Posts tagged ‘Obama’

October 1, 2009

The Nu Camelot:Michelle Obama gets art

Comparisons of Michelle Obama to Jackie O continue to gain validity with every speech she gives. A champion of the arts, her desire to bring culture back to the White House is refreshing, even comforting to those of us who lamented the backyard BBQ aesthetics of the Bush days.

Her most recent appeal for the arts was one of the best I’ve heard, surpassing even the words of her husband in terms of hitting the mark:

We believe strongly that the arts aren’t somehow an ‘extra’ part of our national life, but instead we feel that the arts are at the heart of our national life. It is through our music, our literature, our art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and we express our hopes for the future. Our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…..

Hopefully we can follow her lead on a local level and continue to embrace projects like WAV, which I reported on this week.

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January 21, 2009

Obama as muse


Much has been said and written recently about the potential impact our new president could have on the arts in America. Obama is literary and tech-savvy. When he described the prose from a book he was reading as “sparkling,” the loins of writers everywhere briefly tingled. There’s even a petition circulating to add a culture czar to Obama’s cabinet.

While it’s true that artists were drawn into the Obama campaign in record numbers (not that surprising, artists tend to be politically liberal) and maybe were even inspired by his message of optimistic realism, I have a hard time understanding how the man himself–his taste and perception–will influence artistic expression or somehow set cultural trends, which is what is being implied.

Did watered-down country music thrive under Bush’s reign? Was literature dumbed down in response to W’s malnourished vocabulary? Maybe the anger he inspired influenced certain works, especially in music but it’s doubtful his own cultural ouevre had an impact on the arts.

Even Shepard Fairey’s (pictured) rise to fame via his iconic portrait of Obama was not a departure. He translated his response to the man in his signature style. The fact that the mainstream finally caught on to something many of us were already hip to doesn’t say anything to me about Obama’s influence on art and culture.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan. I voted for him and I wept all the way through the inauguration ceremony, but I’m having trouble with the idea that the leader of our country, a political figure, will influence the arts. I don’t even think it’s a question we should ponder. The creative process is deeply personal and organic. Why would we even entertain the notion that a public figure could somehow sway the artists output? This idea must be a product of the cult of celebrity much of our culture is currently under the spell of.  Obama is our president and that’s a great thing. But, is our muse? God, I hope not.

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