Stephen Hodder's Words of Wisdom
This statement is to accompanied the glass plate,” Four Forces",
in the exhibition titled, "The End is Near: Artists Look at the 20th
Century", and was displayed beside the piece throughout the run
of the exhibition.
As the 20th century comes to an end I am looking at the progress of the last fifth of that century. That progress has been the decay and decline of our culture. We are separating ourselves into distinct socio/economic groupings. Our freedoms once guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are being slowly eroded away in the name of law and order and the "War on Drugs". We hear a lot about morality but if a new morality is being developed it is one, which seems to be bringing us a cop in every bedroom and a hungry kid on every corner. The overriding ethics that we live by are that it is glorious to be rich at any cost and that if something exists which can be used to cause you to have any kind of personal gain or advantage, ethical, legal or not, and you don't use it, you are a sucker.
Every culture has an ascendant period, a golden age and a decline and fall. I am not a historian and I can't accurately date those periods but I am sure that by 1980 we were over the top and on the way down. So what do you do? You can't change history or stop it from moving forward and where you occur in the time line is something over which you have no control. You do however have choices. Each period of history is typified by a set of ethics or acceptable behaviors, which a majority of members of the culture engage in. The fact that a majority adheres to these standards is what establishes them as the acceptable standards. You don't have to be part of that majority. There are human values of right and wrong that is universal to the human existence.
This is what my piece, "Four Forces" is about. The symbols in my work are abstract constructs intended to represent fairly specific ideas. This process involves moving the meaning of an image one or more steps away from its traditional meaning. In my piece the person is I or you or anyone. The three rectangular pictures represent the holy Trinity. For me this represents the spiritual life. I could just have well used a symbol from any religion. The snake is the Biblical snake but he has a new job and he is a good guy. He is the bringer of knowledge and to me represents the total body of knowledge that human beings possess. The dog is a Borzoi or Russian wolfhound. It's that dog you always see included in the family portraits of European nobility. In this setting it represents the nobility of the human spirit, which to me is that part of our make up that causes us to do the right thing when indeed we choose to do so. The eagle is the eagle on top of that American flag in your elementary school classroom and represents the force that says to us: "Get out there and level that forest, build that highway and sink that mine, make yourself rich at any cost to your self, the rest of us or the planet, it's the American thing to do".
These four images represent the four forces I refer to in my title and to which we are all subjected in the process of developing the values and ethics that we not only expose but also live by. The ethics of the state, many of our institutions and a large part of our citizenry in late 20th century leave a great deal to be desired and are leading to the sharpest divisions of class that I have ever known in my life time. If you subscribe to these ethics they will set you free to put greed and self-interest in front of all other values. They may also cost you a great deal of your humanity. The nobility of the human spirit exists in every human being that has ever lived. At any point in history we can look inside ourselves and find the values it demands. Doing what is right is often the harder of two roads to take but is always the best choice. The choices we make about our values will determine what sort of culture we have to live in and leave to our children.
Welcome to the 21st Century