Because artists pursue their passions whether or not anyone pays them, art thrives in the best and the worst of times. And, as Charles Underwood reminds us, like a weed, it gains strength during periods of adversity. (“Art in the Age of Trump,” by Charles Underwood, Town&Country, June/July, 2017, pg. 110-111, 176.) Take, for example, the Depression era. It brought us the spare art of Edward Hopper. But Georgia O’Keeffe’s ebullient canvases seemed to defy the time’s starkness. Painters George Groz and Max Ernst and playwrights Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill flowered, too, under Hitler’s brutal heel.
Today, Donald Trump, our 45 President of the United States, seems to be waging a war against art, reducing or eliminating federal funding where he can. Despite his attempts to build a wall between his administration and all that smacks of culture, he’s encouraged a burgeoning rebellion. Certainly, satirists have flourished. Saturday Night Live and Steven Colbert are becoming cultural treasures. Not far behind are the writers. With unusual speed, Pulitzer playwright Robert Shenkkan has mounted a production entitled, Building the Wall — which speaks for itself. And Rob Baitz’s gives us Vicuña. His central character is a real estate tycoon who becomes president of the United States.
Art’s role has always been to preserve truth and satisfy the public’s hunger for it. Most significant are works, not forged in the heat of battle, but born from introspection. More than reflecting a luminous chaos, it attempts to make sense of it. Introspective art dives deeper than history’s iterations of fact.
As Underwood writes, “… in addition to taking the chaos of the world and creating from it something formally beautiful, artists, although they inhabit the realm of fiction and fantasy, are the greatest truth-tellers we have.” (Ibid pg. 176.)