In a recent post on futurism, I compared the dynamics of the art movement to the frenetic energy I feel whenever I am in New York City. I concluded with the adage that “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
Since then, I’ve been “visiting” futurism again, staying a little longer this time, and I’m not altogether enjoying it. It’s almost like a train wreck for me. I don’t want to look, but I can’t turn away, and isn’t it a bit odd that I keep coming up with “futuristic” concepts — big cities, trains — to describe my feelings?
I am intrigued by the art movement known as futurism, yet at the same time, I am appalled by it. I celebrate the creative spirit it shows, yet how can anyone truly appreciate art that is inspired by such ugly things as war, violence, injury, discrimination, and misogyny?
Many of those words are overlooked when we turn to “textbook definitions” of futurism. We read instead that the movement was based on speed, energy, dynamism, power. True, but the movement went to deeper and darker levels, to places I definitely don’t want to go.
It’s challenging to sort through futurism, to understand the positive aspects yet remain apart from the unsavory elements, at least, it’s been challenging for me. Recently I even pulled out a canvas and began putting on paint in a way I hoped would express a “futuristic” sense of speed. Ironically, it’s slow-going! I’m still working on it, and maybe one day I’ll share it here. Or maybe when it’s finished, I’ll look at it, shake my head, and hide it away somewhere.
What’s that? You really want to see what I’m doing and what it’s looking like right now? Well, fine. It doesn’t look like much yet, but I have a plan. We’ll see how it goes. Here is “Futurism 2022” — the title I’ve given it at the moment.
Maybe this might best be called an illustration of “personal futurism”. I have a plan in mind here, you see, one that combines colors and my new concepts of color theory with suggestions of neurographic art, influences from the futurist movement, and the use of palette knives. I’m using cold wax medium, water-soluble oils, and various tools for mark-making.
My original intent was simply to do an abstract painting that conveyed energy and movement, especially a sense of speed. But then I began questioning myself. Over and over I found myself asking if futurism can truly be relevant in art today. Mostly, you see, I was acknowledging the difference between painting in a futurist style and creating futurist art. They’re definitely not the same.
I could go back in time — figuratively — and copy ideas from the futurists of the early 20th century. Or I could move forward in time — figuratively, again — and create images based on changes in today’s world, the new advances in science and technology, the new dynamics of living in the 21st century.
Oh, my goodness! Would that even be possible? Is there such a thing, I wondered, as 21st century futurism? If so, what would be involved?
My mind began racing through the cosmos. I thought of rocket ships, space travel, and whirling galaxies. What about electric cars? Super-sonic trains? Vaccines? Smartphones? Microchips!
What an exciting time we’re living in. Yet, soon, I found myself veering dangerously close to that dark side. We have a world at war now — Russia has invaded Ukraine — and millions of men, women, and children are fleeing for their lives. Many have lost their lives. We have political dissension over scientific principles, unruly passengers on airlines protesting COVID restrictions, and angry parents speaking out at school board meetings. Only last week, the nearby community of Olathe, Kansas, dealt with the horror of a school shooting.
Clearly our world is one of violence, unrest, division, and war.
This is not what I want my art to be! I want to paint scenes of peace, beauty, serenity, joy, and wonder. Does that mean that I’m a bit irrelevant as an artist today? So much of my focus recently has been on authenticity, on being real, truthful, and honest in what I express through art. It’s a conundrum, for sure.
Again, I found myself wondering about “futurism today”. According to various sources — Smithsonian, The Tate, Art Journalism, and other online sites — futurism as an art movement lasted only a short time yet is still very much a part of modern art. It is still relevant, but in a different perspective, perhaps.
For me, my “visit to futurism” has led to a lot of deep thought — about art, about life, about the world in which we live. I suppose it centers around those questions I have about authenticity, about the realness of life and the world in which we live.
I want to step back from futurism, yet I want to maintain a sense of honesty in my art. I want to find a way to create order from the chaos around me, to show the beauty of the world, and yet do it all in truth. Even though my little “visit” to futurism was planned to be a short sight-seeing trip, I’ve found it having a profound effect on me as a human and as an artist. I now have a lot to ponder, a lot to think about, a lot to reconcile in the art I create.