The Art of Fred Martin
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The Glory of the World--
an essay on fame, money and power


The glory of the world Ė I assume thatís what artists want. And I assume thatís what they want because like most humans I assume what I want is what everyone wants. Freud said it: "Fame and the love of women." (What about women artists?) Well, perhaps that is what we all want, but since nearly none of us will ever get it (how many of your art-school friends are famous?), what else is there that keeps us going?

Our society celebrates I think chiefly celebrity (that fame weíll not have), money (forget that, the framers often make more off the work than the artists), and power. I was going to point out that artís no way to power, until I realized that much so called "political art" is in fact the artistís bid for power, to re-make a society which cares little for art or for the personality, the social class or the race/gender of the artist. Political art is, in this sense, another form of the artistís cry (yet again) "Here I am!" And thatís what fame was all about anyway.

Celebrity, money, power. Truth is, I think none of us will ever have anyÖor, if a little, surely not enough. Celebrity: to know you are because other people say so. And if they donít, youíre only, as Harold Rosenberg once said to me of a hot young artist no longer remembered, "a falling starlet." Money: to know your are because as the bumper sticker on the ĎBMW says, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins" -- but the junk man gets them all. Power: to know you are because other people shape their lives to your command. Drop your guard and theyíll have your lunch.

It all comes down to, the affirmations of being in our time are all external. Gone in an instant (or a year or two), and so are you. Yet I think we mostly do go into art so our cry will be heard (fame,) and paid for ( to confirm our value) and to shape the world to our heartís desire (power). But none of it has happened. And, looking around at everyone we really know (not those people we read about), it seems it probably wonít. What now?

Chuck it. But most likely too long ago for most of us, making art became entangled with making an identity. (Isnít that what fameís for?) Stop art? Do you want to die?

No, donít "chuck it." Enter more shows. I read a list of back woods competitions in the back pages of American Artist. Entry fees $5-15 per slide. Yes, send slides. They need the money from the rejected to pay the few prizes among the acceptedÖand the organizersí salaries. Art is communication.: heart to heart, gut to gut, brain to brain Ė even soul to soul. What communication is that when you are here (wherever you are) and a lot of people are there looking your at stuff hung for an afternoon on slats  in a town square 2000 miles away?

Yes, cynicism kills, and yes, itís born first from fear of the world. Thatís called sour grapes. And too many of us have it before weíve even tried to taste. And cynicism is born, second, from the realization that the grapes are, indeed, sour. Celebrity, money, power are nice, but even when you have them, the ache in the soul keeps on hurting.

What then beyond cynicism, is art for,? I think Morris Graves said it once: "I paint in order to mark the beings of the inner eye." And Adolph Gottlieb said the same thing: "I paint in order to have something to look at." And Edvard Munch showed it in his last self portrait, "Between Clock and Bed." He stood there, the last of life ticking away, the bedspread a kind of mandala of red lines (blood) and black lines (death); and all around on all the walls: his work, the life he had made. And so we make our art finally only for that: to make a life. And if you think life is for celebrity, money, power, youíll almost surely fail. But if you think life is, simply to be here now, in the process of art youíll almost surely succeed.

Oakland and Montreal, 1996