiana or Alabama.

How can anyone working in the arts and letters ignore this? In the 1930s and 40s, intellectuals merely crossed the Atlantic to escape the rise of fascism. But that was before nuclear proliferation and a US military increasingly under the control of the Religious Right. Where will we run to this time?