Whether John Rambo, Marlon Brandon, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, Enrico Caruso or Michelangelo, they are all artists who, by the exposition of their extraordinary talent, entertain and uplift our daily repetitive and predominantly unglamorous lives. Humanity, I am afraid to say, when scrutinized from anything but the most abstract astronomical distance, is generally mildly unsettling and rough going, the live birth from the womb, explosions of elemental ingredients during adolescence, development of uncomfortable bearings, attitudes and ticks during seniority and finally the incremental and irreversible decomposition of old age. In short, not a pretty picture overall from beginning to end. But art changes all that, art in the thespian variant, art hanging on the walls or rendered in sculpture, photography, music, poetry, furnishings, rugs and clocks, glasswork, crystal, ceramic, porcelain and brass, jewellery, weaving, even handmade or plastic flowers.
Art allows us to address, synthesize and cope with the unpleasant realities of living. The famous cathartic effect – “providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions” – is the mental laxative affording everything from an exorcism to purification. Art is easily evoked as eternal and impermeable. It enables us to capture the relieving sensation upon a whim – whether Saturday afternoon at the matinée or wearing one’s favourite piece of jewellery at luncheon.
As with most analgesics, the palliative is to be taken with a sense of modification and limitation. Alcohol for example (a common appearance in Hollywood productions) is in most instances something to be taken in moderation, this in spite of the humorous observation accredited to a debt-ridden and ill Oscar Wilde when regarding his detestable Paris resort, “One of us has to go, the wallpaper or me!”
His propaganda of art was not lost, for his very eccentricities, his abuse and ridicule by the Press, spread the gospel among the people. “This wallpaper is killing me; one of us must go.”—Oscar Wilde, when on his deathbed.
The clinically uncomfortable view of art is that it elevates deceit and abandonment; that is, it renders a fictional view of the world often dependent upon pretence and fabrication. And indeed it is so. Yet whether that is the very purpose of art (a debate perhaps more suitable to a strictly philosophic investigation of the subject), the retail and toxic value of art is indisputable. In Hollywood the return on the investment is characterized by both celebrity and wealth (often for those involved at every level of the expression).
My personal engagement with art is directed mostly to tangible items I am capable of surrounding myself with. Whether I am purely tactile is irrelevant to me. I have certain pieces which daily exude strength for me. Once again, the label of materialist hardly dissuades me in the pursuit of my entertainment. In the end, the success of art is for me its manifestation of delivery, of purity, of semblance and eternity. These hard resolves – what are often the personifications of misery – are nonetheless a source of optimism.