Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MODERN VS CLASSICAL ART - Serrano or Sargent?

Taking a couple of minutes here because of the recent news story of Serrano's "Piss Christ" piece being attacked, slashed, possibly destroyed last week. I'm hardly crying over this event, but I do find the discussion interesting. I came across a great article on the subject at American Thinker

Reading the comments section of the article I found a few gems. One of them is as follows:
"Let's see these "brave artists" put an image of Mohammed in a jar of urine and see what happens. Christ taught to turn the other cheek and in the broad sense, that's what Christians have done with the Serranos of the world. But Christ also tore up the merchant's stands in the temple (around the time we're celebrating right now in fact) in a rage when he saw what they were doing to the great temple, the house of God/G-d. The Catholics in France took that as an example when this vulgar joke Serrano calls "art" was finally destroyed. I don't condone destroying private property but enough's enough. Come on Mr Seranno..make a really brave statement...put Mohammed in a jar of urine."

Let me say, right here, that I agree that Seranno's "Piss Christ" is not art. It is a religious and political statement denigrating Christianity..or at least Christians. I think he has the right to say what he thinks, but I don't believe it is what I would call art. Even if you do call it "art," it is so offensive that using Christians' tax dollars to pay for its display and a slap in the face of honest brokerage of art.

Another I especially like is here:
"I don't believe art is defined by beauty per se. I think art is craft performed so well that it evokes emotion by its presentation regardless of the subject being presented. That might be beauty presented so perfectly that it gives you pleasure. It could be ugliness presented so starkly that it makes you wretch. It could be treachery presented so forcefully that it makes you angry. It could be tragedy presented so mournfully that it makes you cry. But the art is in the presentation not the subject. It is the quality of the craft not the nature of the subject that makes it art. That is where the slip occurs. The Piss Christ and other modern abominations and obscenity evoke emotion by audacity and insult not by craft."

Is art craft? I think you could argue it is, however not in the mundane usual definition of the word craft. It is craft taken to a higher level. I very much like what the gentleman above says on that subject.

And a thoughtful view here:
"People don't fight over chocolate versus vanilla ice cream precisely because they can choose either or neither in a free society. Suppose a financial crisis allows Congress to slip into the resulting recovery package a rule that henceforth only one flavor of ice cream will be sold and determined by Congress. Imagine the lobby dollars spent to sway the decision. Imagine the fights that would break out between advocates for one flavor against those supporting another. In a collectivist society everything is political even the flavor of ice cream produced. We recently brought medical services into this morass. Ice cream won't be far behind. Now, I think someone should be free to produce offensive art and try to make a living selling it in a free society. Once we decide to collectively fund it, the choice of what to fund becomes political and the choices made are those with current political power instead of free individuals."
The author added this:
"There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong." -- James Madison

I've had house painters at my house for a week (four experimental colors before the exact color was achieved) and too many distractions to describe. House maintenance projects are piling up. The powder room is in progress with wallpaper and paint that yours truly is supposed to apply. It's spring so the garden needs me. The dog is covered in pollen each time he visits the yard and brings it all back into the house. I also have some family obligations, a trip to the coast coming up, and a new grandchild to visit in May. Hence, my little gnome painting is sitting still without paint at the moment. But I will get to it as soon as I can.

Meanwhile, the discussion above is something with which artists sometimes grapple. Is it art? Is it a political statement? Is it a fad? Is it a classical theme? Is what we do really art? Are we half-heartedly perfecting a mediocre attempt at a craft? Or are we reaching for that higher level where craft meets art? Is public money the attainment of that higher level? Or is public money corrupting the process of artists? I think the latter. The artist who strives to get grants based on politically correct art is corrupting himself or herself for the sake of what? Collectivism? Using some other person's labor and money to support their own personal decision to become an artist? Strange and opposite bedfellows if you ask me. Is modern art the antithesis of classical art? What does modern art say about our culture? Is there a benchmark for distinction regarding art? Can you honestly say that current art critics and the NEA have promoted excellence in artistic achievement over the last several decades? I think the standards need raising and the NEA needs to be abolished. Just my opinion.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reading Gnome WIP

"The Reading Gnome" WIP Pre-lim Sketch
Oil on linen panel

Here is the beginning sketch of "The Reading Gnome." I know it looks really dirty in this real life it is not. This picture is much darker than the actual sketch..I darkened it in photoshop so it would show up better here. The sketch itself is 50% lighter at least. I try to get enough of a visual with the sketch, but not so much graphite pencil that the graphite will interfere with the paint. In fact, I will probably erase some of it as I dive in with paint and brushes.

About the subject: I can't help it. Gnomes make me laugh. I like the Roaming Gnome commercials. I have a friend who has two, rather large, garden gnomes. Recently I watched a great French movie called Amelie which had a gnome in the plot. (It's a great movie by the way. It came out maybe four or five years ago. I ordered it from Netflix. I liked it so much that I think I may buy it so I can watch it over again a few times.) So one day I came across this photograph of a reading gnome. It's someone else's photograph and I don't know whose it is. Otherwise I would give credit to the photographer for this gnome painting I am about to do. There are lots of gnomes out there with different themes, gardening gnomes, policeman gnomes, sunbathing gnomes, beach themed gnomes, and the like. This one is an older, possibly antique gnome figure. I just love the idea of a reading gnome...maybe because I love reading and do so much of it. Frankly, I just thought he was really cute.

As I think about this painting, I've been thinking of my grandchildren. (duh...I think about them often anyway.) They are happily being home-schooled by a brilliant mother and father. So a "reading gnome." when I think of it, seems like a mascot for their school room...a study buddy, so to speak. Any child's room or over their desk would be a good place to place this fellow. I just hope he turns out the way I want him. We'll see..

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 01, 2011


Oil on Linen Panel

Click on image to enlarge the view.

So Hobson is finished and I am hoping my friend and collector, Bonnie, will like this rendition of him. I may have explained before that Hobson is no longer with us, so this painting was done from older photos taken of him. The photos cut off one of his paws, so I had to be really creative and pretend I knew what his left paw looked like. He is so cute...and I'm glad to have preserved him for my "Bonnie" friend!