“They’re creepy,” that was what my daughter’s friend said about her artwork.
Her friend came over last week and gave her opinion on the art my daughter had so proudly chosen to hang on her door. This friend said the work was ugly and it needed to be taken down.
Anyone of any age would be affected by this kind of criticism. My daughter was no different. She was bruised and told us about it afterwards. My response is one I give every student I have worked with: If you can elicit that much passion — negative or positive — from someone then you have done something important with your work.
Art sneaks up on you. It pulls anger from you or it makes you laugh unexpectedly. It makes you cry in surprising ways. It even brings out hate.
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s new film, Never Look Away, begins after the National Socialists are in full control of Germany. A young man leads a group through a museum. In that group is a boy who will one day grow up to be an artist:
KURT, a small 5-year-old boy with steel grey eyes gazes at the distorted, grimacing faces of soldiers from the hands of Otto Dix, the twisted colors and shapes of Kirchner, Heckel and Schmidt-Rottluff, the bizarre world of Paul Klee.
The tour guide then proceeds to attack the art on the walls:
There are only two possibilities: Either these so-called “artists” really do see and believe the things they are showing us here – in which case all one would have to determine is whether the root of such a ghastly impediment was an accident or a genetic defect. Should the former be the case, our heart goes out to these sad souls; if it is the latter, however, the case should be looked into by the Reich Ministry of the Interior, so that at least we can avoid further proliferation of such repulsive impairments. Or, on the other hand, these “artists” do not even believe themselves that their perceptions are real and nonetheless choose to pester the nation with this humbug – such an offense would fall, clearly, under the domain of criminal justice.
It’s obvious the art on the wall is having an impact on the tour guide. He is afraid of it because he can’t control it. More specifically, he can’t control how the people around him feel. He can’t control the emotions the art is creating in the viewer. He knows the danger of art that bypasses the brain and goes straight to your heart.
We are living in a moment where logic has been kicked out the door. One can’t argue against the irrational using logic. Believe me, I have tried it, and by the end of the argument I have gone a little nuts. Instead, fight a political landscape that preys on people’s emotions with art that also works on the emotions. Art that bypasses the brain and heads straight to the heart. It’s really the only chance we have left.