"I don't get it."
It happened to me for the first time this week. Someone took a peek at one of my clothing designs and said "I don't get it."
It happened to me many times during gallery shows and exhibitions but it surprised me when it happened with clothing. When I taught art history at UMASS/Boston and the Gardner Museum I got trained in helping viewers experience art rather than to try and figure it out.
It was a question I was used to. But it's something else altogether to wear a Peril Jack t-shirt and have a friend wonder what it means. What does a shirt mean?
Maybe because the Peril Jack image is clearly political art to some degree: A presidential portrait, rifles crossed like bones on the Jolly Roger.
What does anything mean anymore?
Question Everything With Political Art
But maybe it is good. If political art of any type has a purpose it must be to encourage people to question things.
Then again, I am never sure an artist is the right person to ask. When reading the memoirs of James Rosenquist I couldn’t help but marvel at the thought and philosophy behind each work.
Similarly, Mark Rothko talked of his shapes as the characters in a drama.
We live in a time of vast amounts of data. And very little answers.
The internet is filling up with promotional blog posts and digital content faster than the city loop of a local interstate can fill up with trashy strip malls and competing neon signs.
The Director of the FBI just got fired while investigating the President of the United States. Countless testimony has confirmed that Russia had direct influence on the most recent U.S. election.
Who am I to wonder at a question about political art or a t-shirt?
I don’t necessarily think of myself as a political artist. But what art isn’t political?
I don’t make things as clear as the genius of Banksy or Shepard Fairey, both of whom I look up to.
But I make things all the same.
I don’t always know why.
Who am I to wonder at any questions anymore?
Art Can Save The World
I’m the wrong person to ask if art can save the world. I’m the wrong person to ask what my art means anymore.
There is a link to JFK in all my work. My father had a huge portrait of JFK in his office.
My father was a federal employee who believed in civil service. He believed in JFK.
He believed JFK could save the world. I think now of Spencer Finch and the piece “Trying to Remember the Color of Jackie Kennedy's Pillbox Hat."
Then again, JFK popped pills, rigged an election, and was a notorious philanderer. In the information age can we have a good president who is inherently human save us?
In the misinformation age are we stuck with the dull numb of obvious corruption? There is a chorus someplace of “anyone would do that.”
Anyone would do that is the song of canaries singing in the mine.
If art can’t save the world nothing can. Peril Jack means everything.
Peril Jack means nothing.
Save the world yourselves.
Peril Jack is everywhere. Go find him.