I received one of two emails earlier this week from Long Beach Arts, the first said that they are cancelling their National Open and closing their doors, for good, after 88 years as an artists' cooperative here in Long Beach. But first, I want to talk about Mr. Cotton. Mr. Cotton was my Religion Class teacher in my senior year of high school, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth. He wore a gray suit to work every day, he was slight of figure, spectacled and appeared meek to us lug-headed, testosterone infused, all-boys-Catholic-high-school delinquents. But he possessed a keen and powerful mind and led, or tried to lead us, into more cerebral realms.
One day he challenged us with a statement, which I remember to this day, he said "The Church says that all revelation ended with John." He was referring to the John of the Gospel writers - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and more specifically to the last book of the Bible, Revelations. The words that stuck out for me were "all revelation ended." It meant to me that God was done talking to us here on Earth. Mr. Cotton was saying that our Holy Catholic Church hadn't gotten a letter from God in like 2,000 years.
It was challenge to me personally because I found God revealing Itself all the time! BUT, this is not about the Church or Christianity or dogma or Mr. Cotton, it's about knowledge and about art, of all things. It was Mr. Cotton who taught me that we perceive the world based upon our beliefs about it. For centuries we have subscribed to the scientific method and the logic of reason, which of themselves, have brought about many wonderful things. But they have a tendency to acknowledge only things that can be measured or quantified and eschew those things that cannot be.
Art is perhaps the easiest example because we have probably all seen a sculpture or painting that has stopped us dead in our tracks. There was something so incredibly fascinating about it that we could not NOT look at it. What is it about a great work of art that attracts us so? To put it plainly, art speaks to us, but without words. Art critics can deconstruct the components of a great piece of art but they cannot explain the innate emotive experience that art can produce in us. This unquantifiable experience is, in my opinion at the very least, a communication or transference of knowledge on a level for which we have no language. In its essence, it is revelation.
I think Mr. Cotton may have been asking us to consider whether or not there might be more than one form of knowledge. We readily agree that we all know and share "facts" but many of us fail to recognize the knowledge we may draw upon subconsciously or intuitively. Of course, we roll our eyes at things we don't "believe in" and there is an infinitely wide range of what those things might be. But we all have seen art we are attracted to and I submit that the attraction itself is proof enough that we are drawn to something unexplainable. We like it but we don't know why.
As for Long Beach Arts and their first email saying they were closing their doors after so many years, they explained: "That lack of fortune as well as so many little changes in our society -- lack of volunteers, scant funding for the arts, increasingly expensive essentials, declining numbers of both art producers and appreciators -- cumulatively exhaust both resources and our will. And so we will close."
I am more likely to attribute their closing to the current economic crisis in which the flow of money seems to be constricting. Beyond that, there is a sense of sadness that we, as a society, do not value art or artists the way we do science or scientists. Both bring truth into the world but only one produces quantifiable results. And we really need our results.
I submit that there is a value in esoteric knowledge, that the world might be a better place if people were more in touch with "their gut instincts." I submit that we use our gut instincts more often than we realize and that we don't need to buy the whole store, the whole new-agey-mantra-chanting-ghosts-and-aliens store, we only need to buy the things that work for us, the things that make our life better.
Happily, a day later, I received a second email from LB Arts. They said they had received enough money to make it until 2013.
It may be too late for Long Beach Arts, it's not too late for you or me.
Tim Bulone is an ardent observer of life on the swirling blue marble. He creates fine art and canvas prints which he likes to sell from time to time at http://www.MyFamilyArt.com He is an early morning pedestrian in Belmont Shore, where he resides with his wife and a variety of perpetually hungry and noisy pets.