What does the word “art” mean to you? Something that you find in a museum of antiquity, a gallery in your town, something for rich people to collect and decorate their homes with, or, perhaps something appreciated and meaningful? I confess to have all of those sentiments.
A country boy, art, was never part of my upbringing until I entered high school and had to sit for a year in a class that I hated. How does one tune-out a teacher? In that room, above the black-board, were framed prints of Vincent Van Gogh, a very, very famous Dutch painter. As the boredom set in, I looked at them, again and again and again, until I felt a connection with the scene and the artist. Each painting communicated a something that captivated me, sometimes beauty, sometimes and emotion. I failed that course; but, today, fifty years later, Van Gogh art hangs on the walls of my home, wherever in the world that may be.
Not all “art” speaks to me, and I don’t hang out in museums looking at paintings of long dead artists. I do, occasionally, look to see what today’s artists are up to and see if there is anything of interest. I am very opinionated, and most of it makes me wonder why the painter thinks that he/she could make a living at it. Not everyone agrees with me. Each individual perceives and is touched by things that are meaningful in their own life experience. As for contemporary art, I am still baffled by why, several decades ago, the National Gallery of Canada paid millions of dollars for a painting by an artist that consisted of two blue stripes with a red stripe between them. Perhaps questioning my bewilderment is why I occasionally drop by an exhibition see what is there.
Since coming to Ecuador, five years ago, I have discovered a couple contemporary artists whose work I value. For one, Miguel Betancourt’s art livens my spirit. It is colourful and makes me feel good, ready to smile.
Last night, I responded to the announcement of an exhibition at the Xerrajeros Gallery in Cumbaya, a suburb of Quito. It is a comfortably middle class area and the gallery apparently open only for specific exhibitions. It is a small place, well situated by the central park and restaurant area. I arrived late and stood on the sidewalk with others as there was no room inside where several people were speaking. People came and went; and when I got in, I became aware that those who were left were mainly artists and the topic was how to get public and governmental recognition, appreciation and support.
Being an artist is usually not assurance of fame and wealth. Whether one is a painter, a sculptor, a musician or other, life is usually an economic hardship. Quito is a cultural capital recognized by the United Nations as a world treasure; but today’s artists struggle, seek recognition and complain that they are not valued enough, as their forbearers did. My lady, Monica, owned a very well known, successful, Quito, art gallery that supported local artists, the Manzana Verde (Green Apple) just over twenty years ago. Recently, a friend tried to establish a successful contemporary gallery in a very well placed location in Quito. It failed. Why? Apparently, there was little customer interest.
As I listened intently, it struck me that I was hearing painters and their aficionados of a world of art that is fragmented, painters, sculptors, etc., unable to speak in unity and strength of their needs. Overall, conversation pertained to how to mobilize, develop a plan, etc., to get government support, - a gallery perhaps for various arts to make themselves visible. There was no mention of how to produce art that people will buy; but, that may be too much commercialism for those so passionate in their need to express themselves. History reveals many artists whose work was not appreciated in their lifetime and who lived in poverty. The risk and choice are theirs. A young man, not an artist but a student at the local university, made a very important point that those who have the ability and perhaps moral responsibility should take cognizance of. He said that there were numerous young people at the university, where one hopes passion and talent are blossoming, who don’t have opportunities to shine outside the classroom. If we, now, snuff out their aspirations, the future of our cultural heritage would be bleak.
As the gathering was breaking up painters took to the walls in a fun, shared painting experience. Accept the levity of intent and don’t judge the result harshly. I left before the artists were finished so these photos do not represent the final work.
To you, my readers, I ask that you pause a moment to think of a piece of art, of any kind, that gave you some good feeling or reason to ponder. Then, when you have the chance “Stop and smell the roses”, to use an old cliché. I guarantee that your life will be enriched.
My gifts to you are a link to Miguel Betancourt’s website and one to a You Tube presentation of the art of my other loved artist Vincent Van Gogh.
For world recognized contemporary artist Miguel Betancourt – Click Here
For a beautiful, touching blend of art and music, Don McLean’s tribute to Vincent Van Gogh “Starry, Starry Night”, Click Here .
As for me, I will strive to take better photos to accompany my articles and seek whatever is necessary to make me, someday, thought of as an artist whose work has meaning.
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