Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Great Artistic Divide

Greetings good people! and Good editors too!

Artist Inc. vs Artist Think

As a Folklorist and Anthropologist it is my calling to focus on the cultural aspects of art. It is my profession. That is why I seem to talk about it more. It is all that education and graduate school.

As an artcar artist I can not help wonder how my obsession with the work relates to the cultures and societies around me. Why am I in the box that I am in? Is it a good box? Is it the right box? My obsession with the art and driving the art and talking about the art and acting out around the art is costly- much time, much money, much preparation, much effort many car repairs and a lot of gas money. Most of these resources I don't really have! The investments motivate inquiry. What am I doing here? Where is the train heading and how do I improve the ride? How do I manage to select the destination? What is going on?

If you haven't ever been to a covered dish dinner you need to find one and take part. You need to do this over time regularly-they grow on you. These events along with sandwich swaps were staples of my upbringing.In Baltimore I have found my covered dish home at Zion Lutheran Church of the City of Baltimore -each Sunday the coffee hour is magnificent- Don't take Prarie Home Companion's word for it: Lutheran food is the best- come on down. Several nights a year almost once a month. It was a communal table. It has become the way I pursue my obsessive art. My cars are covered dishes. I create them to give them to those around me- to share. As with the covered dish dinner in the church basement I take the time-allow the obsession to run wild and get creative with my recipes. I bring the covered dish - more than I need to consume myself - over the top- so as to feed others. Not just to feed them but to draw them to the table where art like the covered dishes feeds the mind, provokes thought and sets the stage for human interaction. That is what it is about. Conversations, stories- mine- about meeting with the law, close encounters, stories of Baltimore Hons and Walmart shoppers experiencing art for the first time in their cultural desert. At church we sang hymns, told stories, talked about recipes of the ancestors and only marginally ever touched on religion. Some of my favorite and often "adult" stories and jokes have been found in church halls!

In your home town you probably have covered dish dinners somewhere. Sandwich exchanges too maybe- when you bring a category of sandwich- meat or peanut butter veg or cheese in a quantity plenty enough for others. You are probably however, more acquainted with the other side of the cultural divide. That is the fast food strip. We have one just a few blocks away. One of every burger, chicken, uncomfortable chairs so you will eat and leave. Money must be exchanged before eating. You have to generate a bill to partake. This is not like my art, or, my obsession. I don't want money in the way of my food. I don't want to generate a bill, I don't want to employ some high school student just to eat and partake, enjoy and relate.

Ok you are saying...he is about to launch into some sort of discrimination against capitalism. NO! Not at all. Capitalism is not the issue. Capitalists are great people. Someone has to run the economy. This discussion is not about that. It is different. It is about the milk, water, tea and coffee and the church hall. and lets not forget the dessert.

You see at our church when you brought your covered dish to share and create the wonrous cultural atmosphere for one and all to partake of you were given the use of the church hall to eat in and the church provided through community donations, the beverages and dessert. As children we could not wait for the sweets and chocolate milk which we did not get every day at home.

Ok I will return to artcars....

After years and years of artcar events. Much pondering of the realities. I have been driven to conclude that artcars like it or not, are a part of what our cultures and societies calls and created as the art community. The roles are created for us by those around us. The art world is structured. We are in a box, on a train, going to a destination created and determined largely by others.- City governments, Chambers of Commerce, State offices of Tourism and development. In Baltimore it is in the title: "Office of Promotion and the Arts". Note that promotion comes before arts. Unlike the church artists have no roles in administration and do not inform anything. We cartists are not involved in the process- we are not able to volunteer as in the church covered dish dinner- to help brew the coffee make the tea, bring in the desserts or even clean up. Officals choose the box, the destination which is generally next to the excessivly loud DJ stage which makes telling of stories generally impossible.

As in the outside world within the art community we have also the capitalists and the covered dishers. I am in the latter category but, you probably guessed that already.

At Artscape in Baltimore of the participants be they on musical stages, roving as performers, in concert halls or hanging their paintings on exhibit hall walls 99.999 %
are capitolists. That is to say the city pays them a fee or they work in "INC." Next to their painting on the wall you will see that it is for sale or you will see their business card or even...."we accept major credit cards" Within the artcar community some good people, great artcar artists also work in "INC." they just bring their cash registers along with the covered dish. Again some of my best friends are capitalists and they are wonderful. Money is not dirty. Business is good. Just so I can get to the covered dish - their artcar and if it is primairly an artcar they can come too.

The point is not to discriminate but to include and t to know ourselves. What box have we been put in? Where are we being told we have to go?

Essentially for me- Where is the chocolate milk? Where is the desert at our covered dish dinner? I call these things "support for the arts". You hear this term often. It is generally used by city agencies to tell us what festivals are all about. Yet. I often find the beverages and desert absent. I do see a lot of "INC." - so it must be "Art" if a lot of "ink" is used? No I don't think so.

When the public attends our covered dish dinners they do so holding programs that read "promotion of the arts" yet the last time I looked there is no desert no chocolate milk most of the time (I even have to sing my own hymns:write my own Public Relations press releases) There is a great illusion that the arts are supported. Somehow I don't think so.

Last time I checked I am baking my covered dish, paying for the food, making enough to share with a good number of others and then I take the dish home and wash it out. Should I perhaps change things and cook perhaps Octopus Greek style in its own : "INC." I dont think so. You know I think that the public would rather not have ink but traditional baked beans, peanut butter sandwiches and mac and cheese baked dish. Anyway that is what they are lead to believe that the agencies of city government that they fund to put on arts events are providing.

So I go to organized events to spend money on wear and tear, gas, new obsessive art. I do so without undergarments, unbeknownst to the public I have no "support"- no bra, no jock strap nothing. No beverages or dessert.

Ok I can hear the capitalist cartist shouting "eat my shorts" No! Not going to do that!

What will I do? I will do a lot of work to let the public know that they are at McDonalds and not at the covered dish dinner. And. I will work as hard as I can to find a suitable church hall where we can all gather to bring our covered dish dinners and festivals with beverages and deserts can happen. I am thinking of going on Friday to my favorite church hall the I 95 rest stop in Laurel Maryland. No illusions about public support for the arts there. Just the donation slot in the car or truck which is totally optional- that is for the beverages and desert.

I am also going to work very hard to remove the two brands burned into the two cheeks of my backside which Read: "Artscape" and "American Visionary Art Museum". It might be painful but I think that without them I can still find that church hall somewhere for the covered dish dinner. And the beverages and desert will be there as well. Look out for the welcome to the inside exhibit at artscape. Learn what it is like to be as a visionary outsider cut off from the desert and beverages at the feast as you leave something outside the gate before you go in to view the frog car. Think about how we might all work to create a strip of covered dish dinner halls which is as big and as magnificent as the fast food strips we see dominating our so called "support for the arts" events.

I think I can count on you good people!

For more information about our work here at Hutman Artcars visit the blog:

For information about our cars go to:

Watch out for our Open Studio with free food and artcars and entertainment- First Weekend in August- maybe a few covered dishes will turn up-I will do the baked beans and mac and cheese baked dish. You see....its easy! See the blog above for the press release about that.

Conrad Bladey
Peasant Visionary Cartist

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