Monday, June 8, 2009

Art I Love

*Disclaimer: I am an Art Education minor and discussing art is one of my passions…this is a long post.

On the Spanish Steps in Rome

I have concluded art is very personal.

To explain why, let me share a diagram my friend, Steven, drew.
Steven’s theory suggests true meaning in art is found when:

1. The artist is inspired.

I believe all talent comes from God, when one uses it to better the world, it becomes inspired art.

For example: The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel.

I learned some really interesting things about the Sistine Chapel while I was in Rome. Hang with me on a few key points; it all comes together in the end.
  • Although this panel is commonly called The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo never actually gave it a title.
  • Adam is obviously already physically created.
  • The red cloud surrounding God alludes to a brain cut into hemispheres.
  • So, one can conclude that perhaps this is not the creation of Adam, but instead the moment when God gave Adam His glory: intelligence. D&C 93:36-37.
  • The figures surrounding God all possess cherub-like qualities. Except one. Cradled in God’s arm is a woman whose eyes are fixed on Adam. The figure is presumably Eve, who already has a form, showing Michelangelo believed in a pre-Earth life.

You can’t tell me that isn’t inspired.

2. The viewer has an understanding of the subject, symbols or artist.

There were thousands of pieces of great art that I walked past without a second glance because I had no knowledge of it, the artist, or the symbols within.

For example, if someone were to see this painting without knowing anything about the story they might only see a gruesome painting.

Judith Beheading Holofernes-Artemisia Gentileschi 1614

If, however, you know that this is Judith, the widow who saved the Jewish army by gaining confidences of, seducing, then beheading Holofernes, the captain of the opposing army, and placing his head on a spike around the Jewish defenses, well then you might come to love her like I do.
Judith-August Riedel 1840

3. Personal impressions and meaning come when one and two are combined.

In Florence I was looking at Ghiberti’s baptistery doors. They are 10 brass panels depicting stories from the Bible. A guard raised the bars in front of the panels, as they do every night, through the slightly ajar doors I was able to catch a this glimpse:

My jaw literally dropped. I didn't know ceilings or mosaics could look like that.

The next day Steven and I excluded ourselves from the group and went inside the Baptistery to get a better look at the mosaics we had seen a sliver of the day before. At first we were overtaken by the sheer beauty and awe of an entire domed ceiling covered in mosaics. We gorged ourselves on the aesthetics. Soon our knowledge of the Bible and the stories depicted on the ceiling surfaced and we began picking out the stories by their symbols. The eleven sheaves of wheat bowing to the one: Joseph. A man in fur pointing to Christ and later depicted with his head on a platter: John the Baptist. An open tomb: The Resurrection. The quiet baptistery and our previous mental preparation helped Steven and me to have a great discussion on the Gospel, Christ, and our own lives. The art was clearly inspired, we were knowledgeable, and therefore we could find great personal meaning there.

Journal entry of April 30th : “I’m discovering I am a very personal person. I always look for the signature on a painting first. I like searching for it and seeing how it fits that particular artist and knowing they thought about and created that signature – to make it personal. I love that.”

Van Goghs Signature

In London two pieces of art really stuck with me.

The first was this:
This cartoon (outline) by da Vinci is called Madonna and Child with Saint Anne and John. I would leave the room only to find myself coming back to stare again.

The second was this:
It’s called The Grotesque Old Woman by Quinten Massys. It satirizes women who idolize their youth. My teacher, Brother Geddes, leaned in close, smiled his wrinkly-eye smile and said, “You know, beauty isn’t a gift. It’s something you earn. Eventually you’ll lose your pretty, but if you earn it, you’ll exchange it for beauty.” You tell ‘em Brother G.

In Paris I fell in love with Van Gogh, the Impressionists, and the Post-Impressionists all over again.
Van Gogh, you started out as my favorite, but I forgot about it. Your self-portrait reminded me. Your eyes are the best part, I like the red outlining them. I made the alarm go off because I got too close to your painting.

In Paris I also stumbled across this painting:
I had seen prints of it before and loved it because it tells the story of this scripture: John 20:1-8.
John the Beloved is one of my favorite apostles because of his confidence and the healthy level of competition he brings. This picture says “Hope” and “Love” to me and I cried when I turned a corner and saw it. To me, that was the only painting in the room.

In Europe I had a designated “dirty” hand and a designated “art” hand. The dirty hand grabbed metro poles, opened doors, and touched hand rails. The art hand…you guess it, illegally touched art. Bernini’s David and Rape of Persephone were two of the lucky many. The smooth marble and absence of guards was just too tempting. It felt good.

I have seen this statue a thousand times in class and I spent plenty of time at the Bourghese Museum looking at it, circling it, studying it, but the only thing I can tell you about it’s appearance is the look on David’s face. It was impossible to be in the room with this statue and not try and mimic his face, his concentration, and consider his devotion.

The detail in The Rape of Persephone is so physical. I can feel her thigh bruising.

During the baroque period when Bernini lived, the word “rape” meant “abduct.” This is the story of Hades, the god of the Underworld, taking Persephone down to live with him and be the goddess of the Underworld. The ancient Greeks believed that we have seasons because Persephone’s mother, Cera, the goddess of grain, mourns and puts a famine on the land six months out of the year (fall and winter) when Persephone is in the Underworld. Persephone can visit Earth for the other six months. Cera celebrates by allowing crops to grow, giving origin of the world “cereal”.

I’ve already explained why I love Michelangelo’s David, but wanted to share one more thing. I was eavesdropping on three students from a different school talking about David when one of them said, “Good art allows you to see bits of yourself in it.”
Journal entry of May 9: Today in David I was able to see myself and catch glimpses of my potential. That is what art is about.

Journal entry of May 9: In stark comparison to Michelangelo’s polished and perfected David are his rough and unfinished Prisoners. The sign next to The Prisoners reads: “[The Prisoners] depict allegories of the Soul imprisoned in the Flesh.” This has profound meaning to me. I am glad Michelangelo never got to finish The Prisoners. I like seeing the struggle of the figures emerging from the stone. To see a figure fighting and pushing through is something I find inspirational. Couldn’t the body be the rough block of stone and the soul the emerging, and undoubtedly perfect, form within? It is such a beautiful, physical manifestation of the potentially perfect soul's desire to escape the natural man and its weaknesses and imperfections. Isn’t that what life is about?

Some other pieces of art that I loved:

The Poor Poet by Carl Spitzweg:

It just makes me laugh. From his upside-down glasses, to the leaking roof, to burning his manuscripts for heat.

Mona Lisa by da Vinci:
A lot of people are disappointed with Mona Lisa, but I had really low expectations and consequently was pleasantly surprised.

The Winged Victory:
Once at the helm of a ship, Nike’s (the goddess of victory) wet and windblown clothing was phenomenal.

Hopefully you can see why I love art so much.


Neighbor Jane Payne said...

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this post. You make art come alive. I'm even learning to appreciate (and recognize) pictures of Judith a little now that you tell me there is some courage painted in there instead of just carnage!

Inside the baptistry is incredible. Somehow I had it pictured as tile mosaics...baptism + wet = tile, I guess. I'm so glad you were able to see behind the doors so you knew to go back and look inside.

I love how you can see the beauty in all of these pieces and I'm so grateful you patiently point it out to me. Your trip has definitely expanded my horizons. Thank you.

Thanks for such an incredible post. I love you. Mom

Anonymous said...

ande........i admire your love for is so insightful to our family..........thank dad

Cassidy said...

This was great. Thanks for sharing. I'm so clueless, so reading this was very helpful and appreciative.

Cali said...

Oh Ande,

THAT WAS INCREDIBLE. That needed to be 20x longer. I find art SO fascinating (even when i don't know the background) and having you give the background... INCREDIBLE. I love you. I so appreciate your perspective. We shall go there (this time with me) and we will stare at beautiful art, and we will LOVE it.

hennchix said...

Oh Ande,
Thank you so much for this post! I love art, but I don't understand it, so I don't know why I love to look at it. Your explanations really helped me understand, and now I appreciate it a lot more. You rock sistuh!!

Becka said...

wow.. that's really all I can say. I love art, but as your mom said, you make it come alive! Thank you so much for that post. I can't wait to hear more about it later.

Renny said...

I love that you're always so supportive of me and my endeavors :)
I also love how deeply you think about art, what a beautiful experience this must have been for you! I'm glad you got to go, and I'm glad I get to experience Europe through your perspective.
I'm enjoying "These is My Words," so far. What a quality piece of literature.

Rebecca said...

My favorite insights I gleaned from your blog were from "The Prisoners" and the so-called "Creation of Adam". And ya know what I'm going to do next time I look at a painting, find the signature first and find myself in it!

Oliver said...

I can't believe you did all that. It made my day better to read it.