Poking the Bear: Why the Art World Needs Beauty Now More than Ever

The bear lunges forward, hell-bent on destruction, its massive paws destroying everything in its path. She lashes out, her claws tearing, her teeth gnashing, her roar echoing throughout the wood.

She is chasing someone. A person.

A person who had the nerve to poke the sleeping bear with a stick.

In the rear.

A good, hard poke.

Not a pansy little poke. A serious poke.

And then, an all-out sprint away from an angry bear.

The human wheels around and does the unthinkable, punching the bear in the nose. The nose!

“Maybe,” the human thinks, “this might stun the bear, make the bear stop.”

But no. It only makes the bear more angry. Even madder.

Paws and claws still thrashing wildly.

The human manages to escape to a high rock out of reach of the bear, and the bear gets tired and wanders off. The human is safe. For now.

But the bear is sick. She needs help. If untreated, her condition will grow worse. The human wants to help, but offers no real solution.

This is what I see every day in the art world.

Artists smacking angry bears on the nose, then claiming immunity when the world gets mad that the artist has pointed out a critical flaw in the way the world works.

We saw this recently in the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. Cartoonists teased the bear a little too much and got themselves killed.

Sure, the cartoonists had a point: religious extremism does more harm than good. But rather than offer any sort of solution, they continued to mock the people who killed them. The mocking got worse and worse.

That’s not bravery. That’s stupidity.

Over the past 100 years or so it has fallen out of fashion in the art world to create anything beautiful, anything uplifting.

If art pisses people off, great! Let’s shake the world out of its complacency! Convulse them! Shock them! The more shocking, the better! Paint with excrement!

The thinking goes something like this: if artists shock society enough with the right images, music, movies, et cetera, they can change the world for the better.

But instead, artists are punching an angry bear in the nose.

That might startle the bear for a moment, but it won’t change anything in the long run, unless you do something to kill the bear or otherwise render her unconscious. Chances are if she wakes back up, she will be even angrier than before.

I want to offer an alternative: create art that has a way out.

Give some kind of resolution. The trend for the past century has been to dwell on despair and not seek any sort of solution except more death, more destruction, more nihilism.

Create art that brings hope. Create art that is a light in the darkness.

Dare I say it? Create something beautiful.

Scream if you must.

Weep if you must.

Destroy if you must.

Create, because you must.

You are capable of the demonic and the divine.

Both creation and destruction are demonic and divine. Choose wisely. Don’t create art that just shocks and destroys for the sake of shocking and destroying. That shock, that jolt, can do some good. But provide that good.

This is why I try to show a glimpse of hope.

I embrace the fog of every day life. The uncertainties. Because life is uncertain, when you’re young and struggle to pay the bills and feed three small children.

But I also know that life is beautiful. That there is light beyond the darkness. That the world is broken and is crying out for redemption. Because beauty is all the more poignant when brokenness is restored. When hurts are healed.

Be the light in the world. Bring hope. Bring beauty.

image source: Thinkstock