The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Beauty / Ugliness

February 20th, 2006

Some kid came by our fence in back and spray painted some kind of silver crap scrawl. In some alternate universe it may have some kind of minimal redeeming value. Here, in this one, it does nothing more than look ugly. He seems to’ve tagged a few other places in the general neighborhood. His work doesn’t compare at all to the dude who, on two side by side grey utility boxes on a street corner sprayed “Watch” on the left one and “out” on the left smaller one. That, at least, made me laugh. The silver scrawl just makes me shudder.

A couple weeks back Violet and I went to the Art LA show at the Santa Monica Civic Center. Many dozen galleries all set up in booth—like cubicles displaying what passes these days as “Art”. We could count on one hand between us the number of artists that impressed us. Mostly: crap. Scrawled drawings, ugly sculptures. Half-assed poorly conceived redundancies. How many times will I see the striped canvas. A hundred and twenty four vertical lines, different colors. Sigh. Little ugly scrawled drawings celebrating ugliness. Framed. A series. A large… thing. A smaller… contraption. A bit of wax…A cardboard rendition of Nixon’s head.

We came out of the place with a kind of blasé feeling. Blah, we said to each other. . We decided to go get some sushi and celebrate the art and beauty of the Japanese flavor, the raw fish presentation and the beauty of the flavor upon our taste buds.

Art- where had the beauty gone? Who sucked it away and replaced it with this laziness? It takes work, you see, to make something beautiful. Anyone can scrawl their name in silver spray paint on the back fence and put a coupla X’s under it. Anyone can paint a canvas black and put it on the wall. In fact, my dear poseur who did such a thing, Rothko is way ahead of you and his was way better and once you’ve seen a blank canvas or a solid color canvas, you’ve seen them all. Where is the originality in it? The personal process? Why didn’t you try to go any further than what has already been done? Why do we glorify the ugly wall hangings? The childlike drawing of the two rats fighting? The man in the mask getting ready to fuck the rabbit? The framed image made up entirely of gel-caps filled with tiny scrolls of photo making one giant photo. How avant-garde? Not quite. The avant-garde has turned into a lazy man’s art. It takes work to make something beautiful.

I have a painting here I have been working on. Two people, sitting together, making love, with a galaxy through them,. Encircled by light and flame and lotus petals and the like. I have painted their bodies three times. Each time, it was not quite it. This is to be beautiful- to get to that place where we can reproduce the beauty that is inherent in nature we must be able to come from our own true nature. If we can come from there then everything flows and nothing is in the way. But if we want to settle for ugliness we will only forever be caught up in the childish play of human drama. Look at the sunset, at a flower, at the river… at birth, death and all the points between… there is nothing “ugly” about them. Nothing awkward or self-conscious. It is humans which have created those things. So they put it on their walls, they spray-paint it on the backs of their fences and street signs, post it on the front cover of their tabloids, look at how ugly Faye Dunaway has gotten, look at Brittany’s tears, there now, it’s so ugly, this thing: life. Now, don’t you feel better?

I have yet to see something in this consumerist culture which professes to tell me I am beautiful without also attempting to sell me something to either help keep me that way or simply be a crutch as that thing which will make me beautiful. Only I can make myself that way.

I am not a lazy person, when you come down to it. I may slack on some things now and again but ugliness is not something I will stand for. Look- look at your life. Look, I’ll look at my life: I get in an argument. To just leave it, unsettled, is ugly. Even the charred remains of a forest resolves itself by, none-the-less from those ashes, birthing itself into the majesty it was. You never expect a flower to be ugly. Or the sunset, or the breeze. Why do you expect yourself to be that way? Who taught you that you were awkward, unfortunate, unloved, not beautiful, not lovable? How are you ever going to create beauty outside of yourself if you don’t solve these issues first and create the beauty within yourself?

This is of utmost importance, you see. You are told you are not so beautiful by others around you, by the self-abused, and so believe it, and settle into it, and slowly but surely self-deprecate. You forget- you are a mirror. Inside is this universe of feelings and understandings and openings and beauty. If you wake up to it. And that, my friend, takes some work. It takes some digging and some discipline and some coming to terms with yourself and some patience and some love and some firmness and some compassion and some wisdom. It takes practice.

How do you practice being beautiful? By practicing compassion. By practicing generosity. By exercising. By breathing deeply. By loving yourself. By loving the universe. By loving the people you see, wherever, whenever. By not expecting. By being secure in yourself. By walking tall, even if you are short. By holding yourself that way.

You are whoever you want to be and the universe, your world, your life, is whatever you want it to be. It is a harsh unfriendly jungle of chaos and ugliness or it is a blissful dance of natural order and beauty. Natural order is like a forest- there is order in the chaos in that it is all arranged to work symbiotically in the most efficient manner possible and provide as much life and goodness as possible. Nothing is out of place, nothing is in any specific place, everything is exactly where it is meant to be. Beauty- it is everywhere all around us.

The artist in society. It is not the job of the artist to perpetuate the ball that is already rolling- this ugliness ball. It is the job of the artist to create something more. To be a guiding light. To search inside for that inspiration and produce something which shall inspire and ignite the fires. It is the job of the artist to be the beauty they wish to see in the world. I’ll be your mirror but all I see is beauty. In the somewhat chaotic order of my desk. In my now cleaned house which I spent the day putting back into order from a weeks worth or business. In the nighttime sky outside, glowing with the city lights and speckled with a handful of stars, lit by the waning moon. In the miniature rose sitting on my desk given to me by my love on Valentine’s Day. The cat on the floor. My sweetie in bed. Sigh…

I will admit, I can’t always see the beauty but that does not mean I stop doing the work. TRY TO UNDERSTAND! It’s the greatest gift you could give to yourself and to the universe: trying to understand. And don’t settle for second best or some cheap imitation. A mere mobile of string and paper with a coupla chicken bones thrown in for good measure will not suffice when we are talking about the ultimate well-being of you and everyone you know and everyone else as well. This may sound like a lot of work but it’s less than you think. All it takes: is being aware and trying to understand.

Like I said, beauty takes work. Ugliness is for the lazy. You decide where you want to be. The choice is, always and forever, yours.

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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