Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Consumerism in an Age of Fear

In Plutocracy & Trump we trust (2015)  Mixed media on Cardstock Coasters 4"

2016 will without any doubt be remembered by many of us as a year of great losses (Bowie, Prince & many others) unpredictable politics (Brexit, Trump) as well as global turmoil and ongoing conflicts. At a personal level It's been a rough year not just for me but for many around me. From car accidents to economic hardships and odd situations I can only think of happening in a movie where things go so badly for the protagonist it almost seems like comedy. But the year hasn't ended yet and there are so many lessons to draw from it so far. 

Our Daily Bread (2016) Oil on canvas 36" x 60" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

With the mass media obsession with Donald Trump and fear of his victory (which I should say helped him win the elections) and Trump's scapegoat obsession with terrorism and criminality perpetrated by minorities and non white immigrants (Mexicans & Muslims), the narrative of fear has taken democracy hostage. Fear is an irrational force that does not necessarily reflect the real threats to our lives. Facts (something most people these days seem to voluntarily ignore)  reveal a far more lethal enemy most people aren't even aware of. Curiously this hidden enemy is easily spotted right in front of us.

Consumerist Gluttony (2009) Oil on canvas 20" x 20" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

In an age of fear it's hard to think straight and see what the real dangers are. Under the influence of fear, the masses willingly obey and easily become passive consumers. Consumerism offers an illusory escape which is far more dangerous than what we may be escaping in the first place. It is a wolf dressed up as sheep. In fact, this wolf in disguise makes terrorism, criminality and even war look like a pack of angry Chihuahuas. Think I'm exaggerating? Consider the following:

 " In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,00). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder. Whereas in 2010 obesity and related illnesses killed about 3 million people, terrorists killed a total of 7,697 people across the globe, most of them in developing countries. For the average American or European, Coca Cola poses a far deadlier threat than al-Qaeda".

                             Holy Combo IV (2016) Oil & goldleaf on panel 24" x 30" 
                                                   by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Furthermore the author demonstrates with statistics that consumerism is even bigger and nastier than previously thought being responsible for more deaths than world hunger. Harari states that: "In 2010 famine and malnutrition combined killed about 1 million people, whereas obesity killed 3 million..  In the early twenty-first century the average human is far more likely to die from bingering at McDonald's than from drought, Ebola or an Al-Qaeda Attack".

La Re-Conquista (2012) Oil on wood triptych 18" x 24" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Not only is consumerism killing us more than anything else, it's also putting the whole ecosystem at risk. At the current pace of global mass consumption, we can expect many more animal species going extinct , sea levels rise and an increased pattern of extreme weather events that will severely impact the lives of every creature in multiple ways. The Earth's future is on the line and future generations will surely not forgive us for our stupidity. Truth is global warming is real whether you want to believe it or not. 2015 is the hottest year in record with 2016 expected to be even hotter. And you don't even have to be a scientist to realize this. Just turn off the AC, go outside and pay close attention to your surroundings. But we want more jobs because the economy is the 1# issue. That's right, because we need more fearful obedient consumers. Without a habitable planet let's see what will be on the menu...

Maria Mundi (2016) Oil on canvas 50" x 35" by Patrick McGrath Muñiz

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Some Prayers to Capital, Mass Media and Consumerism

United Citizen Ship (2016) Oil on canvas 48" x 48" Evoke Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM

Lets face it: We live in a society that worships money and consumerism over all other things. We rarely question the imposed fictions of the financial institutions that rule our world and entire lives. We live as submissive sheep oblivious and following the Neo-liberal agenda while rapidly depleting  the finite natural resources of this planet. Money stands as the supreme global religion that all can agree with and come together at the table. Very few dare to be blasphemous against the  sacred rules of the Free Market so it's time we start our day with a few prayers: 

To Our Holy Capital:

Our Capital, Who art in tax haven
Hallowed by Thy Name;
Thy corporations come,
Thy will be done,
on Main Street as it is in Wall Street.
Give us this day our consumer goods,
and forgive us our student loans,
as we forgive those who trespass our borders;
and lead us not into anarchy and revolution,
but deliver us from government regulations. Amen. 

Adoracion Capital (2014) Oil on cavas 36" x 36" Henao Contemporary, Orlando, FL

To Mass Media:

Hail Mass Media, full of grace.
Our money is with thee
Blessed art thou among channels,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mass Media, Mother of Profit,
Pray for us consumers,
now and at the hour of our debt.

Virgen Protectora del Comercio (2013) Oil on canvas 48" x 48" Private Collection

Glory be to the Free Market and to the Corporation and to the Holy Capital. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Two Prayers to Consumerism:

El Santo Rey (2013) Oil and metal leaf on carved wood 8' tondo. Private Collection

“O Sacred Heart of Our Marvelous Magical King, pour out your value meals upon our franchise, upon its managers, and upon all its workers.  Sustain the consumer demand, convert the non believers, assist the customers, deliver the burgers in front of the house, and have it your way always.  Amen”.

La Inocente (2013) Oil and metal leaf on carved wood 8' tondo. Private Collection

“O Sacred Heart of Our Innocent Wendy, we entrust our family, neighbor and homeland mealtime to you. Look down upon us and serve us your Old Fashioned hamburgers from your blessed renewed Heart. Become our refuge in life and our gateway to Food Paradise. Forgive our lack of appetite and awaken our hunger that we may become your faithful consumers in this life and the next, Amen”. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Artist to Artist: Don't compete with others, only with yourself.

Whether one is in art school or participating in an art contest, it is quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking this is all about competition. After all they train us from an early age to compete and beat your opponent, be it in sports or any other discipline. This may well be ingrained in our ancestral genes as we strived for survival and in pursuit of scarce resources. But let's not forget our hunter/gatherer ancestors also learned to cooperate with each other in order to survive. In a modern capitalist society it seems most natural to compete against each other. But allow me to question this competitive attitude for a moment and briefly explain why I believe it is unhealthy when it comes to art practices.

Art unlike science, math or even sports is a subjective field. Proper measurements on what is good or not can be debated for hours and it's nearly impossible to agree on a set of rules of what makes good art. Cultural background, age, nationality, race, politics, religion and education play a decisive part in a person's judgment on what makes good art. On top of that, aesthetic definitions change all the time. What most mainstream contemporary art connoisseurs consider good art will most likely change within a generation and keep changing afterward. Truth is we are filled with  so many adopted preconceptions and ideas about what art is, that when it comes to comparing our own art with others, we are either extremely unfair with ourselves or overtly complacent.

The problem with the competing "me v.s. them" mentality is twofold. We either compare ourselves to other artists that we consider inexperienced or way more advanced than us. The problem when we compare ourselves with artists we believe to be unprepared or lacking artistic skills is that we then become lazy and conformist with what we already master, assuming we are on top. When we compare ourselves to artists that are ahead of us in level of mastery, we end up being too harsh with our outcomes and end up frustrated.  Often we ignore  that these artists could have started practicing when they were much younger than us. Sometimes they are simply "gifted". Some of us have to work harder to achieve a successful work of art, but that should not be a discouragement. Many "gifted" artists take for granted their talents and go to waste. Sometimes it's better to sweat it and work harder so one can really appreciate what one has reaped.

My Studio in Savannah, GA in 2006

Even if we compete against artist we consider to be at the same level as us, we forget that everyone's path is different and there is no "one" right way to do art
Instead, why not compete with yourself. If last year you produced 10 high quality paintings, try to make 15 this year without sacrificing quality. Do not try to speed up  your process just because other artists are producing 30 or even 40 paintings a year. This is not a race to see who makes more, but rather make art that pleases you and you feel proud of. Most of the time this requires time and perseverance. One can learn from other's mistakes but even better: Learn from your own mistakes.

My studio in Houston, Texas in 2016

Most professional painters I know are individualistic and  prefer create their work while they are alone n their private studios. That fact alone should already reveal a hidden truth in all of this. In this competitive society we live in, the only real competition out there should be with yourself. Strive for excellence but never forget there is no finish line as long as you're alive and enjoy art. Never mind what "comparison obsessed" critics have to say. No matter what you hear or see out there, allow yourself to be inspired by others but focus on your own art and create your own path.