When Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

(A View From My Window)

J. Eric Morales

12 December, 2003



I am one of those painters that is later recognized.  I am no different than the myriad of Artists that the art historians base careers on, even entire departments at art colleges.    Name one, almost any.  DalĖ:  depressed, notorious and loathed by many yet celebrated now.  Max Ernst:  bipolar, contentious, exiled in his day - a genius now.  Picasso:  child abusing womanizer and celebrated genius.  Frida Kahlo:  psychotic. Rejected in her day, now the Diva of Feminine Art.  Degas:  depressed, probably a pedophile, now a saint.  Van Gogh:  generally miserable and unappreciated in his day completed his entire body of work in two years before shooting himself in the heart and sold only one painting.  Now Sunflowers sells for $34 million, and art history professors kick students out of lecture halls for saying "Van Go", instead of "Von Gokch" as it would be pronounced in Amsterdam.

These are my forefathers. I feel it.  it is not even a question in my mind.   I am one of those people among us today that isn't seen now, yet will be studied in detail in decades to come.  How can I know this?  I am perceptive, and I am educated in these matters–i've enlisted my brain and my heart to help me understand this and accept this (I'm still working hard on the latter).  Together, I have seen trends and when I look back through cultural history, I see that I am on an undercurrent by today's standards while the main current of art and intellectual Fashion rage overhead.  Monet:  rejected as a mindless boob early in his career, now "The father of Modernism."  There is a disparate current of art today that is AGGRESSIVELY rejecting Modernism in all of it's ramifications in art and beyond that will be on the high end of the pendulum when it swings back to a more traditional appreciation of what art is to humanity - as it has time immemorial. Those of us who are lamblasted in school and art centers worldwide for having interest in an art of the heart, an emotional approach to the artistic experience, the sensual aspects of art, the stories of the Soul depicted in pictures made by human hands that have been reflected in art throughout the ages (now referred to as "Kitch").  Art that tickles the brain, or intends to tickle nothing at all is not what speaks to the heart.  My paintings may not create pleasurable viewing experience like warm sensations on the retina, but they speak very clearly and poignantly about being human in a world that has grown beyond human - a world where we have relegated ourselves willingly to the control of computers and other machines.  Maybe that's the the ultimate compromise between folks in one camp who believe that decisions should be made from the heart and people in the other camp who reject emotions for decision-making instead relying on the intellect to make logically sound decisions.  What have we ended up with but turning to machines that have neither a brain NOR a heart from which to decide.  When you're stopped in your car at the red light, do you go when your gut says it's safe, when your brain determines that it is safe, or when the little light changes colors?  Not a good example–too unrelated one might say.  How about when to get up out of bed - when you feel rested, when you decide it is time, or when the little box buzzez obnoxiously?  Maybe those decision-making scenarios are too simplistic, what about how we make HUGE decisions, like what to do with our ailing parents.  True, those former examples are meaningless in comparison to the latter.  But consider frequency:  how often are you faced with relying on a light to cross the road versus the fate of an ailing relative.  Those little occurrences add up.  In fact, they are so ubiquitous, we don't even think about them. Even going to the grocery store–the modern equivalent to hunting and gathering–is controlled by little, mindless machine boxes.  Whether we eat or not is decided by a network that accepts or rejects our paymen based on no humanistic criteria.  If you have a $100 worth of groceries and your Visa card isn't working, it wouldn't matter if you were on your deathbed, the manager is not going to let you out of the store with dinner for your children.  In fact, if you were on your deathbed and your children were at home starving, your chances of getting those groceries would be even less because the manager would predictably think that you were trying to scam him like you've probably been scamming every other store in town and hitting up the patrons for cash in the parking lot, panhandling from your shopping cart or something equally vile and loathing. But I digress.

Art is a barometer of its culture.  There is plenty of art that indicates that it is raining outside, perhaps flooding as a result displacing thousands, millions even, spiritually.  My paintings will be Seen when people can tolerate seeing them.  That's when art and artists are seen.  That's not a justification for the lack of recognition of my work, it is an explanation for it.  People are spending themselves broke trying to pretend it's not raining outside;  it's the elephant in the room, it's the Emperor's New Clothes.  And before long, the roof is going to leak and the people inside the modern house will be soaking wet and cold but since they got laid off (displaced by a little, mindless machine-box) and can't pay the utility bill, they might have to burn their books, personal photo albums and art (if they even own some) to stay warm.  Spiritually speaking, of course. So: When did the chicken cross the road? When the little red light turned green and not a moment before.

There.  Some fodder for family gossip in the form of a part of my story.  Not who I'm married to, where I've lived and who I've worked for, but where I currently reside - a snapshot of the view from my window. But don't mistake this as an indication that I am bitter. My path has always been against the tide, why should my carreer path be any different?