The Artist As Hero

Yesterday evening I attended “Gregory Volk: In Conversation With Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Fellows” a presentation at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Peregrine Honig was one of the artists Mr. Volk talked to. A theme that flowed through the Honig paintings shown last night was fashion. Here’s one of her works that she and Volk discussed:

Peregrine Honig's "Mr. Piggles - Worst Dressed"

“Mr. Piggles – Worst Dressed.” She told Volk that Mr. Piggles was caught off guard in this drawing and someone decided that he was the worst dressed of all of the attendees at an event. Her question was: who gives someone the right to decide, and upon what criteria, that someone is the best dressed or the worst dressed?

As only an artist can do, Peregrine Honig is bringing us, the viewer of her art, face-to-face with what we accept as normal, as acceptable, as justified. And she’s asking us to question those assumptions. Through the use of a whimsical character like Mr. Piggles, a character we would ordinarily find in a book for children, we adults are being taught a powerful lesson.

Instead of a fairy-tale that teaches children proper behavior or belief, we’re confronted with a behavior (the judgment of Mr. Piggles) that challenges the fairy-tales we accept as proper. This is why a good artist is a hero: she points to richer possibilities for being human.

Brilliant art can activate our brilliance.

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