Let’s Get Touchy-Feely

By F. Lennox Campello

There are always pleasant and enriching surprises where one least expects them. Please allow me to use this month’s “Gallery Beat” column to get a little verbose on the touchy-feely side of art.

Such a surprise experience happened to me as a few years ago while I was jurying an art show in one of the Carolinas. I found a particularly unique piece of sculpture in a show where it was all alone amongst its brethren assorted media; a seminal piece which tempted me into considering awarding it a Best in Show but ended with a lesser Honorable Mention because I thought that the artist had a lot more to explore in order to push the concept behind the work. He needed to enter the world of electricity and lights, and videos, and then he will be there.

I just saw some of that artist’s recent work and he’s there now!

At that show, in a place where I had never been, and artists whose work I had never seen, there was also the enriching experience of meeting artists who were truly and deeply enamored of their art. And the shock of awarding a Best in Show to a small work whose merit may be overseen by most, like the flower in a dandelion is seen as a weed in a garden of manicured flowers.

And there were memorable and most unexpected images of predatory jacks-in-the-box dressed like harlequins being fed honey. They made me shiver with concern as to their creation seed, like a character in Stephen King’s “Duma Key” reacting to one of Edgar Freemantle’s hypnotic paintings.

And green trees everywhere, clean manicured lawns and mailboxes guided by Homeowner’s Association standards.

And the unexpected and welcomed surprise of having a rich conversation while being driven to the airport that struck a special chord, and triggered thoughts, both light and dark, and ideas, both harsh and moist.

Sometimes a very talented and special artist flourishes amongst a field of good artists. They stand out in a special way, viewed by some as outsiders and out layers and by others as beautiful. Like the powerful yellow of a dandelion flower is seen as a bad weed by the vastness of the majority, and also as a pretty flower by those with a delicate eye for beauty.

But beauty demands the delicacy of steel, shiny and flexible, and composed of mixed components, each strong on their own merit, but not as strong as when they are forced to couple together in the cauldron of molten ingredients. The scent of beauty has iron ore and coke and alloys and eventually it becomes steel.

The old conversation many years ago floated around art, beauty, and the creative process. The words and idea revolved rapidly around love for art and love for being an artist and how love helps to create art; love as a driving force.

“Not just love,” I added, “also hate.”

After some exploration of this idea, we quickly agreed that what was really needed in order to be an artist was passion.

Poets and common folk have struggled with the nearness of love to hate and the quickness of how they can be molten into one by events and perceptions. Molten like iron and coke and alloys are molten to make steel.

Can art be created from hate?

“From the hells beneath the hells, I bring you my deathly fruits,” wrote Robert Ervin Howard in his dark, some would say hateful poetry.

It is a dreadful question and one that I hadn’t really thought about much until that wonderful exchange of ideas with an unexpected kindred art soul brought it to my mind and then to my lips.

Was Goya driven by hate when he etched his horrible “Disasters of War”? I think so; but Goya’s was a very special kind of hate.

The same Goya who so loved the Duchess of Alba, a woman that he couldn’t have, that he painted her with brushes and paints loaded with love, and with desire, and even with direction and wishful thinking.

I think that I think that any passion can drive an artist to create meaningful and powerful art. The fervor of religion has given us some of the greatest masterpieces of art in the world, and not so curiously, as man steps away from God, so has the importance of contemporary religious art.

But it is so disturbing to me to think about pure incandescent hate as a driving force in the creativity of art.

Maybe I should diminish hate.

I hate green peppers.

I had a really good Greek salad for a lovely lunch a couple of days ago, and I was so engrossed in the conversation that I forgot to ask the waiter to skip the green peppers.

The salad was bountiful and tasty, and loaded to the brim with the offending vegetable. And the guilt of wasting food was there as I piled strips of green on the edge of my plate while consuming the rest of the salad voraciously. It is odd how often I’m not aware that I am hungry until food is presented to me.

I eat too fast.

My mother’s aunt once told me that she chewed each bite 33 times. But then you’d spend too many precious minutes chewing food. The answer to this mundane tragedy is somewhere in between three and 33. On the other hand, she lived to be well over 100 years old, 103 or 104 I think.

I hate how allergens can penetrate your body’s defenses and torment your nose, throat and eyes and make never ending days full of physical misery. As someone whose DNA results showed me to have a significant amount of pre-Homo Sapiens DNA (I’m 2% Neanderthal and 1% Denisovan), I often wonder how my ancestral kin cavemen survived in moldy caves in a world of sneezing. They must have been killed by their companions. How can a sneezing caveman sneak silently during the hunt? And they really couldn’t be demoted to gatherers instead of hunters, because they’d be sneezing their hairy heads off as they gathered berries and nuts and roots among the pollen rich world in which they lived.

I hate that HBO cancelled “Rome” all those years ago and left us hanging with Pullo walking away with Caesarian. I hate that George Raymond Richard Martin killed Ned Stark so soon in “Game of Thrones.”

I know, I know… different kinds of hate.

Still, I will never paint or draw green peppers.

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