When I laugh out loud at the funnies, it’s often at Rhymes With Orange (I’ve been know to cry at Funky Winkerbean and For Better and For Worse too.) Hannah, my 12-going-on-24-year-old, rolls her eyes. What is so funny NOW, Mom?
I admit to be being a huge RWO fan. In five to 10 words and a cartoon drawing Hilary Price nails the idiosyncrasies of relationships, mothers, food, cats (and the people they chose to tolerate), dogs (and the people they live for), God, politics — you name it!
This one, The Working Artist, hit home. There’s a sad little joke among artists: if you want the perfect picture — the one that people will knock down your doors to get — just paint a clown holding a bouquet of flowers, standing in front of a barn. Why? Because those are the safest images that everyone seems to want.
They’re pretty. They’re universal. They won’t cause a fuss.
Ok, maybe it’s the tanking economy or the rampant government corruption or the notion that it’s OK to lie if we say it often enough and don’t back down — but I’m ready to cause a fuss!
“Safe” art isn’t getting us anywhere. “Safe” art matches your sofa and picks up the colors of the accent pieces in a room. “Real” art matches your soul. “Real” art takes you beyond yourself. It can be pretty too, but it will won’t let you just glance at it without demanding something back.
What does that have to doing with “making a fuss?” Art is life. Period. If we need “safe” art around us, it stands to reason that we might be afraid of what’s out there. We might not be ready to demand what we deserve: decent health care, honest public servants, jobs that pay a living wage, challenging education for our kids, safe food and water and air.
I’m not ready to get rid of the flowers and waterscapes and still lifes in my body of work, but I’m glad to have a reminder that art is, primarily, a method of communication. Everyone has something to say, and we have an obligation to say it. And we have an obligation to hear what others say, without belittling or demeaning or demonizing them in the process. But that’s a two-way street too.
I have a bumper sticker on my van: “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” The whole quote, from Gray Panther Maggie Kuhn, is “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.”
Now THAT was a woman who knew how to raise a fuss!