Tag: art

The ‘Wet Muse’ Series: Scratchboard


I’ve decided to start a series of articles about my art interests that began with the recent post, The Wet Muse.

A class I recently took was “scratchboard.” The name is the entire art — scratching marks on a board to reveal an image. The “board” is a white clay substance adhered to particle board and stained completely with black India ink. The boards come in a variety of sizes and finished art can be mounted in a “floater” frame for display.

Artistic Dispute Calls for a Solomonic Solution


This past week, the Supreme Court in Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts v. Lynn Goldsmith grappled with the difficult relationship between “derivative” and “transformative” uses of a copyrighted work in a high-stakes dispute between two industry heavyweights, each looking to land a knockout blow. The extended judicial dialogue did not reveal a clear winner—nor should it have. In such cases, where both parties contribute to a masterpiece, some division of the spoils is the voice of principled moderation.

In 1984, the noted photographer Lynn Goldsmith granted an “artist’s reference license” to Vanity Fair for the preparation of one rendition of the famed entertainer Prince to appear twice in its November 1984 issue. That license did not specify who that artist would be, and it only allowed the chosen artist to get inspiration from the photograph, not build off it. Vanity Fair picked the famed artist Andy Warhol, a.k.a. “Andy the Appropriator,” who is now best known for his imaginative recreations of photographs of Marilyn Monroe and Campbell’s soup cans. True to form, Warhol used the Goldsmith photograph as direct source and made not one but fifteen silkscreens, each with its own distinctive feature. Two pictures tell the tale:

The Rightful Ownership of Art



Nike of Samothrace

A lively discussion about the rightful ownership of art took place in our last session of Beauty is not Optional: Music and Art, a course I’m currently offering for Memoria College. The topic arises when we consider masterworks of Ancient sculpture that were purchased and transported to unrelated locations, such as the Pergamon Altar (2nd century BC), brought in the 19th century to Berlin from the acropolis in Pergamon, or Nike of Samothrace, the stately winged Greek messenger sculpted c. 190 BC who today occupies a grand position in Paris’ Louvre, rather than the ruins of the temple complex in Samothrace where she originally stood.

This topic leads to another question: what does it mean when significant works of art are purchased for private collections (these days at fantastic prices)? Is it right for them to reside for the foreseeable future far from public view? Or do masterworks of art belong to the world at large, properly housed in public spaces where they can be freely visited?

Little did I realize, enjoying our class discussion, that the next week would put me into a situation where this issue is not theoretical. While beginning a tour for which I’m lecturing in Germany, the organization kicked off our packed schedule with a lovely, surprise reception in a private home in Cologne. Built in Bauhaus style, this home stretches far back from its humble façade. It is open and airy, with a grand, windowed corridor flanked by quadrants of gardens. For the party, a pavilion was erected in the back garden. Tables filled the home and yard, and, mercifully, the threatening rain held off for the duration of the evening.

Group Writing: Build It and Who Cares If They Come or Not


folly, (from French folie, “foolishness”), also called Eyecatcher, in architecture, a costly, generally nonfunctional building that was erected to enhance a natural landscape.

I’m in the building business.  I spend the day in concrete, steel, wood, foundation designs. It’s a means to an end though. The structures serve to educate (schools), manufacture (industrial), entertain (state park work), sell (retail), or praise (churches). Schedules are tight and budgets tighter. Savvy owners want to maximize their dollars and architects want to throw in some flourishes. They program each square foot for efficiency.  There is a very real sense of ‘build it and they will come.’  It’s good work if you can get it.

Ben and Me


Ben, on the right, always seemed to have a cigarette in his hand. So did I, but I never looked as cool as Ben. That’s El Duomo in the background. We were visiting Florence at the time, on leave from our post in Germany, sometime in 1959.

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For the less than one-percent of you nerds out there who follow chess news (I know that at least @richardeaston is a nationally ranked chess expert), the World Championship title was just retained by Magnus Carlsen of Norway in a best of 14-game match, beating Russian challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Don’t ask me how to pronounce […]

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Honoring Norman Rockwell: America’s Painter


“Four Freedoms,” 1943

Norman Rockwell was not a realist. You aren’t supposed to interpret his paintings as depictions of everyday America as it actually was. No one who lived during his lifetime considered America a hunky-dory paradise populated only by upstanding and friendly citizens. The America he painted was one we wanted, the one we strove for, America as promised by our founding ideals. He focused on the best parts of our country. His artwork is aspirational, not delusional; optimistic, not whitewashed.

Byron York is in for Jim Geraghty today.  Byron and Greg cheer Mississippi’s attorney general for telling the Supreme Court there is no constitutional right to an abortion. They also react to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejecting certain Republicans from the January 6th commission by pointing out the radical lefties she has named to the panel. And they have some choice words for the Biden administration after learning that Hunter Biden will be meeting prospective buyers of his ridiculously overpriced art when the transactions are supposed to be anonymous.

Jim and Greg are glad to see Michael Avenatti sentenced to prison for his extortion crimes and discuss how how our political environment turned a fame-seeking lawyer into a left-wing media darling. They also enjoy Terry McAuliffe’s rough week in the Virginia governor’s race and how his ties to President Trump could cool off support on the left. And they throw up their hands as Hunter Biden’s “artwork” goes on sale at ridiculous prices and the Biden administration tries to conceal who buys it.

Holy Thou Art


What does it mean for something to be holy? I think it means that a thing or person directs us to God or expresses His presence. Holiness is connected with pious awe. 

What artistic works seem holy to you? Which are the most peculiarly holy — holy in some unusual and perhaps less obvious sense? Is there some work of sculpture or architecture, painting or music, oration or literature that draws you closer to God in a way your associates don’t fully share? 

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There is not a clear line between them.  Novels are often considered more intellectually challenging than movies. But many readers prefer what I call “junk fiction” which, though respectable, offers thrills and little else. It’s mind candy to be enjoyed and quickly forgotten. Films can similarly offer shallow but pleasing content, of course.  Preview Open

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On the Why of Poetry


A Sierpinski sieve. Thanks to the magic of Ricochet this one is even more fractal than it looks; there’s a sixth level of the pattern hidden in the image resizing.

Last time I wrote about poetry I took a scientist’s view of the matter. This time I’m starting in math. Clearly, I understand what all this poetry stuff is about. Do y’all remember what a fractal is? It’s a pattern that repeats itself all the way down.

Imagine, if you will, that those white triangles are islands in a sea of black. You have a continent in the middle, a couple isles nearby, and more and more islands and islets the further away you get from that central continent. It’s bad water for navigating in because there’s an infinite number of rocks, pebbles, and even smaller navigation hazards poking up out of the surface of the water. Maybe it’s more of a swamp than an ocean. Okay, now zoom in. Let’s say you’re small enough that you live on one of the islands. You can deduce the pattern; you know that just over thataways there’s a bigger island. Is there another, larger one beyond it, or are we looking at the top of the pattern?

A Multi-Level Treasure Hunt


In 1764 Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia started a major war in Europe. It was a culture war. She collected fine art as aggressively as she fought on the battlefield. It spurred Europe’s crowned heads, especially Louis XVI of France and Frederick the Great of Prussia, to compete at obtaining and displaying art, especially fine paintings.

“The Tsarina’s Lost Treasure: Catherine the Great, a Golden Age Masterpiece, and a Legendary Shipwreck,” by Gerald Easter and Mara Vorhees, records a casualty of that culture war Dutch Master paintings purchased at auction for Catherine the Great were sent from Holland to St Petersburg aboard the Dutch merchantman Vrouw Maria. Caught in a storm, the ship sank off the Finnish coast.

The book uses the shipwreck, to frame the story. Among the paintings lost was Gerrit Dou’s triptych The Nursery. Largely forgotten today, Dou was then the most admired Golden Age Dutch Master. (One of Dou’s paintings hung in the Louvre next to the Mona Lisa.) The Nursery was considered Dou’s finest work.

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The cold is biting, even through layers of linen, chirimen, and silk. Vender’s cries fill the air, offering up soba noodles, natto, charred eel, and chazuke, an accent to the everpresent flow of the Sumida River. Down an alley in the artisan’s district, lantern flames illuminate a broad shoji paper door, allowing the tile and […]

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See that painting to the right. A few years back it sold for a little over $110 million. Yes, that childishly blotched and scribbled head, which probably took the painter a couple of hours to create, sold for what it would take a Safeway checker about a hundred lifetimes to earn. The artist was a […]

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A Sense of Wonder


Whether you are Christian or not, Christmas is a good time for renewal of innocence and wonder. The common sights of people excitedly opening gifts, decorating homes and public streets in lights, retelling stories of miracles and merriment — such experiences can rekindle in us a joyful pursuit of the good and the beautiful.