Muses of the Manager

//the first essay i wrote for english

Standing under a gentle drizzle with the air not yet brisk upon exposed skin Mike walks out onto the pavement with an upward glance to the street lamp, starting to bring conclusion to his evening. With hidden twilight on the brink of the passing dusk, he recedes back on his way, back to errands and daily life. Watching him disappear brings closure to discussion over coffee. This opens the future realization that this gentle rain will continue on my walk home. Granting me time to reflect over the muses of his mind, and insights into his life. Tonight I was given a glimpse into thirty-six years of thought from this shaggy brown haired, browned eyed man with a love for the arts.

Art is not prevalent in culture today. People don’t seem to concern themselves with the need to attain original artwork. Mike explained that “They are content with going to the store and getting posters to hang from their walls” Posters that are made in the thousands and are anything but original of artwork, lost in there lack of uniqueness. There used to be a sense of desire to own an original piece, be able to put it on your wall knowing that no one else has it or creating something of your own design. Though having a unique piece can become quite time and cost intensive.

Lately I’ve been working on a set of light boxes. They consist of taking photos on these strips of slide film that are thirty inches long and little over two inches tall and then mounting them so that you can see the images and landscapes, that I exposed on them without interruption. To display them I’m going to probably build a false wall so that they run flush with the wall, hopefully end to end. That is something that is original, that no one else out there will have an exact replica of. That is a series that I can be proud of having.

It could have to do with the cost of art rather than nostalgic value. Whenever there is a budget crisis the “first things to fall to the wayside are the arts.” There seems to be a feeling that art is the excess fat of the budget that can be easily trimmed away if need be, not to mention that a ten dollar poster sounds more appealing then a two-hundred dollar painting. The need isn’t there like it used to be, and we don’t need pictures to depict stories from books we aren’t literate enough to read from, or to reenact a hunt that took place. It does however supply us with a different way to look at our world.

Technology, however, is supplying us with a different view of the world. For the first time we can read what other normal people are saying, see what they see. In the same sense, Mike continued, “technology is de-mystifying our world.” There is little to no mystery left to daily life, at least the questions of life that we concern ourselves with. Even questions of where to shop get answered by the internet. “I’ve noticed a drop in business over the past few years,” at Pen Co, where he is the manager, that I relate to the internet and buying online. Technology, it would seem, has advanced so quickly that it has passed humans. It is to a point where it hasn’t answered every question we have, but taken away the ones it can’t answer. Those unanswerable questions we don’t think of because we become so overwhelmed with the plethora of answers that have been given to us. Technology is leaving people in such awe that they aren’t sure of what to do with it or of everything it can do.

Technology is also inhibiting art by putting up a barrier that hasn’t previously been there.
Making his point, Mike explained, “When you work with clay, you sit there at the wheel and create a pot.” Your hands forming the very clay you are touching. When you create on the computer you are working through an intermediary, you’re hands aren’t touching the inks that print the final piece. You are manipulating circuit boards and then tell them to create your final piece. While you can still create art, it isn’t of the same class as the work done previously.

With the lighting harsh against the hard wood table and two dry white coffee mugs Mike sits across from me. He graduated in 1995 from UW Stout’s fine arts program emphasizing the studio arts he started to work at the brand new Pen Co shortly after, where is he currently the manager. That job has given him the opportunity to spend nine months out of the year, using his concentration in painting to produce works. Some pieces have been shown in six national exhibitions so far this year.

The studio arts are almost “archaic,” however, because they have been around since the beginning of time. The problems that paint and canvas give you have all been answered. This new ability to use technology has had a drastic impact on all forms of art in the last few years. You can see a difference in style of painted and sculptures through the influence that new technology has had on the artists creating the works. Finally raising new questions to ask of the different mediums as well as creating new mediums to work with.

Due to new advances in technology the art world is evolving and changing faster then it has in recent history, and while part of me is excited to see where things are headed but there is also this pop culture influence. “You almost need to be good looking to get published,” Mike vented, much like you need to be attractive to get a number one single in the music industry. Your skill level seems to be playing less and less of a roll today in your art. Wall plaques have gotten longer as well and, as he later continued, “they need to explain everything about a piece. At what point is a piece failing to send a message if you need to explain everything about it for people to get it.”

There I sat, contemplative over what he’s shared, the muses of his mind and the slight glimpse into more of this person, Mike, who is so often over looked as the man from the art store. We both rise and head to the door, leaving the gentle horizontal grain of the wood benches we’d grown so accustom to.

With the door resting back on its frame, behind us, and with one last handshake I was left there under gentle rain, watching on the corner of Broadway. Mike looked around as he stepped onto the street and headed his way, smile across his face and pace to his feet. I was standing there after being graced by his presence, for but a blink of time, he allowed me to see into his thoughts. The thoughts of the man behind the counter, with the lights of his store are off at the opposite corner of the intersection, that pushed my mind to new levels. Pen Co now lays dormant, waiting for the break of day, rain streaking down the glass panes of windows. I now turn to start on my way home, forming thoughts of my own with pace to my feet through the damp night air.