One of the great joys of my life has come from looking at art, which always manages to confound, goad, teach, humor and ultimately save me from myself and a general unhappiness with the world. It’s been a constant, this love affaire, always urging me forward. Until I opened a gallery however, my understanding of what it takes to ‘be’ an artist, someone whose life revolves around the making of art, was cursory at best. The great privilege of nurturing Studio Barndiva through its seven years of existence has been to peek around the canvas and watch artists whose work I believe in evolve and flourish. But while I never forget that finding an audience (and selling work to them) is paramount, thats not the engine that’s kept the gallery going in what has become an increasingly uninspired, commoditized marketplace.
Don’t get me wrong, I think its great how our Etsyized world has given rise to millions of “artists” finding a way to speak directly to an audience who might appreciate and subsidize their careers. Artistic vision is a true democracy, or should be. But art created solely for business misses the point. Theo van Gogh didn’t expect to make bank on his brother's paintings, he wanted to find a place for them in the world because he believed they said something about the human condition the rest of us needed to see.
Sadly, the tradition of the art dealer who nurtures a career over decades “because they believe in them,” is for the most part a thing of the past. Investment trumps passion as the driving force behind art sales at the very fickle top end of the art industry, while collecting art, for arts sake -- where it does still exist -- implies disposable income and lots of wall space most folks simply don’t have.
Yet I’d make the case that without surrounding ourselves with art that moves us, we miss an indelibly important connection that both explains and ennobles existence. Movies, TV, the Amazonification of literature, an art landscape where Jeff Koons is king, is culture by committee, codified and calibrated to cater to our fears and feed on our illnesses. It’s dumb and getting dumber.
Which makes the individual artistic vision a rare and necessary tonic.
Manok Cohen and Seth Minor, whose second show together opens tonight, are not tortured artists. Manok’s paintings are seductively pleasing to the eye, giving up landscapes that are both primordial and thoroughly modern. Seth’s single wire work cannot help but make you smile though at heart his vision is a mordant one, a wry pronouncement on what we see when we look in the mirror and find ourselves confused yet steadfast. To have been able to nurture and watch them both grow in their respective mediums over the years has been an honor, which makes this show a celebration of their still evolving talents and a source of pride for all of us here at Studio Barndiva.
At the end of the day art does not explain anything we don’t already know, or at least have an intimation of, about the human condition. Which is perhaps why it feels so damn good when we connect with a work of art. To be able to see clearly even the smallest movement in the complicated dance we have with life filtered through someone else’s hand is confirmation that we are not alone. That as hard as it is to make sense of life, not only does it beat the alternative, but there is great joy to be found in the journey.
Come celebrate with us this evening. Support the arts!