The Artwork of Michael Divine




Art Basel III: Moksha Art Fair II

December 10th, 2009


The Moksha Art party that occurred on Saturday night (and well into Sunday) was a particularly crazy affair with the silk dancers, performances, fire dancers, art art and more art, lights, music – live and otherwise, vendors, carousing, spoken word performances, multiple dance areas, etc etc. One person told me it was the best party she’d ever been to. Awesome.

I was honored with a chance to paint on the main stage alongside Shrine, Alex Grey, and Allyson Grey. The painting I painted through the course of the night is called something like The Immutable Core. It is pictured above. I like the idea of creating a painting, from start to finish in one night. Granted, I will, in time, sharpen some of the lines and clarify some of the corners but, for the most part, it is a complete piece. The painting had six stages to it and I knew what I was going to create from the beginning. The best part was the white line: o how beautifully it connects the whole thing – that simple straightaway. Delicious!

Live painting enabled me to get out some disparate emotions, dive head first into a painting, and bring it to it’s conclusion before the end of the night – along with bringing my own mind into a sharper focus.

The tough thing with parties of this sort – where the intended focus is on the art is that the art sometimes gets lost in the spectacle of it. I wish people had been there for the lectures or in the daytime for some of the other things going on – where there were some real opportunities to learn something. I think that, as such, the level of respect for the art and the quality of it’s container is, in some ways, diminished.

In this, I think, is where the crux of the problem of how to bring this work to a broader audience lies and, as such, command a higher price point and find truly interested art buyers. While some might feel this sense of “monetization” is too mainstream or commodity oriented, the truth is: we artists need to eat and like to sell our work at a value that reflects it’s true worth. The broader audience is sometimes a bit put off by that porous container that this work is often presented in. Personally, I would want to give people some solid ground to stand upon – some firm footing for the ride the art might take them on. Also, while there are certainly differences between the way the work was presented (and the set and setting thereof) and perhaps a more austere and spacious setting, I feel there has to be a way to bridge that gap.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like parties and have gone to many, many events over the years. Some were centered around art. Some around music. Some around music and art together. As I’ve gotten older however, it’s not that I’ve grown out of the parties, but, rather, I’ve become more and more aware of how the artwork is presented and the container through which it is perceived.

Looking around the rest of Miami, The Nada Art Fair, for example, was such a conflagration of booths, randomness, and unconsidered angles hung and strung with a mishmash of “contemporary” art that the art made even less sense than it might have edged upon otherwise. Scope Art Fair, with it’s breezy interior, bright wood floors and well-organized layout, seemed to support the edgy modernness it hoped to present. The main Art Basel event had all the trappings of a museum quality show that seemed to offer some reasoning for why they might be asking such absurd amounts of money for some seriously atrocious pieces of art.

Along the way, through these places, I ran across many gems. I saw some work by Jeff Soto, an artist I was familiar with but had never seen in person. It was quite lovely with a strange inner language, dreamy and dark. I saw an original Magritte, something like doves of stone agcruainst a blue sky. There was a beautiful chess set of brass fingers (literally) made by Dali, as an offering and response to Duchamp’s own Dadaist chess set, with small snow shovels as pawns (for whatever non-reason). There were all sorts of things and dreams like this, tucked away, along the many cubicles and corners. While, with all of these shows, there is a vast amount of drivel, there are also some really well done pieces. Such is art! Such is life!

When I looked at the Moksha Art Event through that same lens of “frame” and “container”, I had feelings that were about as mixed as my experience with all of the other events.  Much of the artwork presented at the Moksha event was quite beautiful, well-rendered, and deeply moving. I was especially struck by a gorgeous piece by Autumn Skye Morrison and a large and truly impressive thanka-like painting by Luke Brown.

What needs to change, I feel, for this work to reach a wider audience – and, mind you, I want it to reach a wider audience – is for us to reconsider the container we present it in. If we really care about raising consciousness (and not just of ourselves and our friends and mutual appreciators) then we need to open our doors a little wider and consider a broader audience and how they respond to our container as well as our work. We need to really deeply and honestly consider the frame within which it is presented. I challenge the artists to push the envelope a bit and, at the same time, sharpen the edges of the container just as they refine the edges of their own lines and gradients. In doing so, they can create crisp and beautiful visions of reality as it can be experienced. I think the challenge is to find and create spaces that reflect that solidity of vision and work with those who seek to create such spaces. If this doesn’t happen then this artwork will continue to be relegated to the fringes.

But the “fringes” are not the “edge”.  Perhaps there are those who would prefer to be on the fringes since the light there is dimmer and one can be less transparent. If that is the case however, then the work that is created there will forever be tainted by that dark unsettledness. Myself, I have no fear of darkness. It is the murkiness of that fringe that I am uninterested in. Murky, muddy colors: what good are those?

I’d rather step to the edge and experience the crisp endless darkness that lies at it’s depths because, only through that, can one experience the piercing light of day with a clear conscience. Yes, my friend, we have nothing to hide. The roots of our work, of the truly visionary art, lie in compassion and wisdom and that adds a depth and a height that these words will never be able to express.

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