Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Culture Is Ordinary"

Antonio Adams' William Blake.
"Culture is ordinary, in every society and in every mind," Raymond Williams writes.  William Blake writes, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans."  Both Williams and Blake are integral figures in my mind's life.  Both happen to be English, and are visionary radicals that pushed their philosophies out of the realm of "philosophy" and into the realm of the real.  Williams came to prominence in the 1960s.  Everything he's written has contributed greatly to way we talk about what culture is and does, especially when you venture beyond what is "high" and what is "low."  (His Keywords is one of those books I read through all the time; he is able in it to find meaning upon meaning upon meaning without losing the gravity and succinctness of giving a shit.)  Blake we all know by now; take a look down the blog here for posts about Blake's biography and stature, especially this one:  Blake's World.  To sum it up, Blake was a sort of genius outcast who used his art and life to expand the way culture and art knock into each other.  He was interested in aesthetics and revolution (many of his best works try to mythologize and ramp up the French and American revolutions, giving each an ethereal, comic-book grandeur). 
Those two quotes above knock into each other.  Williams is about culture not just as museums and academies and universities, but culture as we live it and make it as a society.  Blake made and lived a new kind of culture:  he had to create "a system" in order to escape a system he could not tolerate or fathom.
And then of course (you guessed it) there's Raymond Thunder-Sky.  Talk about creating his own system.  Talk about culture as ordinary.  Raymond wanted to enter into real life through drawing it.  He wanted to create himself anew through his imagination, through that burning need to be a part of the regular world while also imagining it as something tolerable and even magnificent. 
Last night we opened the show "INNCE/EXPCE:  New William-Blake-Inspired Works by Emily Brandehoff and Robert McFate," and I'm getting a little teary-eyed right now thinking about it.  It was perfect.  Bill and I try to make culture that is ordinary; we must create something because what's already there just doesn't cut it for two weird, working-class gay guys who really want to figure out how to make things better without getting caught up in charity and politics and do-gooder-ness. 
So June 28, 2013, from about 6 pm to 10 pm, we opened the doors and we celebrated Blake's legacy as well as Raymond's, and we talked people's ears off about Raymond and who he was (apologies especially to Professor Elizabeth Lokon, who graciously allowed us to show pieces of art from her great program Openings Minds through Art; we had her and her husband cornered for a long time talking about The Essential Raymond Moments, including our trip to Hollywood back in 2001).  And we got to meet Maya, a girl in Suzanne Nall's class at Parker Woods Montessori just down the street who created a suite of beautifully colored and rambunctiously gorgeous drawings that spanned the gallery's back wall.  Maya just loved being in front of her creation.  Her mom was super-sweet.  And other kids came from Suzanne's class, posing in front of their works.  And Robert's big voice boomed through the floor, as he pontificated about how and why he made the works that were in the show, innocent paintings and sculptures that also hold the edge of experience somewhere inside.  And Emily, sweet Emily breezed through in her turquoise high heels and posed with her nephew in his neck-tie t-shirt.  Emily created so many great paintings and drawings that take Blake seriously without being pretentious or show-offy, just point-blank brilliant.
And so on.
What I'm getting at is that the reason we keep doing Thunder-Sky, Inc. is not because we want to champion the disabled, or because we love art, or because we want to be in charge of a thriving non-profit, or because we even know what the hell we're doing.  The reason we keep doing Thunder-Sky, Inc. is because culture has to be maintained and practiced as ordinary and it has to be created over and over and over by ordinary people with the urge to find extraordinary things inside of and outside of themselves.  Everyone who has work in this show is proof that genius is pretty much self-made and it connects us all beyond "culture" and beyond "society." 
Thunder-Sky, Inc. is a way out of culture and a way back into it.