I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.
We live in an amazing expanding universe! Will it be our end?
We are lucky enough to live at a time when the possibilities for one human are growing by bounds and leaps. Instant communication is an example. Thirty years ago when I found it nearly impossible to call St. Petersburg, Russia to set up my exhibition there, as only 22 phone lines existed and a call was very expensive. Now world-wide communications are free, instant and ubiquitous. So we should be in good contact with all our dear friends wherever they are!.. Right?
No really. Do you notice this as well; that with instant free communication your interactions have grown shorter and more frantic? Or is it just me? I receive texts and emails every day that are only a couple of lines (often about how busy that person is), or sometimes just a word or two. ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) Have we really become so important that we can't keep in good contact with each other any more?
I get the sense that an expansion of the possibilities for interacting with people anywhere is matched by an enlargement of the space between us, vision of the expanding universe; every galaxy moving away from every other. Time was that I often met with friends for dinner or a long conversation in a cafe. Now it seems everyone is too busy for that. I once delighted in exchanging long, handwritten and illustrated letters with friends. I've got many of those precious letters saved. But would I save an email about how busy my friend is? Where would I put it?
It could be just me and my tendency to sink into a quiet life enriched with good books and fine art in my little hut. But I wonder if this isn't a feature of the age. I wonder what relationships will look like in another generation. Will we somehow have learned to be in better contact, or will we just drift further apart as we become inundated with digital entertainments? You tell me. Take your time. I'm listening...
It could be that you are reading this long after I'm dead, but I appreciate your eyes in any case. I tossed the bottle with this message into the noisy darkness that is the maelstrom of the internet on February the last, 2019, in the midst of a blizzard, from my perch in one of the most beautiful places on earth; Montana. It is an attempt to see if there is another human being out there. It will apparently float on the ever-expanding sea of data until the internet finally winks out, which could be in 10 years or 10 centuries.
I started this stream some 12 years ago as a means of sharing my cultural observations with my friends as I traveled the world. The truth is we can only recognize our home when we leave it and most of my friends were very interested. But with the increased crosswinds of endless news, entertainment and cat videos, after hundreds of my posts about a whole variety show of issues, I'm beginning to think I'm just whistling in the wind. The internet set us all free to express ourselves endlessly. But it also expands the universe, so that the space between any two people is constantly growing. Soon we will each find alone in a sea of noise, unable to discern if the entities with whom we communicate are real or digital.
Somehow you have found this note. I can't imagine what continents it has drifted passed, but I am glad to have found you. Please write me a note to say you are there. If I am dead and this is 2350 or something, know that there was someone long ago who was thinking of you even then...and who knows? By then the internet may include heaven as well. In which case I'll sing you a special song.
Blessings to you, and on your journey may you find real human connections, Tim Holmes firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1990 I bought a crumbling old building in Helena, Montana
An anonymous "wayward woman", ca. 1905
to use as my art studio. It had been built 100 years previously by the Catholic order, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, as a “Home for Wayward Women”. But after the nuns sold it in 1905 and moved to bigger digs, the building served as a furniture warehouse and neighborhood eyesore until I bought it.
During renovations I was dismantling a wall when I ran my crowbar through a cardboard patch and realized there was something intriguing hidden behind it. What I then carefully extracted from the mess was this gorgeous portrait of what I’m sure was one of the early residents of the home. Were it not for the rip of my crowbar, the photo would be pristine. What’s so remarkable is her shining smile, a real rarity for the time! “Wayward”? Perhaps, but not unhappy!
Ever since, "our foundress" has presided over my gorgeous historic gallery at Tim Holmes Studio.
Being an artist working for myself I've had the remarkable freedom to craft my life pretty much the way I want it. Having attained a certain security, (no longer with a family to support, admittedly), this is how I want to live! Recently I realized how weird a life it is. But truth is I think this is how most people in the US will be living about a generation from now. Listen to this and see what you think:
I work every day doing what I most like, but almost always for free. (I've retired from being an art businessman and now I'm an artist!) 2049: Many of us will still spend our days working, but for some cause or delight of our own choosing.
I'm paid a small stipend that serves as a basic income. (Mine is from wise investments years ago.) 2049: Most of us will probably live on a basic income distributed by the government, generated by taxes on the bourgoise, owners of the robot production that will do most all the work.) I enjoy comprehensive, free healthcare. (Mine is Medicaid) 2049: Universal single-payer healthcare will have been the standard for some years. I've surrounded myself with beauty, not material aquisitions. 2049: Consumerist culture will be a bad chapter in our history, a fading memory of misplaced values, while most people live rich lives of personal fulfillment.
Much of my time is spent in social, artistic, educational and charitable pursuits. 2049: Duh.
I live in a community where I can walk or bike to most everything I need, and where there's nature close by. (For me it's a smallish town in the mountains, so that's been easy for a long time.) 2049: Even cities will be better designed with walkable neighborhoods, infused with natural areas.
I create more energy than I use. (Solar panels on my studio generate twice my usage.) 2049: We will all be generating power, with our everyday objects, our roofs, our sidewalks, etc. and most of our tools will be electric. What else could a person ask for?
The current artwork being gifted, an oil landscape.
Art really wants to be either priceless or free! It is a spiritual gift and––like a person–– is likewise dishonored when attached to a price.
I've always resisted pricing art, and though I've made my living selling art, I am most confortable with art as a gift. So in addition to the Random Gifts of Art project I started, to give away drawings (unframed and not from among my prime sales production), I've decided to give away works from among the prime work as well. So once a month I post an artwork on the Tim Holmes Studio Facebook page to give to whomever expresses an interest. This not only addresses the common line: "I wish I could afford your work", but I like being a giver. So here's your chance!
It's been frustrating to me that even though I'm often called "famous", due to a life of art and performing, still I feel of very marginal use to this society. Much as I try to make my art available in whatever ways I can, it takes a great deal of PR to raise enough interest in it. (Currently I'm paying thousands of dollars for help with it, to little effect). It's much easier for me to make a living as a landowner. Capital is obviously what our society values most.
What troubles me here is not the lack of attention (who today is not terminally distracted?) but my lacking opportunity to give. It is very true that giving is a gift to the giver! As a musician or actor I offer my services in many ways to my neighbors. But as a visual artist, the only way I have to give is to apply to show my art at a venue, to pay for and throw a party, or to give art away. I actually do all these, but giving away art is the cheapest for me in terms of time and energy. If there is any other career like this, where a trained professional at the top of their game has to work so hard to share their gifts, I'm not aware of it.
Don't worry about me, really. I have a great life that I wouldn't trade for anything! But this gives me a perspective on our culture. I wonder about a society that can't find a use for talent it contains. We know that art is perhaps the most valuable treasure any culture leaves behind, which makes it all the more puzzling. It would be great if we could find a way to value people among us for their unused gifts, like welcoming refugees as enriching assets instead of burdens, instead of as mere cogs in the economy.
An Atlantic news story just broke about a 5-second moment 30 years ago that changed US history. I shake my head that it involves an old friend of mine. I can't explain the Forrest Gumpy principle that puts me so close to some of the stories I print here, but that's not the point; which is that a totally innocuous moment that any of us––were we witnesses to it––would pass unremarked, could so change the course of history!
The moment was when the Democratic frontrunner of the 1988 presidential election, Gary Hart, was sitting on a piling at a dock waiting for a boat when a woman ran up and sat on his knee. Any witness would not be alarmed that a famous man would be so accosted by a fan. But the next day a picture of the incident appeared on the front page of the National Enquirer, with a boat moored nearby named "Monkey Business", which became the name of the "scandal". That moment killed Hart's bid for the presidency and his political career. (Note to youngsters of the pre-pussy-grabbing era: time was when body contact, like sitting on someone's knee, was seen as a blantant sexual act.) What's even more shocking is that the whole incident, including the photo and headline that screamed Hart was having an affair, was a set-up by the Bush campaign, revealed only now! At the time everyone just thought it was a streak of bad luck for Hart. But when the then head of the Republican National Committee lay dying years later, he confessed what he had done to kill Hart's campaign to Ray Strother, the media man for Hart's campaign. Rachel Maddow describes the chain of events that this hit job created in US history.
Strother is a good man. He and his wife Sandy were friends of mine from the days of my political satire group, the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. At the time I stayed at the Strother's house in Washington DC whenever we performed there. It could be I stayed at their place while all this was going on, though of course the truth didn't emerge til all these years later. We've lost touch years ago, but when I heard his name in the news I knew him right away.
I hate how the GOP, which once proudly upheld good, solid values, has sunk into anti-constitutional meddling and outright criminality to seize power. These days it seems Trump is trying to make crime not seem so bad, probably so that when his chickens come home to roost, he'll be just another guy in the lineup. America deserves better than that. Please vote! [Illustration from Paul Spella, the Atlantic]
Capitalism is a great system for a lot of things. But the creation of good art is not one of them. A capitalist cannot actually see art because he can only see value in terms of money. Case in point:
A gum-wrap sculpture.
I have actually seen quite a bit of success as an artist in this culture and am grateful for that. I am a strange person, but mostly I am strange as an artist. I am a monastic who lives as a hermit in the wilderness of my studio, daily laboring on the refinement of my artistic prayers. Although I generally finish my work and make it available for display as art, I have increasingly lost interest in the role of “being an artist” in our culture, which only rewards artists as a creators of products of decoration and entertainment and only rarely for meaningful content. There's a long tradition of artists rebelling against the process––inevitable in a capitalist system––of art becoming commodified. But much as artists try to empty art of material the capitalists don't bat an eye as they figure out how to market even conceptual art––art that is nothing but an idea. (You can actually buy an idea for a conceptual work, for a hefty price of course, and take home nothing but a receipt!)
Does this mean my work is without value? Quite the contrary! I have many very devoted single fans who have acquired (been “sold”) a work or sometimes several, who follow my art with interest. But the capitalist system also denies them access to my work unless they either pay for art directly or access an institution that has “hired” my work (usually at some expense to me) for display. Ironically, in this unfriendly environment it's hard to even give my art away without it becoming essentially worthless. A person who's raised in a capitalist world only values something highly when much is paid for it. That means that one who receives something for free often values it little.
So I am stuck as an exile imprisoned in a capitalist culture. I recognize that this is my problem, not yours. But what becomes your problem is finding significant art in a world that can't locate that Holy Grail for you. Art museums are pretty good at picking good art out of history but they are not so good at discerning contemporary art due to the terrific flak flying around the capitalist environment, where discernment is polluted with all manner of commercial activity, personal conflicts of interest and the anti-esthetic pull of fashion. The capitalist world has no wayof finding meaning in art (outside the rare appearance of a self-less art critic with taste and a popular platform). If you want art that moves you, you have NO WAY of finding it systematically. Your only hope is to somehow stumble upon it.
I've always resisted the confluence of art and capitalism, as it commodifies art, which I consider a spiritual gift. SO, I'm embarking on a new twist of the Random Gifts of Art project: giving away pieces of art from among my prime body of work. Yes, as a professional artist it will cut into my income, but I really think this tack will prove helpful to me for a number of reasons:
Tim Holmes with the next artwork.
Art should either be free or absolutely priceless.
I produce much more art than I ever attempt to sell.
Part of the responsibility of my creative gift is to share it.
I believe art should be for everyone, not the wealthy alone.
There is a lot of mindless decoration and mere bad art in the world.
Marketing narrows an artist's work to only salable styles. I wish to share ALL the work I do.
The market is too hung up on art's price and viewers on what they can or can't afford.
Since I consider my artworks kind of like my kids, I'd rather they live with people I know!
Every month from now on I'm going to offer an artwork (painting, drawing or sculpture) to give to a random person who expresses an interest. Since I really want the works to be displayed instead of just put in a closet, I request that each person expressly ask for a work they appreciate. The random winner will be contacted at the end of the month and the art shipped to them.
And so, if you are interested in joining a pool of people keen on an artwork, check every month at the Tim Holmes Studio Facebook page to add your name. My hope is that the process itself will spread good will and appreciation of art. Come along! The first gift will be posted Oct. 1!
I've been very quite for the past 4 months, if you noticed. I'm sorry for the gap, unless you really appreciated the silence in which case, you're welcome!
The truth is that I had to have heart surgery and the recovery was rather long. But now I've regained my health and a lot of my crankiness and I'm likely to start posting regularly again. Fair warning.
I hope you do come back for more of my thoughts on art and culture. I do appreciate the dialog!
MLBC performs at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC.
Performing is always a risk, but sometimes it's outright dangerous! Our political satire band, the Montana Logging and Ballet Co. performed concerts for a lot of interesting events, political and otherwise. As with any experienced group, especially on the road, we've collected all kinds of war stories, mostly about when things went badly. (Who wants to hear stories about smooth success, after all?)
When we're asked about our worst audience ever, each of us has a different answer. For me the worst was one we were able to avoid. Somehow during the Reagan Revolution the Republican National Convention had heard about how funny we were. They called up our manager, Fitz, and asked him what we charge for a concert. He replied coolly, "$48,000" (about 10 times the highest price we'd ever gotten for a concert!) To his shock they said fine, they wanted to book us! He was able to come to his senses in that moment and said that unfortunately we were too busy, so we were able to avoid what would have been a royal roasting and perhaps untimely end of a good group.
In another case the money must have been very good because we were shocked to hear Fitz announce that we would be performing in Florida for a national conference for a corporate accounting firm. We lined up for them our usual fare; a mix of political satire, comedy and good music or at least what passes for such with us. The night of the concert the first sign of trouble appeared when we watched the audience assemble in the huge conference room. Incredibly, the audience was all men, except for about 6 or 8 women, who huddled at one table right by the exit! Sure enough, as we went through our show we were amazed how primitive the crowd was, acting like a herd of mindless carnivores. We performed fast, avoiding any jokes that could be taken as dirty and cutting material right and left to get out of there as quickly as possible.
This often happens with a corporate audience, as they're there often to impress their compatriots rather than to have a good time. We experienced the epitome of this effect when a wood products company sent a tone-deaf scout to one of our concerts who unfortunately thought were hilarious and just perfect to perform for a few of the top company managers at their HQ in Seattle. The concert took place on the top floor of their executive building on a small stage set up before an array of cafe tables at which sat a few dozen executives, with the CEO planted front and center. We performed our show, but there was an uncomfortable pause after every joke while everyone glanced at the CEO. If he laughed, then they all laughed; if he did not, they kept silent! (Except for one guy who guffawed alone after a joke and spent the rest of the show cowering in silence. I bet he didn't last the week.) It was one of the most uncomfortable successes of our whole career!
Brother Steve and I bringing high Montana culture to the big city.
But for me, one of the most memorable moments was when we performed for the off-year Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, when there were 5 presidential contenders, each with his own Secret Service bubble, vying for position among the delegates. Granted the security was not as intense as it is now, but with the candidates roaming the floor among a cacophony of wandering delegates, I still I had no business getting clear into the bit I was doing with my brother onstage before thinking it all the way through. Suddenly I realized with the half of my brain that was not trying to remember the routine that in about 3 seconds I was going to pull a fake pistol out of my costume and shoot my brother! "What are the chances", my half-brain said, "that we'll all die in a hail of gunfire when I pull out my toy gun?"
I'm happy to report that we survived, probably saved by the phenomenon all performers hate: the utter invisibility of "background" entertainment. That, and the transaction was so rapid that apparently no one was alarmed. In fact, I'm not even sure anyone noticed that we performed that day. Such is life on the road for a music group, either ignored or targeted. Sometimes both at once!