Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rebel, rebel: The artist as agent of chaos

PANAMA CITY — I spent some time last Friday drawing on a wall at Floriopolis, the Beck Avenue gallery operated by artist Heather Parker. I had her permission — in fact, she invited me to do so — but something about applying a pen to the white wall (even though it was inside an art gallery) seemed like an act of rebellion.

Maybe that says something about my comfort level as a rebel.

The day prior, I interviewed Olga Guy, an artist based at CityArts Cooperative, who told me a story about painting her bedroom walls and doors as a teenager, much to her mother’s chagrin. (See this story to learn how that worked out for her.)

Drawing on Heather’s wall didn’t feel like graffiti. I didn’t have a statement to make. And while convention was being flouted, authority was not. Still, I think that’s what art is, at least the way my mind interprets it: A fundamental act of rebellion.

Against the mundane, the routine. Against the merciless march of time. Sometimes afflicting the comfortable, sometimes comforting the afflicted.

Follow me, here, because art can be a lot of things. An attempt to express divinity. To faithfully capture and reproduce a moment. To reveal emotion or provoke social change. To find patterns and draw order out of chaos, or to express chaos. It can even be as simple as a “pretty picture.”

And yet, all of this is rebellious. The act of creation presupposes that transitory creatures like us — who live and die in such a short span — have something of lasting meaning to contribute. That we defy the universe and the mortal constrictions it places on us.

We leave a message — a thought, a sound, an image, a performance — to be read, or listened to, or viewed by a stranger in another place and time, interpreted and remembered. We break the laws of physics every time we make something — or maybe we prove the theories of quantum entanglement by having an impact across space and time.

It’s a conundrum.

Art can be the product of experimentation, the result of inspiration (and, in turn, it can be inspiring to others). It is forward thinking — I will not be here tomorrow, but this is what I had to offer today — and thus it becomes disruptive, transformative for the creator as well as the viewer.

It’s also like the definition of sound: Unless someone sees it, reads it, hears it, then it’s not really communication. For artists, who most often labor in private, the patron’s eye (or ear) keeps them from feeling like a tree falling in a forest when no one’s around.

In coming weeks, you’ll meet a parade of local artists — painters, jewelers, dancers, musicians, writers and more — on these pages and at PanamaCity.com, as we begin an ongoing series we’re calling “Artist’s Touch.” I hope you’ll join me us we get to know the area’s creative spirits, examine the forms their work takes, and celebrate the rebels in our midst.

Peace.
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