Beauty, Balance and Order in the Age of Instagram

Some Other Time
copyright, 2021 Molly Larson Cook
30″ x 24″
Acrylic paint, latex/acrylic paint and ink on gallery-wrapped canvas

“Manet did not do the expected.
He was a pioneer. He followed his individual whim.
Told the public what he wanted it to know, not the time-worn things the public already knew and thought it wanted to hear again.
The public was very much offended.”

— Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

Manet the impressionist is not one of my mentors as a painter, although his “Luncheon on the Grass” and “Olympia” are a couple of early favorites. But he is by all means a mentor in the spirit of art.

And of life, when it comes to that.

I have recently reclaimed my title as “Queen of the Ruckus” by standing up on a couple of non-art related matters and I recommend it to anyone engaged in a creative activity. Jazz, of course, – real jazz and not the smooth or comfy “music to work by” – has always been associated with the Ruckus.

“Ruckus” is not a synonym for risk-taking, but it comes close. Being willing to tell the truth. Willing to swim upstream a little. Willing to be an outsider.

In her terrific book, The Creative Habit, dancer-choreographer Twyla Tharp said it flat out: “Creativity is an act of defiance.” Psychologist Rollo May called it “The courage to create.” They are both right.

The abstract expressionists were good at that. And many still are.

But let’s be clear. There’s a difference between between an outsider because of the work you do and being an outsider because you want attention. Or want to put your thumb in the eye of the art-loving public.

In the Instagram/social media world, it’s important to know the difference.

There’s a difference between an artist or any other creative person following what moves him or her and someone just wanting to turn things upside down for the hell of it. Destructive kids and grownups do this because…well, you’d have to ask them the Why of it.

Frederick Franck, author of the fine Zen and the Art of Seeing, wrote in another of his books, A Passion for Seeing, that “Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a Way of being.”

If art is a Way of being, and I agree with Franck that it is, then any moves toward destruction or ugliness for the sake of destruction will be self-inflicted wounds. An artist, as I understand art, goes always toward beauty. This may not be traditional beauty, but it will be toward balance and order – a symmetry of self-expression that can set the artist free and still shock viewers, especially when done well.

Picasso’s “Guernica” comes to mind, his shocking scream against war.

Nevertheless, there are many things being done in the art world today that are a long way from my door. I’m not judging them (trying not to but hey, I’m me – the Queen of the Ruckus), but I do think they’re more about popularity and a “Dancing with the Stars” mentality than about art. And I know I’m not alone in this. From the Bayles & Orland Art & Fear book first published in 1993, comes this note:

“One of the few sure things about the contemporary art scene is that someone besides you is deciding which art–and which artists–belong in it. It’s been a tough century for modesty, craftsmanship and tenderness.”

New century, same story.

I’m going out on a limb here, wearing my Ruckus Queen tiara, to suggest that I find a hell of a lot more satisfaction doing the work in my studio every day than I’d find digitizing things and waiting for someone to buy them in an online auction.

Gandhi said, “There’s more to life than increasing the speed.” I say, there’s more to art than an Instagram account.

To each his own, but we’ve gotta be true to our personal art spirit.

5 thoughts on “Beauty, Balance and Order in the Age of Instagram

  1. I like the opening quote, and I like this painting! So glad you are “on the scene” and keeping it real with your commentaries. Ruckus Queen forever!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s