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by Robert Kernodle

What I am about to say will disturb a lot of people— many of those people will be artists. What I suggest hits at the heart of art. It threatens the very foundation of it. There simply is no other conclusion that I can reach. I speak as an artist myself, and in the relatively short time that I have taken on this role, I have noticed some things:

(1) I keep getting ideas.

(2) I end up sorting through to the best ones.

(3) I make a piece of art based on these ideas.

(4) I do this over and over again.

(5) I see pieces mount up in storage.

(6) I display some of the pieces in galleries.

(7) I do an occasional solo show.

(8) I get a few of the pieces publicized in yearbooks.

(9) While the pieces mount up, I get more ideas for others.

Finally, I raise the question: Where do I put all these creations? I’m out of room. The market for potential buyers is very limited and overtaxed by multitudes of other artists, many of whom are more established or more successful than me. What do I do with the results of my work: all of my gut-wrenching discoveries, late-night problem solving, "aha!" moments, accidental solutions, fulfilling resolutions and visions realized more or less out of pure good intentions?

That’s when it hits me:

(1) The world is only so big.

(2) Only so many people at a time can be accommodated.

(3) More people are doing art than ever before.

(4) The creative urge is running rampant.

(5) Civilization is being inundated with new art.

As I mingle with other artists in one of the galleries where I’m shown, a fellow creative asks me, "Is that an old piece . . . one of your earlier works?" To which I reply, "What’s old? I’ve done it in my lifetime, I’m still alive, and it’s still a part of me. To make any more pieces now would only clutter up the world."

And thus I come to my point, which is that art is really a higher form of pollution and a burden to society, when it reaches a certain density. An artist today cannot afford the luxury of being prolific. Ethically, he/she has a duty to limit production, just as parents have a duty in an overpopulated world to limit their number of offspring. Again, I might disturb people with these statements, but I believe that somebody needs to say them. Artists need to ask themselves how what they do affects the world.

Obviously, some sort of recycling has to occur, but what does this mean:

(1) Creation limited by actual sales?

(2) Creation limited by quality control?

(3) Creation limited by voluntary destruction of works?

(4) Creation limited by fewer works done per artist?

To ignore such questions is to ignore reality. Not only is the issue of present-day art in question, but also the issue of past-day art. How much of this can we possibly store and deal with? As civilization continues to thrive, more and more contemporary art will become antique art. How do we handle it?

Twice, I have come close to destroying all of my own paintings, making the act of disposal the true art. I fancy myself being so bold as to say that the most ethically responsible art has no material substance, that to release the material, to part with substance is to possess the greatest essence of all, that to create more space rather than more matter is the sort of art we need today. Sadly, though, I’m not there yet. I’m weak. I’m still tied to what my work stands for, rather than being satisfied with how it moves things along. I’m in a dilemma. I’m not tortured by this dilemma, but I keep coming back to it. I keep coming back to the question: How much art can a civilization tolerate, before art is not art anymore?

Robert Kernodle, Greensboro, NC