Is art dead? In my estimation, art is very much alive. It continues to impact our society in a visceral and cerebral fashion. Despite the formidable challenge of earning a livelihood via one’s artistic craft (e.g., paintings and drawings), the potency of art cannot be denied, convincingly proven by Mr. Fish’s political cartoons.
Making a living as an artist has always been problematic; but it’s even more difficult in this day and age as a consequence of the rapid advancements in technology. With the advent of the internet, newspaper publications have shifted their news content to online distribution channels, creating a sharp and perpetual decline in revenue. As a corollary, throngs of journalists have lost their jobs, including the political cartoonists, who would regularly exhibit their witty art pieces through the daily newspaper.
Although the economic reality is rather dire for the artist, the power that she or he possesses is still quite influential. First of all, in terms of exposure, an artist’s work can be viewed by millions of people around the world, courtesy of the internet and social media. Additionally, the paintings or drawings do not require a common language, which enables it to reach a diverse array of audiences. But above all, the artistic work can potentially ignite a powerful and emotional reaction from its viewers as seen by the violent uproar and civil unrest from the Muslim community as it pertained to the cartoon depictions of Mohammad in the French weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
In Mr. Fish’s documentary, Cartooning from the Deep End, we observe his personal uphill battle to disseminate his provocative cartoons through prominent publications. Alas, the inflammatory and political nature of his work unfairly excludes him from the safe and conforming mainstream. And yet, he obstinately refuses to compromise his artistic integrity, even if he suffers from a financial standpoint. He continues to create art that disturbs people enough to incite a change, no matter how small. He wisely comprehends that his crusade is a marathon, not a sprint; and how patience and the passage of time affects the cultivation of art; that “art in general should be recognized as a process that unfolds over millennia” (Fish, 2014). His polemics are utilized in his political cartoons to wake people up and make them aware of our societal ills. He recognizes art as an “important health screening proven to save lives and…promote lifelong habits of self-evaluation and proactive self-maintenance” (Fish, 2014).
Ultimately, Mr. Fish’s courageous choice to be true to himself is rewarded by the professional support of USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. He is a bona fide artist because he amalgamates entertainment with knowledge and wisdom through the medium of uncensored cartoons. He is living proof that one doesn’t have to be a household name or earn an astronomical amount of money to be a successful and viable artist. Art will continue to flourish in the face of financial instability for the painter, musician, or actor. It’s an arduous path to endeavor, but in the end, art will never die as long as we have conscientious individuals like Mr. Fish to challenge the status quo, irrespective of the hardships.
Mr. Fish. 2014. Warning! Graphic Content: Political Cartoons, Comix and the Uncensored Artistic Mind. Kindle Ed., USC Annenberg Press, 2014.
Photo credit: Adobe stock
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