And the “proper” discussion thereof.
One of my old students posted a provocative photo on Facebook from a
“One Million Years BC” promo, shot by Terry O’Neill:
A conversation of sorts ensued,
as much as is possible on Facebook.
Is it blasphemy?
Is it art?
According to one comment,
those of us who questioned this photo as art are “stupid ass people”.
…Ah, ad hominem, you never fail the internets…!
(for the record, I find this photo silly and kinda offensive, since it’s typifying Welch’s character as a type of Christ, which she certainly isn’t in the film.)
Here’s the thing about art–
it’s more than provoking interest,
it’s sustaining it.
It’s not just titillation,
It’s not just mockery,
it’s satire–sharp, incisive, and astringent.
It goes beyond the bounds of a time period,
of a history, of a story–
real art lasts for millenia *because* real art speaks to universal truths.
It’s a difficult balance, more often than not, because I very firmly believe in
freedom of speech, but that includes the person looking at the art in question–
nothing is allowed a vacuum.
I agree with Chaim Potok: “Art should make you sweat.”
On that thought, what about urinals in museums?
It’s up to the museum–but I reserve the right to roll my eyes at the “artist” in question.
Here’s the greater tangle–
should said urinal be taught as art?
Included with Van Gogh, Degas, Pollock, even (God forbid) Vermeer?
I don’t think so.
(part of why I’m so adamant about this is because Duchamp wanted to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation–this degrades the notion of art being work, of the value behind creating something oneself…and also? I think I might blame Duchamp for Thomas Kinkade and his proliferating works of schlock.)
Here, let me try to explain further:
Look at her face,
how Lange captured the agony and uncertainty of job loss and hunger–
it is beautiful and heart-breaking.
My favorite painting, the Mona Lisa of the North, by Vermeer.
Look at the balance, the contrast he uses with the deeply colored background
and her bright clothes–how the pearl reflects the white of her collar,
the mysterious expression in her eyes…I’ve always thought she looked sad.
Picasso used his Cubist styling to draw the viewer’s attention to the horror of the Spanish Civil War–perhaps more vividly than even photos or newreels of gore could manage. The mother in the far left portion makes me catch my breath every time I see this painting.
Here’s the thing:
Art–real art–is touched with the Divine,
a reflection of the Creator Himself,
of the power given to an artist to make something new with his or her own hands.
(This is said with the understanding that Art is a variable–what makes me stand in awe may not have the same effect on someone else. For example, I really dislike the Avant-Garde movement in general, but I can appreciate the design aesthetic and the pure labor behind some of those works.)
But the question comes down to this, really:
What, in a given work, makes it lasting?
What makes it sublime?
Art takes us outside of ourselves.
Statements just start fights.