Tag: art

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  Mark Twain once observed ““The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The same analogy can be applied to the almost right and right principles of “social justice” versus “justice.” “Social Justice” claims to be about fairness, which is a […]

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Of Love and Saucers – and Myths and Christmas

 

Sex sells, which I suppose is why @ejhill egged me on to write for Ricochet about one David Huggins, an elderly New Jersey man who claims to have long ago lost his virginity to aliens who have been visiting him ever since. (Huggins is the same fellow @majestyk briefly mentioned in his recent piece on UFOs.)

More remarkable than Huggins’s claim that his first girlfriend was an alien named Crescent, or that he served as a stud to sire countless alien progeny, is the fact that Huggins won’t stop painting pictures of it. Yes, Huggins paints alien porn. Alien porn isn’t all he paints – of his hundreds of paintings of encounters with aliens, many, perhaps most, aren’t pornographic. But enough are for one reviewer to dub his oeuvre “the X-rated Files.” Oh, did I mention these paintings are featured in both a coffee-table book and now a documentary movie? The movie, Love and Saucers, is out on DVD just in time to make a last-minute Christmas gift for that hard-to-shop-for relative.

I look at Huggins’s paintings and my first thought is, why? Specifically, what drives a man to make so many oil paintings without, well, becoming a better artist? Many reviewers call the paintings impressionistic or primitivist, but the truth is they’re amateurish, achieving neither realism nor any eye-catching style which would make deviations from realism charming. Oils are a messy medium to master. Painting on canvas is also expensive and bulky – especially when compared to your typical sketchbook. Why oils? The rest of you, though, might wonder less why oils?, and more why aliens?

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Why do you care to see fancy architecture? What is the appeal? The history, you might say. It represents a time long past; of emperors and kings, or of barbaric tribes and silk roads, or some such. For the science, you might say. What incredible engineering was necessary to build these grand structures! For the […]

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Beautiful Dark Things – Desire from Nature

 

Earlier, @iwe wrote on desire and creativity as a holy act, on how humans are called, not to pagan imitation of nature, but to make things entirely new. And yet, for many of us, learning to imitate nature seems a necessary part of artistic discipline. Most conservatives are unlikely to be impressed, to put it mildly, by painters and sketchers without good observational-drawing skills. Music and literature, too, benefit from observant imitation of the natural world. Neither the sound of the sea nor the sight of the Milky Way could be imitated exactly in a song or poem, of course, but an artist may find that the only reason a work of his exists is because he attempted to record these natural features faithfully.

Matsuo Basho wrote a haiku sandwiching an island between the turbulent sea and the River of Heaven – the Milky Way. Music for that haiku might spring from hearing, over and over, the relentless beat of waves in your head, from the desire to imitate that sound, the desire to imitate, sonically, the frosty light of so many stars, to imitate nature’s creation of a beautiful dark thing:

America and Marvel, Part II: Reflections of and on Society

 

A few days ago, I talked to my associate Prof. Harmon who raised a fundamental question by way of a preposition. This is not as rare an occurrence as you might think. He asked whether I meant to speak of American cinema as a reflection of American society or a reflection on it. As I said, the movies are our human way of seeing what we’re like, as humans. But what does that mean more clearly?

“Reflections of society” involves the obvious meaning of imitation. What you see on the screen is what the movie-makers saw looking around — America. But this could mean two different things, being that no movie can reflect America as a whole. American movie-makers might offer Americans the images they think will please them — they see what Americans approve, and are governed in their works by that experience. This would mean cinema is a kind of flattery; a barely concealed form of self-congratulation. Every theater-going experience is really an awards ceremony in disguise. There is more than a little truth to that. Do people leave the theaters of this great notion in a soul-searching mood, somewhat chastened by the experience, or rather smug, and even self-important?

Or on the other hand, you could have what in literature we used to call realism and naturalism: An impious, immoderate staring at ugliness and misery, to chasten the bourgeois materialism of modern society. That’s not fun cinema. Even in America, this paradise, there is misery and there is suffering. That could be reflected in the movies instead of the fun stuff. This is not unheard of, but is very rare; it’s been rare in every decade except the Seventies, and the vaguely suicidal public mood in America at that time suggests there is more than a little that’s questionable in this fascination with ugliness.

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I had a delightful conversation yesterday with a man who chose to get a tattoo to protest the 2016 election. I can’t say politics would ever inspire me to do such a thing, but it’s a free country that values individual expression. And I would much prefer someone quietly inking himself per some deeply held belief than […]

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“Fearless Girl” Is Reaping What She Has Sown

 

In honor of International Women’s Day, Kristen Visbal created a statue called Fearless Girl, an image of a girl, hands on hips, striking a defiant pose. This image was then placed in from of another statue called Charging Bull (the one that represents Wall Street and America’s economic might). Fearless Girl recast Charging Bull as a symbol of misogyny, with the Girl acting as a symbol of “women in leadership.”

About a month ago, I argued that allowing Fearless Girl to permanently alter the meaning of Charging Bull would be wrong. My argument was that the sculptor of Fearless Girl should not be able to high-jack someone else’s art. To illustrate the point, I offered suggestions for additional statues that could be added to the Fearless Girl/Charging Bull scene that would undermine both artists’ intent.

What if…I added a slightly larger-than-life bronze statue called American Soldier next to Fearless Girl, demonstrating, of course, that girls can be fearless in this country only because of burly men who are willing to fight for their rights.

Nose Art and the Spirit of Our Military

 

The current establishment art world cultivates insularity and isolation as a means to prop up the vapid, dysfunctional art they favor. From sterile white box galleries to haughty elitist attitudes, lots of effort is poured into erecting barriers to separate the experience of art from the despised masses and the realities of life.

But art does not exist to be plaything for decadent crypto-Marxist hipsters. It is a vital outpouring of the human soul, a visual method of spiritual communication. Art can take on surprising and spontaneous forms in the strangest places to remind us of who we really are.

A species of folk art arose when we started taking our wars into the skies. In World War I, for a time the fighting aircraft were painted with bright colors and bold designs that evoked heraldry, like pilots were knights jousting in the air. This was abandoned once it was realized camouflage-type coloration increased survival rates.

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April is the cruelest month in many ways, including being the anniversary of a terrible act of savagery. In this case, the savage act also led to the creation of one of the best known paintings of the Modern era, 80 years ago. In the late 1930s, Spain was undergoing the turmoil of civil war. […]

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  Vincent van Gogh is often held up as the example of the “benefits” of mental illness, usually by people sure that the suffering they themselves need not endure is worthwhile since it produces the art they so enjoy. There is a lot of mental illness in my family and also a lot of creativity, so I […]

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Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for March 28, 2017, it’s the Former President Trump edition of the show. Brought to you this week by Casper Mattresses.

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One of my favorite passages in literature occurs in G. K. Chesterton’s Everlasting Man, in the first chapter, where Chesterton is speaking of the idea, popular at the time, that cavemen were brutes and that man’s brutality can be traced to his caveman days. Chesterton gently takes this idea and points out that one of the […]

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The Arts in 2017

 

Federal arts policy received not a whit of attention from either presidential campaign this year.  I’m not surprised.  Before I became a curator and museum director, I had a long career in political life.  Over many years, I found most people who ran for office or had high-level political jobs singularly unfocused on the arts.  Didn’t matter whether they were Republicans or Democrats.  The nice surprise was the politico with a passion for art, dance, music, theater, film, or good writing.  They do exist, and I enjoy hearing about their interests.

At one point I’ll write about why politics and the arts are a rarefied mix, but in this post I’ll suggest some new thinking the new order can bring specifically to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).  Some of these ideas can apply to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  I happen to know the NEA best.

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I have been especially moved by the Ghost Ship warehouse fire tragedy in Oakland. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stared vacantly out the BART train leaving the Fruitvale Station as it flew past the unremarkable street full of shabby structures that was home to the Ghost Ship. I never gave it a […]

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As part of the share your expertise group writing series, I am writing a four-part series on critiquing: Perspectives, Preparing, Critiquing, and Receiving. This is the fourth and final part of that series. Accepting Criticism Gladly The first step in a critique is to find your reviewers/critics who are willing to help you. The second […]

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