Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art. - Pablo Picasso

So my recent editorial panel on the open-carry/2nd Amendment activists that actually wound up running in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner last week garnered a letter to the editor, which in turn prompted commentary in the ensuing thread. Over thirty comments, but only two specifically addressed the content of the panel in question; the rest were predictably sidelined by gun-control issues, paranoid conspiracy theorists on governmental confiscation, folks for arming teachers, the well-regulated militia mantra, the evil "libruls" and socialists, open admiration of the Middle Eastern gun culture (no doubt envious of the brandishing automatic weapons mob behavior); plus lots of ranting about defending freedoms (not a peep from most of 'em while the previous administration stripped so much away) and of course, our constitutional rights, but as usual, nothing about the responsibilities. One could argue those meddlesome cartoonists bear some blame what with always poking the hornet's nest with their dull pencils.
There are some laughable assumptions and classic projections, and, par for the course, horrible English (yeah, I should talk). But I guess as long as you're armed you don't really need to bother with spelling and grammar. Not sure if I need to run out and get a handgun now or instead of ammo just pick up some new Sharpies instead...
March 26, 2009
To the editor:
Mr. Smith’s political cartoon on March 21 was unclear as to its message, or perhaps my mind wasn’t “tricky” enough to get it. My attempt to contact him through the editor was unfruitful. I hope our wires merely got crossed; cowardice is unseemly in a political cartoonist.
The pen is indeed mightier than the sword; but its power lies in its ability to motivate, not in direct action. Without the complimentary ability to take up arms, the people are powerless against tyranny and the wisdom of the pen is easily silenced.
I encourage you to join with those who are standing up for the Bill of Rights, who protect your First Amendment as well as the Second, or at least enter boldly into the public debate and I will use my First Amendment right to pray you will not be used by the present tyranny to further erode the rights which allow you to ask “tricky questions.”
I think I eh, dodged a bullet in not responding to the forwarded message via an editor who sent me the author's phone number last week. I strongly suspected a set-up, even with it coming from, according to the editor, someone who "collects cartoons and just didn't get it." The letter to the editor lead me to believe that my instinct was correct and plus I'm not about to try and explain every cartoon I draw to anyone who doesn't get them. Besides being a tad bit busy, you know, posting on my stupid blog, it'd mean I was pretty lousy at my job if I have to explain every subtle nuance. While it's partially the job of the artists to communicate the concepts behind their pieces, the other half of the equation rests with the viewer (incidentally one of the motivations, responsibilities and hopeful results behind teaching art btw). Aside from being articulate and well-written, it's insulting and also skirts pretty close to using thinly-veiled threats. It's a good thing I regularly impugn my own manhood, plus I kinda like the sound of "unseeming coward." Seriously though, I don't respond very well to condescending passive/aggressive tactics myself, and short of publishing this brief response here on my own blog, decline to enter the fray:
"When I first read this editorial, I didn't see the image of the cartoon that was cited. Now that it is in the headline (maybe it was there all along and it just didn't appear that first day when I read the piece), it occurs to me that open carry of alcohol while driving is already a crime and what the other character is doing is not "Open Carry" of a firearm, it is "Brandishing a Firearm" (and that too is illegal in most jurisdictions).
The cartoon, while funny, is inaccurate and openly biased toward the cartoonists' point of view. Should I be surprised that a talented cartoonist is opposed to private gun ownership? Probably not..."
"I dont usually get too concerned about political cartoons.They
are meant to be humor and its in the eye of the viewer if itmakes
the grade or not. Im more concerned about what really happening in
the political arena rather than some cartoonists view of it."
Can't really argue with that perspective, though with regards to the preceeding comment, I'd be curious to know exactly where I ever said anything about my personal views on the ownership of guns...
However I'm rather fond of this gesture of solidarity sent via correspondence with another fellow cartoonist:
"What was the deal with the whiner from the DNM? That bitch. Doesn't he know that a editorial cartoonist's job is to get someone's goat? Read my lips: IT'S A FUCKING OPINION PIECE IN EASY TO UNDERSTAND PICTURES YOU FUCKING MORON. Send that to him. Or send him this to ponder...
"The political cartoon is a weapon of attack, of scorn and ridicule and satire; it is least effective when it tries to pat some politician on the back. It is usually as welcome as a bee sting and is always controversial in some quarters." Long, the political cartoon: journalism's strongest weapon, the Quill, 56, 57 (november 1962) <>"
Succinctly put my friend...
Heaven help me should some of these folks stumble across the upcoming issue of the Ester Republic, which will run a couple of the even more divisive panels discussed earlier.

Now there's something else to ponder over with putting art directly into the public sphere; together with the advent of technology and computers, how the relationships between creator & observer have become changed and continue to evolve. Unless the works are safely ensconced behind the walls of a museum or gallery (i.e. effectively shut out of view from the majority of the public), pieces displayed in both print and web media are not only more easily accessible themselves but also expose the artist in way never experienced before. Short of attending a formal "1st Friday" opening at an exhibition, creator of visual art rarely interact with an audience; one critical distinction compared to say the preforming arts or musicians. The dynamics of the internet make it possible to directly engage artists, along with presenting a unique opportunity for they themselves to respond and react to feedback. This begs the question as to whether or not the artist particularly cares to take the relationship to a new level, in fact, seems like many prefer the old way of doing business. There's something to be said for both approaches, and there's certainly more than enough to go around for everybody. A lot of this goes back to that functional definition of art: if it's visual art it should be seen. How much and by how many is really another question entirely.

Also, on top of a slew of freelance gigs and the recurrent monthly ones, several community non-profits have recently hit me up for donations. As evidenced by my own involvement with particular, personal causes, I'm not a completely uncharitable bastard; still can't help but feel a wee bit annoyed at the instinctual reflex folks have to tap artists for donations when, as a demographic, we're probably the least likely to be able to afford to give our shit away. Far better instead to go after the people who collect art to begin with, as they seem to have the money anyways. I myself spearheaded a benefit auction once, and sucker-punched a lot of my fellow artists for contributions; felt kinda insidious coming out of left field as the last person they'd expect that sort of stuff from. Even though it went swimmingly - thanks entirely to the efforts of others who knew what they were doing and who took over - the logistics were daunting and don't think I'll try another venture like that again. Much saner to throw any efforts behind someone else that's more qualified to run events on that scale (putting on shows is overwhelming enough). Probably the source of my resentment simply stems from displaced guilt, since I always feel like a heel declining such queries. I'll get over it soon enough, probably right around the next volunteer gig.
All that said I'm still mailing off a signed laser print requested for a fan's birthday, at yeah, no charge - so as explained in an earlier posting, there's a tenuous balance there somewhere between good citizenship versus paying the damn bills.

Lastly, a quickie done in the spirit of support for a popular blogger up here in Alaska, the Mudflats, whose pseudonymous creator was just outed by a State Representative. While I personally have little tolerance or respect for the vast majority of anonymous commentary that takes place on-line, and am firmly in the camp of standing behind what you say (obviously, or I wouldn't put my name on any of my cartoons), this was apparently a cheap, vindictive attempt at intimidation and petty revenge by someone abusing the powers of his public office - potentially illegal if not at the least highly unethical behavior. Though I really shouldn't have expected more, it just means the honeymoon's over; now there's twice as much work for editorial cartoonists since the Democrats have officially rejoined the ranks of sleazeball politicians. Even if we don't make shit for money at least we'll never be out of a job...

“My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

1 comment:

  1. On the DNM, most people who post on there are a little loony. The things they say always makes me sit back in my chair and think ,'Really, people in Fairbanks can be just as insane as those in the lower 48?!'

    On the cartoon, cartoons are meant for humor. People need to lighten up sometimes. Life is not a crazy as they make it out to be. The USA's problems could be solved a heck of a lot easier if people first calmed down and tried to see the issue as a whole and not try to nit pick every single detail apart.