Friday, December 10, 2010

About Cruelty

As I replied to Gordon Inkeles’ comment to last week’s blog post (see it below) I thought of how different we are from each other and how much alike. What came to mind for differences was that some of us are capable of inflicting great cruelty on others. My recent reading about the reign of King Henry VIII included vivid descriptions of persons, men and women, young and old, being burned at the stake before a crowd of witnesses. I like to think that the arts reside at the other end of the spectrum of human behavior. For there we divulge who we are, how we think, feel, see, and in general make ourselves visible and vulnerable. I wonder about some of the poetry I have read  in which a most personal and hidden interior place or vision is exposed to the scrutiny of strangers.

I had an experience once, long ago, in which my life was threatened by somebody who looked as if he didn’t understand my reaction to him. How could he not know I was terrified? I was screaming bloody murder. I later cast about for an understanding of this lack of empathy. I had struggled with that question from the time I saw photos taken in the camps of the Holocaust when I was ten years old. A Vietnam veteran answered the question for me in a way that I could understand. He explained that those who are severely mistreated have to numb themselves to their own pain and thus are lacking in compassion. How sad.

The why of art for the artist must be to provide the self with balance or harmony as he or she has control over words, or lines and colors, or the shadows in a photo. When I hear speak of the agony suffered during a creative undertaking, I think: “Uh,oh. There’s somebody who wants perfection.” Well, why not? Surely it’s worth a try.  How very many ways we have found to make things to satisfy the compulsion to produce something to our own design. The very act of creating something can be sublime because there, at least there, it can be just how it should be, just how we want it. Often it’s as close to perfection as one can get to in the moment. A real blessing. 

The image above is Seasons, made and sold in 1996. Mixed media on paper mounted on canvas, 23” x 68”. For inquiries or to purchase a painting shown on this site, please email Joan. Remember you can also purchase a print at my Etsy site with ease.


  1. "The very act of creating something can be sublime "

    Yes, but what if it's not. Must we all act like it was? And is anyone fooled if we do?

    Disclaimer: Irony is often misconstrued online. For the record, I adore your work. I'm talking here about a dreary side of the art scene.

  2. I wouldn't dare try to fool you, Gordon. Not within the realm of possibility. And no danger of misconstruction with you either. I trust you to say what you think and love that aspect of your modus. I'm am glad you are my friend.