((Excerpt from, "The Art Of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal"))
We all know it. It's seems silly to even say it. Life is not a Disney film.
Still, fantasy is so alluring. Wouldn't it be great if we could really live the lives we've fantasized? The remote control would be in our hands so that we could block out any undesirable channels. We could zap out any semblance of unpleasantness before it crept into our storyline. Everything would be in Technicolor and we would always be animated, shiny and happy.
This is a scene that has been mocked time and again by contemporary artists, who've dismissed it as fake and phony. But why? Don't artists want to be happy? Are we THAT jaded?
I think, in a word, yes. Although cynicism is deplorable and should have no place in our societal psyche, the same should be said for our insatiable thirst for the happy ending. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for happy endings. Love 'em! However, they're FANTASY. They're REEL life not REAL life. We're lusting after the cookie-cutter, plastic, perpetually clean, perfect life that, so far, has only been available thanks to Hollywood which rakes in billions of dollars. They've got us where they want us.
Meantime, we threaten to cut funding for art institutions that mount exhibitions displaying what we call "gratuitous sex," "gratuitous violence" and obscenity. As we all know, art imitates life, but nothing is more gratuitous than life itself. Art will never come even close to completely portraying the harsh realities of this world. Life isn't always sappy reunions, lasting romances and happily ever afters.
Still, we lust after "reel" life at the expense of real life.
Art that portrays stark, harsh reality reminds me that THIS IS IT. We've got one life to live. One shot. That's it. We can choose to walk through life with our eyes wide open or we can tune out the unpleasantness and seek certainty and permanence, in vain.
I think photographers do a great job of capturing life at its bleakest, lowest, most desperate moments. They seem to be driven by this passion to capture reality. It's almost as if we think that if we can capture reality, perhaps we can control it and turn it into "reel" life. That just won't happen. Yet, EMBRACING REALITY IS LIFE AFFIRMING.
I do think that if we're capturing reality (as we see it anyway) the right way, then the lesson has got to be that life is beautiful. Despite the desolation, poverty, disease, war, sorrow, broken dreams and promises, it's the only life and world that we have. It's a broken world where many things don't work. Yet, real life is MUCH better than reel life. Reel life isn't life at all. It's pure fantasy ... a Disney film.
Thankfully, life isn't all bad. There are so many great things in life that art imitates. Especially plein-air painters. Beautiful landscapes, lovely portraits of families, delectable still lifes. Life is beautiful, even at its ugliest. Especially when you're staring at the alternative. I don't know about you, but I want to experience as much of it as possible. GRAB LIFE WITH GREEDY HANDS! All of it. Hold on for dear life! Not just the good because the bad is also life affirming. I remember reading somewhere that members of a superstar rock group can't even remember YEARS of their lives because they were "drugged out" for much of that period. Wow. I want to remember everything in my life! Even the bad.
Through troubling times, I remind myself that I have my health and my family. And art. I'm not out looking for ugly, wrenching and horrible experiences. They'll pass through me. Still, even in the midst of pain and sorrow, they've got to be better than "reel" life.
Whatever we're experiencing, it's real and it's beautiful. THIS IS IT!