Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Blasphemy of Heretical Art (Part I)....

This is such an overwhelming topic for me.

Admittedly, I know very little about art. My own cardinal rule has always been, "If I can do it (ie. a bunch of squiggley lines or different colored shapes jumbled together) it ain't art." That's pretty much put me off most "Modern Art."

Oddly enough, an actual artist (Alvaro Alvillar) contacted me about a month ago with an interesting tale about the trials and tribulations that Conservative artists routinely deal with.

It is a big topic. Perhaps too big for my meager abilities and understanding.

At any rate, I've been corresponding with Alvaro over the past few weeks and have decided that (1) I have to attempt to take on this story and (2) I'll have to break up such a huge tale into many parts. I also know that this topic should be dealt with by someone with a far broader readership and more insight than I bring to the table.

Still, Alvaro graciously came to me and I have a charge to keep, so I will do my best. So, here is Part I of The Blasphemy of Heretical Art.

When New York’s Mayor, Rudy Giuliani interjected himself into the art world over the Chris Ofili exhibit (of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Elephant Dung) in the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sensation” show back in 1996, he was derided for attacking artists and branding them “heretics.”

Of course, Giuliani and the Catholic League and others who found Ofili’s work offensive, were far more reserved than their Muslim counterparts.

The art world howled, “Is THIS punishment,” when a protestor, an elderly retired school teacher, who defaced a Chris Ofili painting in that "Sensation" show at the Brooklyn Museum, got only a $250 fine for the act. With the judge admonishing the protestor, "So long as he has paint in his hand, he is to stay away from the Brooklyn Museum."

Inanely, the Western art world has a huge problem when Christians are offended by various artists, from Chris Ofili to Andres Serrano (“Piss Christ”) to Robert maplethorp. Many Western artists and art critics actively seek to shut their Christian critics up, while they capitulate to their Muslim critics at almost every turn.

What’s even less well known, as it rarely garners much attention is the treatment of artists who hold to Conservative views that deviate from the accepted art world orthodoxy.

That’s what Alvaro Alvillar is currently dealing with.

A recent exhibit of his titled Formula For Hate (SEE ABOVE), in Atlanta drew controversy, and, of course, fire from all sides.

About a month ago, I was contacted by an artist named Alvaro Alvillar, who wrote, “My name is Alvaro Alvillar and I’ve had to defend myself against charges of racism and the promoting of hate at a forum that was initiated by Mayor Shirley Franklin in Atlanta. Even though the piece stated the obvious point that the only form of prejudice that is openly tolerated these days is that which is directed at white males.”

Ironically enough, not only was Atlanta mayor Franklin outraged, but so were the Atlanta Police and even Conservative Talk icons like Neal Boortz!

Alvaro notes, “I am a fan of Neal Boortz and a defender of the Fair Tax and even though I did not catch it, I heard he came down pretty hard on me and my piece. The only explanation I have is that he rushed to judgment and did not do his homework. Although I disagree with him on some issues, I still think he's a hero and I continue to be a fan.”

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported on the Atlanta exhibit in this way, in a piee entitled “City Displays Racially Charged Art”; “A piece of art that raises a stark question about race relations in America is hanging in a gallery at Atlanta’s City Hall East.

“The display, a collection of 33 U.S. flags, includes two sentences with no punctuation: “Politically its OK to hate the white man” and, “Is it OK for me to hate if Ive been a victim”

“The piece was approved by the curator of the gallery in a building that functions as a satellite campus of Atlanta City Hall. The annual Pin-Up Show, which opened Friday, provides emerging artists with a venue to display their works, said Myra Reeves, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

“[Alvaro] Alvillar said Wednesday he hoped his piece would promote conversations about race relations, which he said is one of the more contentious issues of modern life.

“What I’m trying to say is that right now, the only politically correct form of prejudice is that anyone can say anything about a white person,” Alvillar said. “I think that’s wrong, but it happens to be a reality and that is the idea of the first sentence. The second sentence is made to make you think about where you stand if you have been a victim.”

In fact, two Atlanta police officers filed formal complaints over the exhibit.

"There are other officers, and other members of employment of the city who have been reprimanded, and told to bring things down that were in their cubicles or in their work sites, so we feel that they should have the same rights as anyone else, that if something offends them, and it's hanging in a public building, the city should pay attention to that and take it down," said Atlanta police union spokesman Sgt. Scott Kreher.

For his part, Alvillar said he has incorporated flags into his art for years. The majority of his pieces are blatantly patriotic and he is not without his supporters.

"It really takes a lot of looking to figure it out," said Styles.

Styles, who is black, said it is something that drew him to the art, and that he has no plans to take it down.

"It is all right as Americans to ask questions, even if they aren't always pleasant questions," Styles said.

Conservatives have long been suspicious of the art world because of the long and well-established Leftist tilt to that world, but that should be all the more reason for Conservatives to embrace art that asks poignant questions and supports basic Conservative principles.

The Culture War is being fought and won on movie lots, TV studios and art gallery's and Conservatives aren't even showing up. We can't afford to write off potential allies in the art world. When we fail to understand their message, that flaw is ours, not theirs.


Roadhouse said...

I think I'll stick with Norman Rockwell and Ansel Adams.

JMK said...

While I've never gotten modern art, I freely and fully admit that on that topic, Bill O'Reilly is almost certainly right, "If we don't get more Conservative producers, directors, story-tellers and artists, we're doomed to lose the culture war."

Lots of Conservatives don't understand why that's so important, but the best way to explain it, is that once the cultural milieu moves far enough Left, then Conservative thought can (and WILL) be classified as "hate" and marginalized, first culturally, and then (without any struggle) politically.

While I disagree with O'Reilly over his anti-"Big Oil" stance, his "opathway to citizenship" for illegals and his anti-death penalty stance, on the "culture war," I'm afraid he's right...and I'm none too optimistic about our chances there.

Alvaro Alvillar said...

Thanks for taking on such a difficult subject, as evidenced by the one comment! I know my work is open to interpretation, but more importantly, I am not alone in my conservative leanings in the art world! The lack of interest in art is more the problem in this case then the "contempt prior to investigation" that keeps people in the dark. Unfortunately, it also keeps a lot of us in the "closet" because it is hard enough to make a buck in this business without going against the grain. I hope this goes a bit towards making it easier to support us so we can be more honest and show it in our work.
Thank you JMK for taking it on!

JMK said...

Hey! Thanks for stopping by Alvaro.

It really IS a difficult area, especially for someone, like myself, who has no expertise, nor even much knowledge about art.

I do know that the culture war will be won or lost on our TV and movie screens and in the art world...and I know that right now and for the foreseeable past, Conservatives have been losing and losing badly on that battlefield.

Terry (above) is a real good guy and a true Conservative and his comment illustrates just how deep that chasm is between the art world and the common man (folks like Terry and I).

While I agree fully that a part of the problem is "us", and our innate skepticism toward art, some of it is that the art world ignores or is, at least, not geared to people like us - working folks.

Your story touched me, Alvaro, because it's a true underdog story. Moreover, it makes clear, on many levels, how the culture war is being lost without much of a fight, primarily because most Conservatives have little use for "the artistic", which cedes not only the galleries, but TV, the movies and most of the print media over to the Left.

I suppose that's why Conservatism has, in many circles, become the "new counter-culture."

That's NOT a "good thing", it's a sign of just how badly the culture war has gone for us!

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