"My hands-down favorite piece in the show is A.J. Fosik’s, Reason is the Oracle (Redux), 2011. I think that it’s extremely complex; the level of craft is demanding, and it brings ancient themes of Mask and Totem to the subject of violence, which is as “Natural” (Wild) as human nature. The posture of much political art is to draw a line – the artist (good guy) is over here (with his audience), while the problem is out there. 2500 years ago, Buddha learned that “we” are the problem. That each of us has all the capacity of generosity and homicide as any other person on earth. Thinking we are “good” just means we are not owning our shadow. This piece suggests the multiplicity of possibilities, appetites and urges surging through the various natural realms, and I like it for that as well."
The 8: Peter Coyote
What is your line of work?
I am an actor and a writer. More accurately, a writer who makes his living as an actor. Since I specialize in non-remunerative activity, I might also add that I’m an ordained Zen Buddhist Priest.
If you could own any work of art, which one would you choose?
I think that if I could own any work of art it might be the Cezanne oil of pine trees at Juan-les-Pins, which is in the collection of the Picasso museum in Paris. Cezanne and Vuillard (another I’d own) are my two favorite artists because they represent the last line of tradition where Nature as the recognizable model and Mistress were recognizable and honored. Although their work has something of the ‘atomic’ quality of colliding patterns and brush-strokes that herald the modern age – the homage to nature and reality is always there; a huge beating heart in love with the world. Despite the skill and brilliance involved, most art after that for me has moved into the mind. After Nelson Rockefeller and Peggy Guggenheim decided to use “Modern Art” as a weapon in the Cold War and the artists learned where their bread was buttered, a disastrous and self-serving shift occurred (despite the thousands of pages written about contemporary stuff by art galleries and museums) that left me behind. I’m happy to see a re-emergence of late of this earlier love of the world.
Which museum or foundation would you like to be locked in one night?
I would like to be locked overnight in the Musée D’Orsay in Paris with a pound of Halvah and a pillow.
What is your earliest memory of art?
My grandfather won the Prix de Rome. He was a friend of George Luks and Robert Henri – two painters from the American Ashcan school. I remember going to a museum with him. He had a four x five card with a 50-cent piece-sized hole in the center. He would walk up to a Titian or a Caravaggio or his beloved Rembrandt and lay the card over a detail and explain to me, “Do you see how he made the eye-lid recede behind the brow?” “Do you see how he muted the colors here to make them recede?” Had he left me alone with my little drawings of cowboys and Indians (“Don’t erase. Michaelangelo never erased.”), I might have been a painter. But I have many friends who are painters because I can see the problems that they have solved on their canvases and speak about them in a painter’s language.
Also, my grandfather was not allowed to make full-sized copies of Rembrandts, because he knew Rembrandt’s linen, how he made his paints etc, so his house was filled with many small, odd-sized copies. Both he and my grandmother painted regularly until they died.
How do images have an impact on global politics?
We ingest the world through images and the images make the world comprehensible. [Images]They are so powerful that we often forget that we are witnessing a 250th of a second in a photograph, or at best, one man or woman’s perspective. I used to believe that Ezra Pound was correct when he said, “The artist is the antenna of his race.” Today I think it’s arrogant. I’ve come to believe that everyone knows what’s going on, but it is the artist’s special skill to express it in form. If people didn’t get it before hand they would not flock to the work.
As for the influence of image on world politics, there are numerous examples of such effect, but it’s difficult to predict, or control unless one enters the realms of propaganda.