Although I truly admired all of the work displayed and the gallery renovation itself, this is not a post about Wonder or even about the Renwick. It is a post about time. Especially about time spent creating art and its worth.
A few days after the Renwick opening The Washington Post's art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott wrote a review about the exhibit. Overall he was fairly positive, and beside a major complaint about the neon signage he seemed pleased about the renovation. Then there was this passage:
"The quantity of human labor and investment embodied in these large-scale works, so painstakingly built up from small bits and pieces, may leave you wondering: Is this a productive use of time? Artists and craftsmen will bristle at the question. If you have to ask it, you’ve failed to see what’s wonderful about a great painting, or the thousands of hours woven into a rug, or the centuries of community toil embodied in a great European cathedral. But if we live on a dying planet, the question becomes very different. Is there something futile and even decadent in the amount of human energy we invest in trying to fit a representation of nature into a gallery space, while that same world heats up, desiccates and shrivels away before our eyes?"
As an artist who not only work in a time consuming medium, but who also focuses my art on the fragility and preciousness of nature, this paragraph did make me bristle. Although Mr. Kennicott obviously anticipateed my reaction, he still decided that this was a point valid enough to bring up in his review.
He is implying that if you are an environmentalist, your time would be better spent actively working on behalf of the environment, assumingly through political activism, engagement in environmental organizations, and hands on work such as river clean-ups and making environmentally sounds choices in our daily life. And he is right. But what I object to is the assumption that this only pertains to artists, and in particular artists who's work relates to nature. Would the world not be a better place if we all devoted more time towards pressing issues like climate change, regardless of our occupation?