I'm writing this post with many of the same feelings I held last week. I’m confused by what's happening in America, and I’m baffled by the actions President Trump is taking. Everything is changing at a turbocharged pace and it's hard to keep up. This blog included.
Last week I wrote about U2's now scrapped new album and artistic relevance in a Trump presidency. I didn't get around to posting the blog until Friday. Within an hour, the topic shifted out of my focus as Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from seven countries for 90 days and refugees in general for 120 days. It's hard to keep up a conversation on art when executive orders like that are issued. But I did have an experience that made me want to revisit the subject of artistic relevance this week. It builds on my previous post, so check that out here if you didn’t have a chance to read it.
This past weekend I travelled to Tampa to see some friends. While down there, I went to a museum that features a permanent collection of Salvador Dali paintings and an exhibition of the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. I found myself paying close attention to works from certain historic eras and events: Post World War I, World War II, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the rise of communism, etc. I've seen some of these paintings before, but this time they took on a new meaning to me given the context of the world today. It's not as if I ever underestimated the importance of those events, and we're certainly living in our own unique time. But the feelings of chaos, doubt, and questioning were so present and relatable. There were many other pieces in the gallery that exuded more positive concepts of optimism, inner peace, and personal growth. While not as striking, they still presented a welcome reminder of what else is important in life. A friend, Cyndi Rice, commented to me in response to last week's post that sometimes art of hope and acceptance can inspire just as much and bring out strength and confidence. I could definitely relate to the sentiment in that moment.
With the encounter at the museum, I answered a lot of the questions I posed last week. U2 (and other artists) shouldn't be worrying about whether their art is relevant right now or not. In the modern music industry it's easy to get caught up in the notion that music is at it's height when it's released and only matters at that time. But music and art can take on meaning at any occasion. What's most important is to create in the moment and put something out there that gives off pure emotion. I realize that’s a pretty basic tenant of art for me to arrive at as a conclusion. But sometimes even basic philosophies need to be examined and rebuffed when there’s so much going on in the world.
Finally, I wanted to end this week's post with a story of something that inspired me last week. I was working Thursday evening and ran into stand still traffic at the intersection of Broad and Walnut in central Philadelphia. I could see the road ahead had been closed. A significant amount of people were marching towards city hall with signs protesting Donald Trump and his presence in town that day. I parked my car, got out, and walked down to the end of the block to take it all in. The chants, the atmosphere, and the messages of the crowd were all so passionate and authentic. I could breathe a little easier that night from bearing witness to the courage and vocal opposition of everyone in that moment. As much as art can inspire, so can people's actions in our everyday lives.
Picture: "Salvador Dali with Babou, the Ocelot" by Roger Higgins