“Was it…the artist’s burden to inject an aspect of spirituality into his art? Or
was it something onlookers needed to evoke by their open hearts and minds?”
I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. Three months ago, I moved to Santa Fe because I’m having a baby and my baby mama has family nearby.
To be blunt, our relationship is only eight months old, and I had been adamantly against having a child until the two little pink lines of an EPT test showed up on a July day in Jackson Hole, while I prepared the yard for a barbecue.
I felt an unfamiliar elation, as if I had entered my life for the first time—it was no longer just a plan.
Nonetheless, those pesky practical concerns occasionally surface, foremost among them being how to jibe my vision of the world with one in which two other humans look to me for understanding and support.
And here’s the part that makes my impending fatherhood the topic for an art column: I envision a world in which we make no distinction between the arts and, let’s say, business or politics, the unifying factors being a sense of imagination and a desire for connection.
My study of the arts gives me this vision. Think of Marcel Duchamp: He declared that any object identified by an artist as art is art.
Think of Walt Whitman: He saw healthy communities composed of free-thinking individuals, a seeming contradiction similar to the Christian problem of free will—the person with truth in his heart naturally chooses the will of God.
RD Laing: “There is a connection between us, events, and events and us we barely glimpse, and countless others of which we have not the slightest inkling.”
Marnie Webber (in Juxtapoz Magazine): “The artist reminds regular folks that the subconscious is there, and that they are creative too.”
By identifying a urinal as art, we recognize that a human mind conceived it and human hands forged it—though it has been stamped over and again into a commodity, it has its origin in the imagination. If all we know about human civilization—economic systems, social hierarchies, governments, laws—comes from imagination, we have power to fashion civilization as art for enjoyment and elevation or as a depository for waste. Each of us has this ability, and the whole benefits from individual efforts.
I hear my father’s voice, Sunday night, asking how these quixotic ideas will provide for a family, now, and my tired eyes beg my mind to shut the hell up because I’ve got to work in the morning. I get up and open the book on my bedside table, The Petting Zoo by Jim Carroll, and read this: “If you cease being part of the human universe in all its aspects, abandoning your responsibilities to yourself and others, you’ll never recover what was lost in a single day.”
I lift my head to take a breath when my eyes settle on an artwork I just received in the mail. The dire prediction of Kelly Halpin’s pen-and-ink on elk hide, titled “The Shape of Things to Come,” fills me with a spiritual determination. A friend who teaches sacred ceremony at the University of New Mexico informs me that to have elk medicine is to have the ability to maintain and preserve one’s energy for
a long-term project, while working closely with others.
The lesson I take from this night of restlessness is resolve. Call me Quixote, Santa Fe—I resolve to pursue my vision of the world. And I relate this to you because I believe the conversation about who we are as individuals living together, and what we want from each other, is our first and most important art. And yet the vehicles for your participation remain unused. I want your emails, comments and tweets. I want to know your vision and how it jibes with mine. The silence keeps me up at night.
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