SELF-PORTRAIT

 

by

John

Rich

hen presented with the challenge of writing an artistic statement, I had to contemplate something I had never really thought of, the question "why?". I do not know why I paint; no, the need to create, a need that separates humans from the rest of the animals, comes from a subjective hunger, a primary cause, from the lower sensuous part of human knowledge, from a source too deep to rationalize. Now I am faced with the question: "What is art?". Art is an instrument. It acts like a tool providing a way for me to express myself, to give myself an identity in this modern and often homogeneous world. Besides art has a therapeutic quality, acting like a catharsis that helps me escape the repression of prison.

To find the source of my artistic hunger, to try to discover the "why", I have to go back to the point I started to draw and paint, back to my childhood. I grew up in the prosperous but dark ages of the 60's. I lived in a world of suburban shag-carpeted comfort - a comfort with the undercurrent of the cold war and the rip tide of the Vietnam War, a comfort guaranteed by the finality of the atomic bomb, accented by our murdered president and the promise of the draft. Much of my childhood work consisted of tanks, planes, and soldiers fighting. If I wasn't drawing military engagements, I was drawing utopian cities of the future, robots, cars, or monsters. After I grew older and the Vietnam war escalated, and I grew to understand the horror of war, I quit drawing war pictures and started drawing rock stars, hippies, and peace signs. I admired the hippies and became a flower child. Timothy Leary, John Lennon, and Jerry Garcia were my heroes. My art developed as I developed, and it acted like a learning tool to help me understand the world.

Of course, adults ask every child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, and, for me, that question had only one answer - "an artist". Mom heard my plea and sent me to John Herron's art classes for children. The teachers would take us through the school's museum and lecture us about the art. I liked the Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, da Vinci, and especially Bosch. I liked the Pop artists: Peter Max, Andy Warhol, and Robert Indiana. But I did not really care for Vasili Kandinski, Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, or Jackson Pollock. Once I saw the work of Salvador Dali, M.C. Echer, and Kathe Kollwitz, my eyes opened to the 20th century artists. From looking at their work, I knew that modern artists could reach, and even surpass, the level of excellence achieved by the Renaissance artists. It was not until I read the theories behind abstract art, impressionism, cubism, abstract expressionism, and the like that I began to appreciate, and even incorporate into my work, the elements of modern art.

So my artistic endeavors started when I was a child, and by the time I reached the age of ten, I had begun to develop my own aesthetic theories. In other words, I knew I was "cool". At this time, however, my mother died. The warm and secure shag-carpeted comfort became superficial. I hated the world; I hated life; I hated God. I even hated "cool". I introverted and became a loner. The artistic muse no longer seemed important. Nothing seemed important. I started using stronger and stronger mind altering substances. My psyche took a psychedelic spin, and I used drugs to try and help me both escape and understand the world. The altered muse, the stoned daemon, became a Romantic dreaming of a pastoral, hippy utopia. Emersed in drugs, my life became a turbid kaleidoscopic dream-scape. In my arrogance, I believed I was autonomous, apart from the norms and values and, unfortunately, the laws of society.

Eventually, when I reached thirty, the police knocked me off my moonbeam, and I found myself in prison for drug trafficking. For the last seven and a half years, I have focused my attention upon my art. Now art - not drugs - has become my vehicle for understanding and escape. With the loss of my freedom, art has become my most important vehicle, tool, and instrument. Picasso said: "No, painting is not for interior decoration. It is an instrument of war, for attack and defense of the enemy."

Art acts as an instrument for me to express my ideas and to help me overcome the daily repression of prison. It functions like a talisman, and the creative process parallels an art of magic - it helps to banish depression and negative energies. To use a Cartesian analogy: I paint; therefore, I ain't. Art acts as my therapy. By creating the forms of my work, I hope to transcend the world of being and discover the world of becoming so I can create the Form of an aesthetically pleasing life in a Utopian future.

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Or, here are links to all the pages in the John Rich Gallery.

ARMAGEDDON

ANUBIS

FETISH

910243

FERTILITY

THE EARTH GODDESS MEETS INDUSTRY

AMERNICA

PHILOSOPHY OF BLAKE PSYCHEDELIC

PEACH LOVE AND ROCK AND ROLL

BE BOPPIN

SOPHIA

PROMETHEUS

SATAN

THE MADMAN'S SPIRALING EYES

For info about buying prints of John's work write to:
John Rich
8505 N. Compton St.
Indianapolis, IN 46240


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Last modified May 7, 2000