I apologize up front for all the links, but loading them into the article would have taken forever to load, and this just needs way to many examples to carry out the mandate of this week's Take This Tune - Vincent
To my mind art should rattle the cages. It should extend the boundaries and throw platitudes in the nearest dumpster. Not because the boundaries and platitudes are wrong, but because if not challenged there is no thinking or growth. Brains and feelings just like muscles need to be exercised and strengthened. Fail to do so and you might as well curl up in the status quo to shrivel away.
Certainly there are pretty pictures, pleasant to see that appeal to me. Jack Vettriano has a lovely one called "Dance Me To The End of Love", that I just love, but I am more intrigued by his paintings that show the more intricate forms of relationships: Vettriano You can have the shiny cottages of Thomas Kincaid. Give me Van Gogh raging at his encroaching madness above or Picasso slashing a canvas with the screaming bulls of Guernica.
For Poetry, it's Auden's "Shield of Achilles" to put a blinding light on the illusion versus the reality that comes in the clash of patriotic ideals against the tragedy and destruction of war. With music bring on The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.
If you want to fight racism, don't look the other way in hopes things will change, growl out "Strange Fruit"
If you are Mark Twain detesting the jingoism of the encroaching Spanish American conflict, then write the War Prayer
O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it --
In some respect every one of the artists above has or had situations in their own lives that made them sensitive to their surroundings more than their more comfortable contemporaries. This may be at the heart of all real charity and change. Stop being comfortable long enough to see what is wrong so that maybe you can help fix it. Thank goodness for the sometimes tortured artists who help us do just that.