On the topic of art and political activism (discussed in my earlier post here): Susana Viola Jacobson, consummate artist and critic, left the following response to that piece. Her thoughts were too good to not share.
Very thoughtful piece. I wrestled with this divide for years and finally realized that painting is generally not a very effective tool for the politics of change, though it has been at times. My painting definitely isn’t useful in that way.
But art too works very slowly and most often on a small audience. It does help people figure the meanings of things, of their lives, so in that sense helps them be more purposeful and clear about what they do and who they are. It reflects our best and worst manifestations as a species, even when it is primarily geared toward entertainment, as long as we look at it critically. It does require us to work to get more out of it than a past time.
I’ve often found topical art too short lived in its effect and in making a clear point. It challenges boundaries and can break them for the rest of us, but then it tends to quickly become out of date. I’m grateful to artists who throw the pointed spear and make the first breach but I’m also grateful to artists who come before and after those moments and provide places for us to ponder, contemplate, absorb and reflect within their work.
We need all of it.
A note about Susana Viola Jacobson: Formerly at Yale and the University of Pennsylvania where she was a professor of painting, Susana now lives in Salt Lake City Utah. We shared a loft together on the Lower East Side in the 70s.