What makes us authentic? How does an artist compete with the hyper reality of images on the web and speak to us about who we are in contemporary culture? That is a question I asked world famous artist Ross Bleckner. Throughout his career, he has explored the themes of change, loss and memory. His imagery is often symbolic and elusive to capture the transient nature of our lives.
“You see so many images, but you have to remember that at the end of the day, you cannot take the humanity away from the experience of our lives,” says Bleckner. “And there is a big difference between the production of real art and other forms of art. There is something about the human touch and the connection between people that does not get replaced [by web images].”
In his show opening at The Scott White Gallery in San Diego on October 14th, Bleckner explores the fragile beauty of flowers. Like the laws of physical attraction, he sees the bigger question as: “What is the lure? What gets somebody into the work? Or into you? It’s not about flowers, it’s about other things, but you have to have a ‘hook.’”
We have all asked ourselves at some point what is the ‘hook’ that gives us what we want to attract into our life. The flower has the allure of beauty to captivate the viewer. But, flowers wilt. “Painting abstract flowers is as much about how they look, and they are kind of spread apart. When the flowers dissolve you express the vulnerability in life and its inherent transience,” he says. “Flux and change make people insecure. I like to be on the edge of reality, the disillusion of the image. The interception of where things come in and out of focus.”
“You go through life and we realize things are not what they appear to be,” says Bleckner. “Really good art deals with that and plays with it. It creates space between the viewer and the work, in which there is a constant play on reality”.
But he doesn’t necessarily feel that his gay identity and experience are important to express in his art. “But, I think that the lens of your reality informs who you are. There are things about being gay that you bring to the world, and how you see things or maybe, you know, just a greater sensitivity.”
He sees a connection between the images of male physical perfection that bombard us in gay media and gay men’s obsession with the gym. “Some gay men suffer from chronic insecurity, so the thing we can do to overcome that is go to the gym. You have most control of what your body looks like. You might not have control of your life, but you can always look good. It’s kind of a first step in evolution, and ultimately most realize it is a step. You cannot get stuck there. The fetishing of the body in gay culture does not lead anywhere. But I think that a lot of young gay men really don’t buy into it,” he says.
A beautiful flower, body or face can be a powerful source of inspiration for all of us. Yet flowers, youth, and beauty all fade. To try and hold on to the flower in full bloom is a trap. To enjoy it in its moment of power -- and then let it go -- is freedom.
For more on Ross Bleckner's art and exhibitions, go here.