Art has been defined as the foremost expression of human creativity. Further, art is a universal language used to convey a belief, idea, or feeling through the implementation of a chosen sensory medium.
The final days of the previous millennium produced a bizarre and disturbing movement throughout the amorphous world of art from which a voluminous saturation of language and media was ubiquitously distributed to convey nothing. To add insult to injury, on many occasions the producer of this "art," when asked to articulate the connection between the inspiration for a particular work and the work itself, remained conspicuously speechless. A high point of academic tragedy is reached when an individual achieves a platform from which to make a statement and is thus exposed as one having absolutely nothing to say. In yet another twist of absurdity, this "movement" of sub-intellectual flailing seemed to have been hijacked by a coven of over-ripe divorcees attempting to plot the course of art history with their lucrative alimony settlements. The end result of this phenomenon was more than a decade bursting at the seams with an abundance of average art to the extreme.
In the 1990's, Americans also endured the greatest economic scam since the Fisk and Gould Gold Rush on Black Friday in 1869. A small inner circle of investors who had access to immeasurable sums of public money initiated a game of high stakes hot potato. It began when several respectable brokerage houses fabricated a rush on stocks, which they knew to be worthless, for the purpose of resale, often on the same day, for substantial profit. Based upon individual records of high returns recorded by these firms in the past, many other investors raced for a chance to get into the game. This cycle of buying and selling lasted for nearly the entire decade. When the smoke cleared and the mirrors collapsed, the companies originally offering the shares were found to have, not only no profits to report but most, had never recorded revenues at all. When the trump was finally played, the highest bidder was left holding the empty bag. To this day, all Americans continue to pay off these enormous gambling debts which amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. This ploy also spilled into the business of art. During this same period, these pseudo-moguls shifted that same logic to investments in art. Many self-proclaimed financial geniuses speculated on works of art, again for the purpose of resale or, in some cases, to be used for collateral to finance future investments. To this day, these individuals are struggling to inflate the values of marginal art - this, perhaps, is a generous appraisal. If Warren Buffett were an art dealer he would most assuredly be stomping his feet proclaiming, "Great substance yields great art."
With the arrival of the third millennium there emerged, what appears to be, a renaissance of commitment to content, visual stimulation by form or metaphor, and the return of the aesthetic. Those fluent in the language of art have re-emerged to relieve those who speak only in its slang or with a scattered phrase here and there. The global art community appears to be trying to establish lines of communication to reveal the common elements of all peoples while, at the same time, celebrating differences. The result of this "movement," is the restoration of credibility to the American art microcosm and a gradual erosion of mediocrity. The impending dangers lurking within this neo-renaissance are the inherent traits of impatience and reckless impetuosity familiar to all artists. In her collection of short stories entitled, Slaves of New York, Tama Janowicz reflects upon the, "heroes of antiquity," who performed great feats of daring with earth-moving resolve. She then compares these illustrious champions to the celebrities of modern times who are simply, "famous for their well-knownness." In one's haste toward recognition, the artist is often guilty of signing his/her work prematurely when a measure of tenacity would significantly benefit the outcome of his/her effort. A work of art is comparable to an act of love. It requires the infusion of passion, extensive foreplay, and the postponement of gratification. The die-hard relics of the trite, post-sensationalist era often provoke the artist to reflect upon the words of Voltaire, "I don't like what you say but I will fight to my death for your right to say it." There is plenty of room in the art world for mediocrity as well as genius.
The layman, the casual observer who maintains a deliberate safe and assured distance from the debate, must be perplexed by the magnitude of energy consumed in the pursuit of art and the degree of intensity emanating from the process. One would be compelled to ask, "why art, for what purpose?" Veteran artists who congregate in cafes, coffee houses, and AA Meetings are often left with the uncomfortable predicament of validating their life choices. Ultimately, each is drawn to the conclusion that the question of choice is irrelevant. The consensus of belief is that the artist succumbs to the mysterious obsession as if it were an implanted, spiritual engram, an ethereal assignment. Art is, in many ways, a reflection of the collective social consciousness prevalent in a particular era, a component of history. Whereas the historian or journalist documents events as they occur, it is the task of the artist to convey how it felt when it happened. The definition of art, or for that matter, its raison d'etre, will perpetually be a topic of heated discussion among a small circle of otherwise unoccupied scholars. At the same time, the absence of art in a civilized society is the first indication of an oppressive environment. If nothing else, the artist is a catalyst for freedom of thought.
The 1990's will forever be remembered as a decade of obscene self-indulgence immersed in a miasma of excess. In his collection of essays entitled, My Lost City, F. Scott Fitzgerald described his fellow writers and artists of the 1920's as, "revelers who drink too much and have nothing new to offer." Ironically, this depiction serves as a cyclic foreshadowing of subsequent generations and can be inserted as a stencil over the blank canvas of the 1990's art sub-culture. The third millennium has presented the world with a new vista of possibilities. The benefits resulting from these opportunities cannot be realized without the recognition of symbiotic nature, the complete interdependence, of the entire family of man. The realization of mortality has a glorious focusing effect on intellect and psyche. The validity of existence cannot be determined by a single defining moment. Instead Being is fixed in the history of mankind through relentless contribution to life itself.