I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the greater purpose of musical theatre. It’s been said that if you want to make a billion dollars you simply help a billion people. Now, who doesn’t want to make a billion dollars (especially if you’re an artist)? But the question then becomes how do you help a billion people?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what precisely I, as an artist, can do to counter the sociopolitical climate of this moment. I am unwilling to fall victim to despair, while at the same time I recognize a sense of helplessness – particularly when it comes to sharing the truth. Our leaders have become misleaders. Our social media have become less social, more media. And the press is now suspect both to those who wish to subvert the facts and those who are seeking them out.
Therefore, I feel that it falls to artists to follow through, more so now than ever, on their job description of holding a mirror up to society. We must tell the truth.
I have always been a worrier when it comes to money. Blame it on my practical Midwestern upbringing. Or my Father. Or the fact that I’ve chosen writing musicals as my ironclad fall-back career in case acting doesn’t work out.
Thankfully, I’ve been extremely lucky to make my living as an artist. I say “artist” because it encompasses the various roles that I play in my work. Sometimes I’m an actor, sometimes I’m a writer, sometimes I’m a musician or a teacher. But it all stems from my passion for and abilities as an artist.
It’s only been recently, though, that I’ve had to actually sit down and think about what to do with the money I’ve made.
Shortly after college, I found myself with a big chunk of credit card debt. And because of the piecemeal nature of making money as an artist, I had no real system to keep track of how much I was making and how much I was spending. Never mind saving or investing!
Art and activism have a long history together. As art is a representation of the truth of the world around us, it can often force us to see things that we typically choose to ignore.
Sometimes – often times – this type of truth telling can cause trouble for the artist. Especially in countries where freedom of speech is not valued as it is in the west.
In Iran, a 29-year-old painter named Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12+ years in prison earlier this summer, for depicting members of the Iranian parliament as monkeys and cows. She created the artwork as a response to their vote to restrict contraception and ban certain birth-control methods. Even while in prison – where she suffered abuses and more injustices – she would draw on paper cups until they were no longer given to her. Continue reading Make Art for a Change
I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of Science and Art. (Had I not turned out to be an actor and composer, I sometimes think I might have been an astronomer .)
Great scientists always seem to have a touch of the artist inside of them, and similarly artists often think analytically, the way a scientist might. Especially when it comes to pushing the boundaries on what we think we know.
My attention was drawn a while back to an LA Times article discussing a sort of cultural revolution occurring at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Longtime curator, Paul Schimmel – “an artist favorite, seen as a champion of ambitious, intensely researched exhibitions” – was recently fired and replaced by Jeffrey Deitch – “who gained his reputation by creating buzzed-about events that often drew on youth culture, [including recent exhibitions in LA] that revolved around high-recognition names, including Dennis Hopper and James Franco.” The ousting led to the protest and resignation of many board member-artists, including Catherine Opie and John Baldessari.
The article goes on to include other realms of art interacting warily with celebrity and fashion.
MOCA is not the only artistic institution hosting celebrity versus significance face-off. Theater has been at it for years; Broadway not only remakes big, successful film musicals, now it takes on flops (“Newsies”) and indies (“Once”) while bemoaning the lack of original plays.
Now, there’s certainly nothing new about a clash between the “old guard” and the young, up-start newcomers. “Established” and “safe” often mean the same, and the “language of the people” is constantly evolving (or perhaps “revolving” is a more apt term), so if one doesn’t at least keep an ear out, one will eventually become irrelevant.
My guy brain just can’t be troubled with having to figure out what to put where in order to make it look good. I know what DOES look good, when I see it. I just don’t necessarily know how to create (or re-create it).
Thank you for your interest in our Artist Residency Program. Please answer these few questions about your proposed project, and our team will review your application for workshop space in our facilities.
Please describe your proposed project.
Um. It’s a portrait of a woman in a white dress. But her face and body will be disproportionate and angular. Her nose will appear to be coming out of her right eye, and her head will appear to have been bashed in with a sledgehammer.
What would you hope to accomplish during your residency here?
I plan to paint it…?
If your project were an animal, which would animal would it be?
What the fuck?
Please write a three-word sentence to describe your intention with this project.
Make people look.
That’s not a complete sentence.
Sure it is.
Is it an imperative sentence, with “you” as the implied subject, or…?
Otherwise I don’t get it.
I have a feeling you don’t get a lot of things.
And finally, why this project now?
Because there are too many portraits of normal looking people. I want to do something different? I’m an artist with an idea and you’re an arts space. Why don’t you be the judge of why this now? Is it really my place to decide the importance and relevance of my own work? You know what…this whole thing is stupid. I’ll just work on it in my own studio.
Thank you. Your answers will be taken into serious consideration.
I would never refer to myself as a Hardcore Sorkin Fan, but it’s hard not to admire the guy for his style and prolificness. I never fully caught The West Wing train, but I do (mostly) love what I’ve seen of The Newsroom.
But his ability, and courage really, to deal with difficult, complicated political issues while maintaining an emotionally dramatic arc and appealing to a fairly wide demographic is truly commendable.
Especially when this is what his writing can achieve: