Protest art-The Rise of American Facism

So I am deviating from my normal topics of autism and aphantasia, but still sticking to my guns of looking at humanity’s context.  The problem with ultra-nationalism is that it is completely predictable and often cyclical in nature.  The feelings and attitudes don’t just blossom into existence, they are already there and people with power frequently utilize this to their advantage.  The reality is, 50% of the population is below average intelligence, this is a statistical reality, that is not a judgment call, but with that comes a decreased ability to perceive cause and effect. As the world becomes more nuanced, more complicated, more grey, it also creates more fear, trepidation and anxiety in the population.  As I have stated many times, no individual human can fully understand objective reality, we have limited senses and limited intellectual capability, the fact is our primate mind is still adapted to the African savannah and many trappings of modernity are showing some individuals as being maldaptive to it. I am from a sensory perspective, there is simply too much data, both knowledge and sensory out there for my brain to handle, I have to fight consciously against black and white ideation, I see the appeal of a simple explanation that suddenly makes the world make sense, and that ideology reduces stress and anxiety on some levels.

In the case of fascist ideology, it is a perfect tool to manipulate people who lack the faculties to engage in extensive introspection of themselves and their own flaws and instead seek to apply the problems on external sources.  By creating fear of an external threat, you tap into this population, who by their very primate nature seek sense, order, and security in a world they simply cannot understand.  It comes in waves and surges, nationalism is not always facism, but it is a fine line. Fascism is a capitalist political system the connects protectionist economic policies with ultra-nationalist politics, and fosters xenophobia of difference.  And it is not just one population that suffers as a result, anyone who diverges from the desired “superior” culture is at risk.  I am not Jewish, but I am on the autism spectrum and during WWII , especially as a child with my frequent outbursts, I would have qualified as a mentally deficient, and I too would have met a state sanctioned end, maybe not a gas chamber, instead they got parents to sign off on euthanasia, left us exposed to the elements during winter, kept us in massive group bunkhouses and did not treat for fatal communicable illnesses, more passive aggressive in nature, but again the culling of difference that was perceived as undesirable.

Now onto the role art plays in this.  Protest art has a long history, my first exposure to Renaissance political art was Heironymous Bosch’s painting of a monkey.  In the case of protest art, it has the power to communicate in a way words simply do not convey well.  I can talk till I am blue in the face about Donald Trump and Facism to a Trump supporter, but it hits that subjective filter where their fear and anxieties are over-riding their frontal lobe, they are thralls to their amygdala and they process a challenge often as a hostile threat and thus a fight or flight reaction.  A visual medium is able to target the brain in a different way, it may be offensive, it may still elicit a hostile reaction, but the imagery also has a chance to plainly show what words are unable to convey. In my case I love to explore dichotomy and juxtaposition,  so in this case a treasured symbol desecrated by a symbol most find abhorrent.   I am a disabled veteran from a multi-generational military background on both maternal and paternal sides.  For me the flag is a powerful symbol, it means a great deal to many, some positive, some negative, but seldom neutral in it’s nature.  Until the rise of Trump’s fascist worldview I had considered using the flag in art off limits, it had too much chance to be divisive.  And yet, I don’t think many Trump supporters actually realize how far down the fascist road they have traveled, so I chose to create an piece to illustrate this, to show the symbolism of the flag, the swastika, a physical wall, the hand of a brown person behind bars, to call out his rhetoric as well. Not easy for me, since planned and conceptualized art is not my strong point, I do far better creating as I go and letting my state of mind influence the final outcome.  Yet, I felt the imagery was needed, that some needed to see images they may hold sacred juxtaposed with imagery they have a visceral reaction to.  And maybe, just maybe for some it will cause a cognitive stirring, it will get them to engage in just small amount of self-skepticism and introspection, even if it is just assessing their present image and saying “you are wrong we are not like that at all”, to which I say “then prove it.”



Aphantasia and my artistic process

So I have been silent lately, moved into the new house (At least I own this one!), disruptions to routine, same old crap. Mostly comes down to whatever I am perseverating on at the moment, which tends to block out anything and everything else going on, makes me horrendously unreliable, which is why I seldom ever promise or commit to anything.

That said,  I now have my own art studio space with the new house and have been spending a tremendous amount of time in there…mostly playing around with acrylics on canvas (I have texture issues with oils getting on my hands, drives me nuts).  I have traditionally focused on colored pencils, pen and ink, etc.  But I came across something interesting about the artist Grandma Moses, how she got into painting as a result of arthritis and decided to give it a try since my hands cramp horribly trying to do drawings. And wow, painting is so much easier on me, and I get to do really satisfying things like fill syringes with paint, smack the plunger, make huge spats, even whipped a canvas with 20 lb test fishing line dipped in paint (the one shown), and pretty much any other crazy idea that comes into my head, which is just lovely.  That and based on my super long blog posts, I am really beginning to realize I might better communicate my thoughts via a visual medium than 4k+ words.

So, as an aphantasiac autistic individual I have a lot of barriers in regards to traditional fine art.  And frankly I am glad, I hate being “normal”, such a foreign concept to me, I do like the concept of outsider or Art brut though quite a bit.  Now, some youtube videos on aphantasia have focused on lack of “imagination” and one even said you would be unable to sculpt because you could not imagine the outcome.  It really shows how biased we are to our own cognitive and sensory process. I would think that if you are an artist and visualizing is critical to your process, not being able to do that seems foreign, even impossible…it should be foreign it is a different mode of thinking, but certainly not impossible.

So how have I been creating art?  Like when I do a math problem, I have to do the work in front of me, I have no inner template to go from, I may have conceptualized an idea (though usually those are the worst paintings for me by far) but for the most part I build up something on the canvas until, like a Rorschach test, I begin to see something form in front of me, and then I can guide that process.  When I finish a painting, I am seeing it for the first time, and it is amazing, because it informs me about myself in ways I otherwise could not fathom.

Now how do I guide this process from the start? I often have something eating at me, often socio-economic, social sciences, or political in nature.  For example the featured image is called “Refugee in Hijab” because I can see again the cycle of fear and demeaning that becomes self-fulfilling prophecy in full swing again, so many scared primate minds creating the conditions to make that which they are afraid of, unable to see the connections and correlations between there actions and the end result. These mood and thoughts influence how my brain is interpreting the image forming before me, so what I am thinking or worrying about influences how I guide the end product.  Such a fascinating process really. I often complain about how my conscious and sub/unconscious mind do not seem to communicate well and see eye to eye.  I have even denigrated my desire to do art in earlier blog posts, but the reality is, I am beginning to find more value in it, to get past my aphantasiac tendency to just define my existence through words.

So will I ever learn to doing realistic art? Not likely, could I? To a degree, I could learn to do still lifes and landscapes, draw what I see and translate it to an image on canvas.  But I am not interested in these things, they do not hold new thoughts, ideas, or inform me about the world or myself in interesting ways.  I want my art to be interesting, cognitive, maybe occasionally political or teach a lesson when possible, but over all I want people to wonder what the heck was going through my mind when I made that painting…because that is exactly what I am doing too!  Looking at the art that helps me get insight into myself, helps others get insight into me, and since as someone on the spectrum, even after studying social science so extensively, I still struggle to connect with people in a way I feel is meaningful. Sure I can meet others halfway, do the small talk, which can be important and validating to many, but for me? It has little value, I am investing my energy into helping someone else feel well, and still leaving myself out like an alien on the sidelines.  So my artistic process is an exploration of communication with myself and interpersonal communication, we shall see how this goes.  On the upside, with canvases hung all over my house now, out of sight, out of mind is much less of an issue!