New poetry collection examines art in a new light

William Christian Stephens

wcstephens@radford.edu

Can art be the root of perilous activity? Imagine a culture that outlaws all art, classifying it as a hazard to society.  The issue of cutting art for budget seems to constantly arise in the public school forum. Confronting the Danger of Art is a collection of poems confronting the theory that Greek philosopher Plato develops, in which he states that “pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our state.”  Plato felt that art was too dangerous to be allowed in the ideal state. Author Ian McLachlan and artist Phil Cooper put together a series of poetry to illustrate a world that considers just that theory; a kind of society that agrees with such statute and those who act in such illegal affair shall be prosecuted.

The booklet begins with an introduction warning its audience to read with caution, for the booklet addresses the danger and how to protect one’s family. The book is separated in to three sections. The first section, Threat Assessment addresses how art is an endangerment in a satire format.  In the poem “The Trick,” McLachlan states that writers love to twist a plot to deceive their audience, which is just what he is doing through the book to convey Plato’s theory.

The second section, Health and Safety evaluates how to handle exposure to art. This section of the booklet evokes the reader’s mind by inquiring just what art is. One might classify birds chirping in the morning as the muse to a musician’s symphony. The third section, Criminal Detection in a way, puts an image to who an artist might be.

In his poem “Collective Recognition,” McLachlan list many positions of artist such as an actor, sculptor, painter, and screenwriter. However, in his next poem “Self Examination” he challenges his audience by questioning how they see the world. He arouses the thought that art can be found in anyone by any shape or form.

Phil Cooper’s illustrations resemble an admixture of expressionism and popular art.  His simplistic comic strip style evokes suggestive moods in each panel. Cooper does a great job of limiting the color range to three tertiary colors, using a color harmony to help maintain the overall unity between each section.

Ian McLachlan’s Confronting the Danger of Art creates a new perspective on society’s acceptance of art. The question of what is art and how can it effect a culture is left to the audience to determine. As an artist, I find this booklet a reminder that art has no limitations.

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