More on Influences

As I wrote before, we are all the sum of our experiences. We are also the products of our genetics. How do these things influence us, in life and in art?

It bothers me when I hear racism, because we are all related, we are all from mtEve, 200,000 years ago. This is a huge influence in my life and my work. To my mind, this makes racism impossible. Not one of us is made of any finer stuff, although we’d like to think so. That belief that somehow one is better is toxic for the person believing it, the person affected by the belief and society as a whole, by the effects of that belief.

The response that one person has will be different from the other person, but sometimes, not as different as we would like; take the example of a person who comes from a political family. All concerned are passionate about politics, but one is Liberal, and the rest are Conservative, yet all are passionately political, therefore, the trait holds true. If the person from that family goes into politics, how much is nature, how much is nurture? More is nature than we realize. How we respond to stimuli is often a matter of genetics, how our families DNA influences our actions is complex and with epigenetics, we are starting to realize just how complex. So what sets us apart from one another?

I think that what sets one human apart from the other is character. Is one a good person, a person who cares for others, for self, for the community, for the world around them as a whole? Is that person a person who belittles others, who treats others as garbage? How one treats those that person perceives as vulnerable is huge indicator of character.

All of this is part and parcel of being an artist. I have to laugh when I hear people say stuff like, “He/she is such a talented artist, I can’t believe they would do such a mean thing!” As if the mere possession of talent is a guarantee that the person will be nice person, solely because they can draw. It would be nice, it would be fair, but it just ain’t so.

Using Thomas Kincade, of the soulless motel art, the master of marketing, as an example; his work is not my cup of tea, but it appeals to the Conservative magic thinker. He is not a nice person, and has done some pretty bad stuff in public. Yet he still appeals to that demographic. The mindset of the Kincade buyer is that because he can paint, he MUST be a nice man. Not so.

Picasso was known to be mean guy, yet his work still influences artists today. Van Gogh was insane, yet he seems to have had a soft side that Picasso did not have. Gaugan was a fab painter, yet he abandoned his wife and children to suffer on their own so he could go play with young Polynesian girls.

I have also known some very nice people, who have no artistic talent whatsoever. My point is that nice or not nice, is not part of the talent equation.

The other part of the talent equation is ambition, or drive. The drive to create is part of being an artist. Notice I make no distinction between good artists and bad artists. That is up to history, not to me. I do have a list of people I don’t consider artists, just commercial designers, like Damien Hirst and Jeff Kooning. I could go one, but I won’t.

There are artists out there that are talented, and that will never get the recognition they deserve; mainly because there are too many to compete with. It is very hard to get into a gallery, it is hard to get the exposure, and for some, that is reason to quit.

Not for me; I HAVE to paint, I HAVE to draw. It’s not an option, for me. It is a necessity. It is my OCD. I have that as a signature on my email. It is not a joke, it is what is. I have to create. That’s where the genetics come in. My grandfather was a very creative man, as was my biological maternal grandmother, Vera.

My grandmother, Vera, about age 19

My grandmother, Vera, about 19 years old, in New Orleans.

Before she found Jesus under the couch, my grandmother was a watercolor painter, I have some of her works put away. She made delicate drawings in watercolor, not so much sketches, but delicate miniature works of flowers, cats and other subjects.

After Jesus came out from under the couch, her talent was packed away and sent off to be seen no more. I think I get talent from her; I keep cleaning under the couch, so I’m not afraid of wild Saviours running free, snatching talent from unsuspecting artists.  I am afraid of the religious insanity that seems to over take the women of my family before the age of 60. I’m 50; I’m safe so far.

I’m afraid of losing my art, my talent and my drive. I have observed that music by artists before conversion to Christianity is vastly different from after that conversion.  The music never gets better. In fact, the music become a mishmash of tapioca like melodies, no percussion, and the lyrics, oh my! To my mind, that Christian influence is often not a good one.

I raise my glass, and I toast you, all of you, whom have influenced me! From the people I got my DNA from, to the soul sisters of the Black Baptist church she drug me to, to the artists that I admire, I thank you all for your influence on me.

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