Archives for the month of: March, 2016
Naturae 24%22 x 30%22 2016

Naturae 24″ x 30″ oil on canvas 2016

 

If men are going to persist on going to war we should insist on the return of pageantry. Let’s make all stealth airplanes brightly colored and outfit camouflage tanks with multicolored banners and flags. Let’s make military uniforms valuable not for durability but how much drapery and bright shiny baubles they have. Let’s blow horns and ring bells and bring back drummer boys. Let’s have a war where the best costumes win.

The Medieval’s did this. They valued proportion, light, color, and decoration because they valued the deeper significance of ordinary things. They wanted their lives to have a significance which they could call up at anytime. Umberto Eco wrote that the Medievals had a “prolongation of the mythopoeic dimension of the Classical period” a revival “caused by a new sense of the supernatural.”  They wore majestic clothing because they believed it had significance.  They had particular theories of music and art because they believed having those ideas reached into a world beyond their own. For them what they did, or wore, or made, was poetic.

Today many of us look back on those people as being primitive. We think of them as superstitiously, as being unable to differentiate fact from myth. The historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford went so far as to call them neurotic.  Well guess what, you can’t have a life of meaningful significance if you think myth and poetry is neurosis.

Medieval thinkers were obsessed with having everything fit together in a type of aesthetic/religious/metaphysical concordance. They wanted what their thoughts to be reflected in the natural world. They wanted ideas and reality to be connected. They wanted truth and beauty to be interconnected or as Eco wrote, “truth was the disposition of form in the relation to the internal character of a thing; beauty was the disposition of the form in relationship to it’s external character.”

Art, poetry, music, can bring significance into our lives. It is a type of visual pageantry with a purpose. A philosophy ripe with ideas and thinking that can make our lives momentous. That doesn’t sound neurotic to me.

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(detail) Richard Kooyman oil on canvas

 

 

 

“We are no longer all in the same story and we are rapidly losing the will to imagine it.” David Levi Strauss

It is March 2016 and the country is wrapped in the politics of a presidential election.  We all seem to be searching for what is the truth or who is telling the truth, and yet it seems everyday we get farther away from it.

I forgot who it was that said “once upon a time the world was more nomadic, art was small”.  The country seems very big right now.

The actress Helen Hayes was said to travel with a small painting by Watteau so she could always have something beautiful to look at. There seems to be some type of truth in that.  The Greeks placed reason and science over experience in terms of truth. But then again they thought of Art as something different than we do today.  Anyone can have an experience, their own opinion, their own idea who they want to be president, or their own definition of what art is. That doesn’t make it true.

The art writer and visual historian James Elkins said “eyesight is not a rational activity.”  85% of our visual information comes from our brain. If that’s true then people spend most of their time  just making stuff up in their heads, thinking it is real. Maybe artists are just able to go with the flow easier.

“The Idea is, in short, Art and a work of Art. As a work of Art it directly liberates subsequent actions and makes it more fruitful in a creation of more meanings and more perceptions”,wrote John Dewey.  He believed that “Imagination is the only gateway through which these meanings can find their way into a present interaction…..the conscious adjustment of the new and the old is imagination.”

That is what we need during this election; the ability to consciously adjust the new and the old.  Either that or we need to get better at making it all up.