The Power of Art: Can Creativity Conquer the Cyclops of Our Time? (Part 1)

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For many years, I regularly traveled to Ukraine and Greece in one trip. Each time, I would land in Budapest and spend a few days acclimating and enjoying a lively city rich in architecture and history.

Whenever I crossed the border into Ukraine, I immediately felt the oppression on the other side. Everything turned a bit grey and heavy.

Working with artists in the country, I could feel their true cry for freedom and thirst for an expression of creativity. Even exposing them to new materials and techniques opened the thick walls of control that held their creative power in check. These artists' burdens began to lift when they heard of the possibility of selling their art outside their own country.

With each workshop, I witnessed the transformation. These students were stagnating in a stale rut of emulation of traditional artists from their past. Now, exposed to a fresh wind of change, they opened to the concept that they could create something brand new and challenge the rules they were taught.

I could see their hunger for it. They watched me completely engaged, and whatever I demonstrated, they were eager to try. I could almost feel their hearts beating faster and their spirits leaping inside of them as they witnessed what could be done with paint. In these workshops with me, they could momentarily come out of their cage, stretch their arms, and feel the weightlessness of disappearing boundaries.

The Ukrainian system of universities, curators, and funding for the arts within their country is still as oppressive as ever. Ukrainian artists must sell to outside markets and bypass the gatekeepers. Their hope lies in taking advantage of social media, building personal brands, and connecting with supportive patrons, galleries, art shows, and art fairs beyond their borders in Europe and the U.S.

 A Land of Life and Color

When I left Ukraine and arrived in Greece, I immediately felt the heaviness lift. I could see creativity everywhere. 

The shop windows were decorated with uniqueness and attention to detail. Many walls within the city were filled with colorful murals. The restaurants featured innovative dishes and concepts that made dining an experience. Music filled the streets as musicians set up in nearly every corner.

There was life and joy and abundance throughout the noisy, packed city. Art galleries were plentiful, and the artwork diverse and unique. Jewelry design also dominated the window shops, and "handmade" was a valued and cherished concept.

A Different Kind of Prison

I also went to the universities in Greece, where I witnessed a whole new form of artistic oppression. Unlike Ukraine, where personal expression was forbidden outside the confines of their tradition, Greek university students were celebrated the more outrageous and extreme their individual expression became. This became a new and different prison.

Walking up to the art building, I was startled to see a life-sized human "doll" shoved inside a hole in the sidewalk covered by a metal grate he was clutching with an expression of anguish.

I looked up to see a mural of a Cyclops holding hundreds of crying babies, which he was eating. The mural was graphic and horribly disturbing. As I walked inside the building, I saw dirty art studios with few artists working. I saw a giant eight-foot-tall painting of a vagina with garbage collaged into it. I felt sick and disturbed, and I didn't want to look at anything.

I felt no wonder or awe, and there was no beauty in sight to enchant me. I wanted to keep my head down, stare at the floor, and seek safety.

Betraying Beauty to Serve the Cyclops

In the workshops, the students were sitting, barely paying attention. Some rolled their eyes, and I could feel their giant oppressive egos admonishing me for my silly attempts to share my knowledge of marketing art.

They told me, "We create art not to sell to capitalists or help housewives decorate; we create art for the sake of art. We know we will not sell anything, and we don't care."

It was enlightening. These artists didn't want what I brought to them. They were held captive by the deep, dark pit of their ego and the self-serving cause of glorifying the Cyclops of culture. They didn't know that they were the babies he was eating.

They represented what was new, what was possible, what the future could be if they just turned their heart towards Beauty. If they could see that their art was a service for hope and their purpose was to inspire, their chains would begin to fall.

But they couldn't see past their indulgence to condemn an oppressive system they helped build or work beyond their selfish desire to shock and irritate. They were creative toddlers, believing that somehow painting a giant vagina had never been done before. They didn't know that they were the stuffed doll inside the hole in the sidewalk, and their arrogant indifference to Beauty is what held them captive.

Lifeless art for art's sake thrives in the universities in Greece, while true creative expression prospers in the free market streets in their cities.

 Life, Liberty, and Creative Expression

Art is powerful, and history has shown us that it is greatly feared by monsters and tyrants. Whenever oppressive powers lift their sword, their first strike is to destroy or remove art from the culture.

If you analyze Nazi Germany, the Soviets, the Romans, the Ottomans, or any other conquering nation, they all had one tactic in common when setting out to take control of other nations: they arrested or killed the artists, confiscated the art, torched paintings, burned books and libraries, smashed sculptures—they killed and buried all evidence of culture.

They forbade liberated creation, enslaved the remaining painters and sculptors to only craft their portraits, filmmakers to produce their propaganda, all with the threat of death looming over them. These imposing nations all understood that with liberated art, the people could not be controlled. 

They knew that if they wanted to control culture, they had to control the art.

When I travel, I can see how free the people are by how abundant the art is. Creativity abounds in an atmosphere of freedom. And freedom abounds in a culture of creativity.

We can never forsake the power of creating something brand new that didn't exist moments ago, be it with a page of notes, a handful of pigments on a cloth, a blob of clay, the poetry of words strung together forming a new thought, or the rendition of a story. These are the battlements and fortifications of our freedom. Without art, our liberty dies!

Art Patrons: The Unsung Heroes of Culture

We are at war! The oppressors have come to destroy our freedoms—to steal our land and render our investments and work worthless. The elitist tyrants try to imprison the arts in corporate labels, galleries that exalt a man's urinal, garbage from the streets, and menstrual rags as some form of highly esoteric art. They cherry-pick their art darlings from the university buildings that are named after them.

They attempt to topple the arts with an agenda to erase beauty, esteeming grotesque manifestations and epic horror as the new standard. They try to convince us that beautiful art is dead.

But culture has shifted, and not in the direction these elitists had in mind. The people have woken up.

There are people who watch the YouTube video and read the blog. They listen to private-label music on Spotify and go to the concert when their favorite musician comes to their town. They pay the subscription fees to watch the independent films. They read the books published by the author that cost $5 more. They follow and genuinely share content from the brands they resonate with. They buy gifts that were handmade and wear clothes that were designed by an artist. They buy jewelry from artisans and coffee from a small roaster whose life's passion is the chemistry of a coffee bean.

It's the art patrons who will win this war.

You are the hero.

Artists are designed to create and are passionate about what they do. The patrons are the ones who allow it to prosper, to take hold and grow roots for the future. With every purchase, you establish Beauty in her rightful place.

The independent labels, self-representing artists and self-publishers have set us free. Now, your support of creative work becomes our Declaration of Independence.

Together, we claim freedom, and together, we will triumph.

Share your story in the comments!


4 comments


  • Pat Ligon

    Hi Ellie, you have such a way with words and stories related to your travels. Some of this fills me with sadness for the people in such difficult situations, then I love the positive comments from your fans. I agree with the comments on your article. I also am loving the Mastery program with the help of my fabulous mentor, Briana! So supportive. Made me think of Esther and what she has overcome to achieve so many accomplishments. Thanks for a great program and setting up a wonderful supportive community!
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you Pat!!! So nice to hear from you! Going to Rhodes next. I’ll be thinking of you. 😊


  • Ro Calderoni

    Wow Ellie! This post is so interesting and I agree 100% with you! The idea of idealizing grotesque art as superior to beautiful art is so baffled…I’m so glad I joined the Masteeynprogram and I’m able
    To learn from such inspiring voices that seek beauty like You, Dimitra, John and Jake is so valuable for me :Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your knowledge with us “artists in the making” ;)
    Ro
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Hi Ro! Thank you! I’m so glad you are in the mastery program and feeling inspired with like hearted people!


  • Laura N.

    This is so touching! Thank you for writing this, Elli. What a hopeful reminder to everyone – artist or not.
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thank you! Yes! For everyone!


  • Nicole Camilleri

    How refreshing to read such an intrinsic view of the role of the artist. I read and listen to Elli’s wisdom and words with great enthusiasm each time! May we artists all commit to art for beauty’s sake! Much love to you, Elli! I pray to meet you one day as you are one of my greatest inspirations and a true Master.
    ———
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Wow! Nicole thank you so much!! We are making it happen together! 💪🏽


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