Intro to The Distinctions Blur

Creating art involves making choices. Artists decide who they are and who they want their audience to be. They decide the extent to which they wish to be taken seriously, whether they want their art to be accessible, and the importance of financial remuneration. They decide where they fit in among their fellow artists. Which brings me to Raw Art…and Alfred Eaker, a largely self-taught artist, scans of whose paintings can be found on the Artistic Spirit Gallery website, which is devoted to “original outsider art.” Outsider Art is a loaded/limited term. Google it and the top site you find is the Wikipedia article on Outsider Art or Art Brut. Art Brut translates from the French as Raw Art (much more descriptive of where I am coming from herein than Outsider Art). Wikipedia traces the roots of such art to Dr. Walter Morgenthaler’s book, Ein Geisteskranker als Künstler (A Psychiatric Patient as Artist) (1921), a study of Adolf Wölfli, a psychotic under Dr. Morgenthaler’s care at an asylum, who developed into a visionary artist. Madness continued to weave its influence on Raw Art; however, Raw Art transcends madness and encompasses an approach to creativity that directly taps spirituality/imagination without being encumbered by “critical judgment” (yes, I do believe those two words always belong in quotation marks). The true founder of the movement was Jean Dubuffet, who was not only an artist, but had an extensive collection of art made by fringe artists living on the edges of society. Dubuffet’s aim as an artist was to create works stripped bare of intellectual trappings.

For me Raw Art is about the spiritual struggle that stems from solitude & the solitude that stems from spiritual struggle. The animation for which these words serve as an introduction addresses my own such issues. Initially, I had in mind a humble meditation based upon Alfred Eaker’s painting, Plastic Paragraphs (Transitions), yet it evolved into something much more elaborate. Instead of animating one of Alfred Eaker’s images, I animated 5 and combined them with 5 animated images of Burlesque diva Legs Malone. I felt drawn farther and farther into Alfred Eaker’s imagery because I sensed therein a rift I deeply related to: the rift between letting loose one’s pop culture laced imagination while remaining true to one’s spiritual core. I meld Alfred Eaker and Legs Malone because I see a connection between Burlesque and Raw Art. Burlesque strips theatrical presentation down to its bare essence. And I did not use the words “strips” and “bare” ironically in the previous sentence, as that’s what this approach to creativity entails: honing a style that is stripped-down, raw. According to the Wikipedia article on Neo-Burlesque: “The adult-oriented 20th Century Burlesque-Striptease, in its various forms, is a unique traditional American Folk Art with the classical burlesque form remaining chiefly a British and European theatrical tradition.” American Burlesque diva Legs Malone’s diva persona flowers seamlessly, as the person behind the persona has a visceral hold, lending passion. Striptease is not so much about flaunting sexuality as it is about bringing what makes sexuality magical into proper relief.

Laurie Spiegel, whose computer program, Music Mouse, was created in some measure to allow people to transform their computers into musical folk instruments, taught me how to use a computer. I consider the animations I create on my computer for Illumination Gallery to be Folk Art. Admittedly dark, cryptic Folk Art, but definitely Folk Art. For me Raw Art is a dark, occasionally cryptic, type of Folk Art. Jean Dubuffet was a friend of Antonin Artaud. He considered Artaud a kindred spirit, whose notion of Theatre of Cruelty tied in to the primal tendencies of Raw Art. Artaud was a huge fan of the Marx Brothers, whose roots lay in Burlesque, and Theatre of Cruelty incorporated elements of Burlesque. Dubuffet was a close associate of publisher/writer Jean Paulhan, who raged against the “intellectual terrorism” inherent to the arts in France and Europe. Paulhan was an admirer of the Marquis de Sade. His lover was Anne Desclos, who, under the pseudonym Pauline Réage, wrote The Story of O (1954). Pailhan inspired The Story of O and wrote the preface for it. Laurie Spiegel, Jean Dubuffet, Antonin Artaud, Theatre of Cruelty, the Marx Brothers, Burlesque, The Story of O, Striptease, Raw Art, Alfred Eaker, Legs Malone. If you understand the politics, then the distinctions blur.

Animation duration: 11 minutes and 17 seconds, before looping.

Peter Schmideg

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