Several days had passed since I’d last opened the pages of Walter Kerr’s, The Decline of Pleasure — a free copy I’d picked up at my neighborhood library box. I’d been slow in my progress because the book, written 1962, contained many observations that seemed dated. I’m glad I stuck with this author, playwright and general Renaissance man, however. His account of literature in the age of utilitarianism (1800s) opened my eyes. It explained why art, once an integral part of religious life, was abandoned by the common man. Philosophers had convinced him that an object was to be valued for its use only and not for its beauty. This rift set artists adrift in an esoteric universe of their own making. Kerr explains:
They became first introspective and then introverted; sometimes neurotic. It should surprise no one that vast areas of contemporary art employ a private language, insist upon subjectivity, deliberately refuse to communicate. (The Decline of Pleasure by Walter Kerr, reprinted by Time/Life Books 1966, pg. 68.)
He refers, of course, to the movement known as “art for art’s sake” that private world from which critics crawled, appointing themselves as interpreters and later arbiters of what is good and bad art — a travesty to be rued for there are, in my opinion, a greater number of fools among these experts than among ordinary men who, with a little patience, could discern meaning well enough for themselves.
Unfortunately, the fools are here to stay because, thanks to utilitarian values which still hold sway, the majority of people consider art a luxury and not essential to their lives. A person might buy a handmade mug or teapot, but why buy a painting when a print will do?
Sadly, the critic’s contribution to art has produced nothing but fog, leading neophytes who are curious to believe they need a guide. Worse, some artists play into the game for the sake of their careers.
But all may not be lost. The world wide web is making noise apart from the critics, though one can find them lurking in the virtual world, too. Of late, I’ve begun to receive requests from bloggers who want to read and talk about my books. I am astounded. Surprised. Dumbfounded. How did they find me? I don’t know, but I consider direct interaction with readers a good trend. My hope is that one day art will be allowed to come in from the cold.
In the meantime, should any bloggers be reading this piece and wonder if they, too, could review my books, I make only one reply. Does a blossom welcome bees?
(Courtesy of www.holytaco.com)