“I saw that I was in the process of making a choice that would end in defeat. By choosing those qualities that were so alien to my own time, I had to give up at the same time the art on which the art of our time rests. I had to paint in defiance of my own era without the protection of the era's superstructure. Briefly put I would paint myself into isolation.”
These are the words of Odd Nerdrum, a modern artist completely out of step with the modern world. I'm writing about him in a blog devoted to poetry because I consider him to be a kindred spirit, and find myself to be deeply in sympathy with his controversial artistic stances.
Odd Nerdrum paints in the style and with the artistic technique of the Old Masters. This is apparently an unforgivable crime in an “Art World” in which you can splatter some red paint on an old tire, roll it down a hill and call it a work of art. As a result of his perverse devotion to painting actual paintings, Nerdrum was drummed out of art school, forced out of a later position as an art professor (students protested that representational art was “fascistic”!) and generally derided as a crazy old reactionary.
The situation in the world of modern poetry is directly analogous. I once attended a poetry contest where the winning poem was a continuous wordless screech lasting two minutes. That isn't poetry at all, and much of the most influential modern art isn't art by any serious definition of the word.
Real poets will go on writing real poetry, and real painters will go on making real paintings, whether anyone understands what they are doing or not. Odd Nerdrum is now in prison, having received a drastic two-year sentence for tax evasion, but his work is still available through the gallery that represents him. The triumph of pseudo-poetry and pseudo-art can't last forever, and once it's gone it will be quickly forgotten.
Odd Nerdrum will not.