28 June 2010
Interview with Stan Badgett
This is the fourteenth interview in the “Where are we now?” series. Please take a look at the INTRODUCTION AND INDEX to this series and leave your thoughts in the comment box at the end of this posting.
Interview with Stan Badgett
May 12, 2010
This interview is a nice break from the usual question-and-answer format. Instead, Stan took his answers to the questions and wove them into a smooth, reflective essay-style answer. Enjoy!
I’m a muralist working in alkyd enamels and have several murals in the Aspen area. I taught at a Christian school for a dozen years—everything from Bible to art, history, literature, and outdoor survival. Currently I teach English composition at Colorado Mountain College as well as a weekly art class for home school children. I have a BA in Fine Arts and an MA in Language and Communication from Regis University.
I’ve just completed a memoir about growing up in the West and working in the coal mines. My essays and poems have been published in various literary journals. I’m interested in forms and the breaking of forms—I take a playful attitude toward the creative process. At the moment prose poetry intrigues me—the accrual of lines without line breaks—creating a surreal narrative with its own rules and logic. Maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life writing a long prose poem and making prints to illustrate it. I’m fascinated by the interaction of visual images and text.
When it comes to influences, I’m not that picky. A Milky Way of poets, essayists, memoirists, artists, musicians, philosophers, and critics have saturated my psyche, and they’re now so blended that no one school predominates. If anything, I favor improvisation, which isn’t a school, but propels art forward from one horizon to the next. I really dig Gerry Mulligan’s saxophone playing, where every line is unpredictable, and the quirkiness of Marianne Moore’s poetry.
I’d characterize our culture by saying that it is loud, monotonous, and rude. Fornication is its chief cornerstone. It is deeply suspicious of reason. Everyone is expected to march in lockstep to its rhythm. For all our vaunted eclecticism, the cumulative effect of much of the arts is a dreary uniformity. We have no use for truth. We believe in the growl more than the veracity. Humdrum. Cursing for its own sake—as if it had intrinsic value. The movie theater experience is often clunky, grotesque, exaggerated, insipid. Howbeit, moments of loveliness emerge like lily pads on a scummy pond. When you least expect it, something beautiful floats to the surface, like a scintillating still life by Janet Fish, or a stunningly cerebral super-realist painting by Richard Estes. A real positive feature of current culture is the impulse toward democratization of communications media: people producing their own blogs, graphic art, books, and movies without the stifling interference of elite gatekeepers.
As to how we Christians fit in, I like what Jerzy Popieluszko said: “A Christian must be a sign of contradiction in the world.” On that note, Athanasius is one of my heroes, along with other stalwart resistors such as Martin Luther and Frederick Douglass. I’m partial to Ezra Pound who was at war with the world, and find myself becoming more and more absorbed by John Milton, who took the traditional forms of his day and turned them to radically different use, like Benaiah, the mighty man of David, who plucked the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and slew him with it. My artistic heroes are those who, at great personal cost have resisted tyranny, such as Irina Ratushinskaya, a Christian poet who served time in a Soviet prison camp for the sake of her Savior and her art.
It’s hard to tell where we’re going. But human nature being what it is, it doesn’t seem likely that we will either transcend ourselves or become something less than human. Of course, we’re always dreaming of some kind of paradigmatic triumph—for example, sloughing off the need for war—but we’re doomed to disappointment. Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, we can’t shed our natural skin. On the other hand, since we are made in the image of God, something restless in us will impel us toward beauty, truth, and justice, and thus to artistic expressions that are worthwhile.