Get Art-a Here

As any half-assed ascetic can tell you, there's nothing in life that must be done. You do not have to eat. Or sleep. Or even breathe. If you allow yourself to suffer because you lack food or sleep or air, it is only because you desire to live in the temporal world. And life (or death, really) would be just that simple if you didn't have a soul. The body is the soul's servant, nothing more. As Alfred North Whitehead put it in 1933, "The human body is an instrument for the production of art in the life of the human soul." To sum up, then: Art is good.

Annamaria Windisch-Graetz and her cohorts at the One Ear Society (named in homage to Vincent van Gogh, the bridger of Postimpressionism and Expressionism who killed himself at age 37) decline to blame temporal distractions and subjugation of the soul for the lack of reverence toward art today. Windisch-Graetz is more down with William P. Kinsella's famous expression of faith: "If you build it, he will come." Get the art out there.

"The reason we need art is because it feeds the soul," Windisch-Graetz explains. "One Ear is bringing art to different areas that do not have visual-arts venues." Although One Ear is self-supported, nonprofit, grassroots, it nonetheless has made leaps this summer in exposing creations to the masses. (The group, which has about 60 members, was formed less than a year ago by a handful of the numerous artists living and working in Coconut Grove and environs.)

The onslaught began in June when CocoWalk agreed to hang works by One Ear artists in a number of its stores and restaurants. Those pieces were judged by Annette Rawlings, a veteran artist/curator/critic who has lived in the Grove since 1959. "Back in the Fifties there were no galleries here," she recounts, "just the Grove House, which was a co-op where artists would gather. Also, the artists would get together on street corners to show their work, and no one complained. There was no one to complain."

What got lost in the subsequent obliteration of the hippie-village Zeitgeist was the opportunity for artists to develop and emerge. That's important, Rawlings says, more important than bemoaning the paradox of hanging original art in a monolithic modern mall. "There's no place for the amateurs," she notes. "There's no soil for those seeds, those artists who are trying to grow."

The CocoWalk series peaks during the afternoon of August 22 when One Ear artists will throng the shopping center so visitors can see them at work, meet and talk with them, and perhaps purchase one of their works, which will be modestly priced (as were van Gogh's roundly ignored works before he died). Most galleries and exhibitions price their product out of range of the proletariat. "No one should have to live with a print," Windisch-Graetz opines, "when they can get an original art work that comes from and supports a local artist."

Another Earful of art will be offered Thursday, August 19, during a reception in the lobby of the SunTrust bank downtown. "The galleries are competitive, the outdoor shows are competitive; it's difficult for artists to get into either," says Rawlings. "One Ear is opening things up to broaden art."

The CocoWalk summer series ends August 31. SunTrust will discontinue its lobby exhibitions at the end of the month. Van Gogh is still dead. "In October we're going into the Kendall Medical Center, which is offering a huge auditorium," Windisch-Graetz says of One Ear's postsummer plans. "We're aggressively trying to find space to show this art." The soul never dies.