What Does Our Art Do for Ourselves and Others?

Last weekend, I visited the Revolutionary Vision: Group f/64 and Richard Misrach Photographs exhibition at the Autry Museum of the American West in Griffith Park. Entering the exhibit took me back to a night late last Spring. I was a dinner guest at Wildcat, the home of Gina and Kim Weston, and I took notes especially when photographers talked about creative process–one of my obsessions. Must. CREATE. In spite of oneself. My output may be different from theirs, but looking at how they spark and to be in witness of another artist, is inspiring.

Back at the Autry, the exhibit details how every member of Group f/64 was a master photographer who not only advanced the art of photography but also brought it to new audiences and venues. Then I stood in front of this photo. Its voice so unique and pure, I probably don’t have to tell you who took it. (But I do in the caption, because, well, it doesn’t belong to me.)

Ansel Adams, Half Dome – Image linked from Autry Museum website

In the introduction to Adams’ series of photographs, the exhibit notes his contributions and many roles. Yet one in his bio made his stand out from the other Group f/64 photographers, “conservationalist.”

Ansel Adams was an activist.

I sat with that for a moment as a woman took a call in the gallery beneath a quote from Richard Misrach, “At the same time, I found myself at the center of the cultural and political revolution that was the sixties. Little surprise that I have been trying to reconcile these two poles ever since.”

I considered the power and responsibility of art–what our work does when it goes out into the world and makes its own way. I thought about creating a voice, unique and pure, one that could be heard in spite of mobile phone conversations and scrolling and clicking. My mind still circles around these ideas in this week of The Sit-In, Brexit, under the intense heat engulfing Los Angeles–the world feels chaotic, heavy, and messy, even more so than usual. We are still polarized but I don’t need reconciliation, just the strength of spirit to continue creating.

4 Comments

  1. Oh good, this runs until next year. I might try to stop and see it on the way home from Santa Fe. Love the f/64 group AND Richard Misrach. (Interesting pairing.)

    1. I thought of you and Kim as I walked through the exhibit. I hope our calendars coincide–I’d definitely go again!

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