I was browsing a site that sells art this evening. At the top of a page, there was a description of modern art’s color blocking that emerged in the mid-twentieth century. I remember wanting to spend significant time discussing and attempting to understand modern art during my art history class in college. I found the subject frustrating—starting with Duchamp’s Fountain. Now, when I see images from that era, or artists attempting to continue the genre, I sit back, annoyed that I ever gave it the time of day.
You see, earlier this summer, my husband and I watched a four-part documentary series filmed in the 90s. One of the segments shared that the modern art movement was really a CIA propaganda move to combat the rise of the Soviet Union. Essentially, it was a war of the arts to prove who could produce higher culture.
Tonight I watched the movie Florence Foster Jenkins. I won’t bother with the synopsis (because you should go watch it), but she is a well to-do woman who can afford to sponsor her own music career—while funding the career of her own pianist. Her husband protects her from negative criticism because…well, you’ll just have to watch the movie. But, while watching it, I realized how the arts can be a healing force.
I’m married to a musician, but I am not one. I love music—certain kinds of music. It makes me feel so many emotions. I rise and fall with it. Art does not only belong to the rich. It belongs to all of us. In our home we are so fortunate to be surrounded by art almost entirely created by people we know. None of them paint or draw for a living. For most, it’s a hobby. Different techniques. All bring me pleasure.
I suppose I’m trying to explain that I feel cheated by the government for manipulating the world with art. Would Pollock be famous without the CIA? I know the great artists were funded by patrons—often the Catholic church. I’m struggling with the idea that what I’ve grown up admiring is not pure, but rather is tainted by the souls of those who sold themselves out to governments that do not work for the good of the people, but for their own self-interests.