Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thank you Pope Benedict.

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo
1536-41, Fresco, 539.3 in × 472.4 in

So on Saturday Pope Benedict met with over 250 artists (including sculptors, architects, painters, and directors) in the Sistine Chapel to discuss art. The Church and art have always had an on again off again type of relationship. Take Michelangelo's The Last Judgment for example, painted for the Church to basically scare people. Michelangelo even included himself in the piece, however the self-portrait is a bit scary- he is the one who has been skinned by St. Bartholomew. Gruesome and shocking, the piece is still on the altar wall in the Sistine Chapel.

It was beneath this image, an image representing the height of religious artistic expression, that Pope Benedict declared, "Faith takes nothing away from your genius or art. On the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them." I can respect what the Pope is trying to accomplish. He is acknowledging the world we live in, and most importantly acknowledging that art can impact it for the better. Art can move people. Art can inspire people. Art can create change. This desire for more spirituality in art is the start of a new movement- a movement that has the capacity to be miraculous.

Thank you Pope Benedict.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Donatello took risks.

David by Donatello
1440-1460, Bronze, 5’ 2 ¼” high
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Well, here is one by Donatello as promised! Personally, this is my favorite David sculpture, though it is one that not many people can recognize. I still remember when I first saw this I did not think this was David of" David and Goliath." He seemed way too girly and sissy. That’s why I thought I should talk about this great piece as it’s pretty dang controversial and that’s always fun.

Okay first to mention is that this sculpture was a big deal. First, he is nude and coming after the Middle Ages where nudity was thought to be indecent, Donatello was making a big break from the past but at the same time reviving antiquity and Greek statues. Second, he was the first freestanding nude since antiquity- again Donatello was bringin’ it all back! Third, it was the first unsupported bronze casted statue in the Renaissance. Okay not as cool, but still when you are the “first” anything during the Renaissance you have done something worth mentioning.

I think David is quite a pretty little fella, which many think isn’t true to the David in the Bible, but it that isn't necessarily true.  He was just a little guy who had to fight this giant and he very well could have been a pretty boy. I mean, take a look at his facial expression up close. He seems contemplative yet confident. I see hints of a smirk with "Goliath you are SO going down” undertones, but maybe that’s just me. Oh yeah, and that cute hat. Well it’s not a hat it’s his helmet, just wanted to clear that up… it was another thing that used to confuse me.

You know what’s really interesting about this? Well first of all it was commissioned by the Medici’s and became a symbol of the independent Florentine republic. It was meant to show their prosperity and most importantly power. Notice what David has his foot on? Take a close look. Yep, that’s Goliath’s head. Not so sissy now is he? Secondly, there is a feather leaning up against David’s inner leg and thigh. Apparently, this was the most controversial point of all because it implied homosexuality- either of David or Donatello himself. During the Renaissance people were getting persecuted left and right for sodomy, so this was especially risky of Donatello. But, that is why I love Donatello. On the outside you see this feminine statue, but after you find out the facts you start to see that most of Donatello’s work was definitely meant to essentially push the envelope a bit. But, this is what every great artist in history did and still does. To make any impact on the art movement you have to try and push people’s buttons. Fun right? Yes.

Donatello took risks. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Van Gogh, we love you.

Cafe Terrace at Night by Vincent Van Gogh
1888, Oil on Canvas, 81 x 65.5 cm 

Okay, so I realize that I said I was going to write about Bosch, Donatello, and Hogarth, but like any artist would- I changed my mind. Oops. Last night as I was trying to go to bed, it hit me... I haven't featured Van Gogh! What the heck is wrong with me? Van Gogh is thought to be one of the greatest artists of all time, right up there with Picasso, Warhol, and even Michelangelo. His contributions to the art world are monumental as his ideas contirubed to the progression of art in huge ways. 

What hurts me the most is to think that Van Gogh had a terrible life. No one appreciated him, no one took him seriously, and on top of all that he suffered tremedously with a bunch of mental illnesses. He had depression, so much so that it drove him to take his own life at age 37. I wish I could go back in time, find him, and say, "I love you Vincent!" I mean he killed himself right when his creativity was rising. All the great Van Gogh's everyone knows were painted during the last two years of his life. Imagine if he lived a great and long life, how many more great pieces he would have created!

Cafe Terrace at Night is one of my favorite Van Gogh's. Sure Starry Night is amazing, but Cafe Terrace at Night appeals more to me, perhaps because I my fixation with coffee culture. What strikes me the most about this piece is of course the lighting. It's just so quaint. Who can deny the beauty of France? Van Gogh took a scene that is so charming and calm, and made it a beautiful time piece. Now, Cafe Terrace is of course a huge tourist site. This also bothers me. Arles, the city where this Cafe is, is basking in wealth due to Van Gogh. They have created quite the tourist tour, where you can follow Van Gogh's footsteps. Cool? Yes, but also sad. They hated Van Gogh, and now they are making billions off of him. Poor Van Gogh, well at least people respect and honor him now. 

If you have never seen a Van Gogh in real life, for the love of everything, go find one! I am sure you have heard of his brushstoke technique, but seeing a Van Gogh in real life brings his technique to life. I love to stand in front of a Van Gogh and imagine him restlessly blotching paint on a canvas with frustration in every swipe. I try and stand as close as I can, literally like face to face. It's just so amazing. Though the security gaurds usually hate this, I love it because I always imagine Van Gogh doing the same thing. Van Gogh staring face to face with his canvas, wondering if the world will ever appreciate him. Van Gogh staring face to face with yet another creation that will sit on the floor of his room. Decades later, I stare at a Van Gogh and stand amazed. 

Van Gogh, we love you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let the Lascaux cave paintings be your reminder.

Cave Paitings in Lascaux, France
Paleolithic Era, Approx. 17,000 BCE

So I thought, "I don't escape out of the 1800 and 1900's often." So tada! I give you a very old piece of cave for your viewing pleasure. This little beauty is old old old, I mean this is the essential starting point of any art history class (if it's not on a specific time period that is). You get your art textbook, turn to page one and you will find cave paintings. Okay, here's where the debate for the bulk of entry will center, but first let me just talk about the history behind the piece.

The cave paintings were discovered on September 12th, 1940 by a group of teenagers searching for their dog "Robot." I know, great beginning to any story. First of all, what 1940's teen names their dog robot? Second of all, why would they think "Robot" esapced into some hard to reach cave? Anyways, they stumpled upon the caves, however it wasn't an easy task. It involved prying open small entires to the cave, slipping through narrow crevices, tumbling on rocks, and using rope to find even more entries. I can't imagine what these boys thought when they saw these insanely prehistoric images on the walls of cave. I am sure they were thinking something along the lines of, "Cool, adventure!" Little did they know their discovery was going to be the biggest archeological find of the century. I wonder when the significance of the find hit them. Was it when they were slipping through narrow crevices? Or when they were running home to grab some rope?

Nevertheless, these boys discovered something insanely monumental. They single handily discovered a cave, that some people 16,000 years or so go decorated. The cave contains some 2,000 images ranging from human figures to horses, bulls, bison, and aurochs (a type of ox, that is extinct now).

Okay here's where the debate begins. WHY are the Lascaux cave paintings regarded as art? Sure, I understand that they are marvelous to look at and illustrate something- but why did everyone consider them art? In my modern art class last year, a huge portion was dedicated to trying to figure out just what makes art-art. This would be a huge deal in a modern art class because we are studying art form like splattered paint and urinals turned upside down, but it can also be viewed in terms of the cave paintings. It kind of drives me crazy that people talk about the Lascaux cave work as the 'prehistoric Sistine Chapel", using terms like triptych, perspective, and overlapping figures to described it. Why can't people just see these images and for once not attribute art history-ish terms! I mean, they definitely didn't paint these in hopes that one day someone would notice how they created a "triptych."

I guess my main beef comes from the idea that "art" wasn't even a word in prehistoric times. These images were most likely a guide to depict a means of survival. I mean, they did not create these images thinking, "Oh this will go great in the living room-" they did it so that their children would know the proper way to kill for survival!

So what am I am trying to get at? I guess I am trying to bring to your attention the whole idea of my blog title being "Inadvertently Art," making the Lascaux images my example. To us, art is something we like to look at- something that perhaps inspires us, something that gives someone a visual voice. While the Lascaux paintings can essentially be thought of as a visual voice, the motives were entirely different. However, the images present a new form of art and a form much more thought provoking. "Art" as a means of survival. Art does not have to be cut and paste or black and white, art can be as simple as a prehistoric cave filled with finger painted drawings of animals. Let's just leave it at that, please! Art can and should be flexible and most importantly, it should be thought of in a greater historical context.

Let the Lascaux cave paintings be your reminder.

P.S. This website takes you on this crazy virtual tour of the caves.  But beware, creepy music plays, so make sure your speakers are down. I, was not so fortunate and almost screamed when the music came on.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Faith Ringgold just inspires me.

Dancing at the Louvre by Faith Ringgold
1991, Acrylic on Canvas & Tie-Dyed, Pieced Fabric Border, 73.5 x 80"

In my opinion, Faith Ringgold definitely doesn't get the attention she deserves. She is amazing! Okay, she is this vivacious African American artist who is most famous for her "story quilts" but has also done a ton of other stuff like write children's books, sue BET television network, and teach at UCSD... to name a few. Just an all around lady who creates these amazing works of art. Her mother was a fashion designer, so that's where she got most of her inspiration for her quilts as she grew up around fabric.

Dancing at the Louvre is one of my favorite Ringgold pieces because it just illustrates her genius. See, she took a form that wasn't traditionally thought to be art- fabric, and combined it with things that are undeniably art- the Mona Lisa and Madonna on the Rocks, therefore created a unique piece of art. This particular piece is part of her "French Collection" series and all of the pieces have some type of unique combination of high art on fabric. Dancing at the Louvre is also the title of the book which contains all the pieces of the French Collection and is a story of a fictional character, Willia Marie Simone, who moves from Harlem (Ringgold's hometown) to Paris in the 1920's to pursure art. I need to get the book because I have read a lot about it, but never actually read it. It's so moving just reading the summaries. The art weaves the book together to create a political and personal commentary on so many levels. It's brilliant.

The more I read about Faith, the more I can imagine what type of person she is. I envision her as this strong, confident, culturally rich, artistic woman. She is someone I constantly dream about meeting one day. I can just imagine us sitting on her porch, drinking lemonade, and talking about how she has changed the world with her art.

Faith Ringgold just inspires me.

[P.S. She has a blog, and I recommend you go look at it because she just put up a quilt she made to tribute the great Michael Jackson.........]

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Annie eminates through every snapshot.

Michelle Obama by Annie Leibovitz
March 2009, Cover of Vogue
Well I having doing homework for my politics class all day, so look what happened. It's Michelle Obama day! This image of our First Lady appeared on the March issue of Vogue and was taken by none other than Annie Leibovitz!

You know there is a lot of pressure on you when you are taking a picture of anyone involved in politics. If you make them look bad, you will be blamed for something. But then again if you make them look too good, people are going to jump to accusations. You must find a way to portray them not too over confident, but you can't make them see like they could be your next door neighbor either. Sometimes it frustrates me that even artistic expression has to be applied to politics, but it is just that way. Take Shepard Fairey for example, he is currently going through this huge lawsuit for his Obama "HOPE" poster. Geesh.

Anyways, Annie didn't pay any attention to the pressure she had in taking shots of the White House family, she just did it- and did it flawlessly, like always. She presents to us a confident First Lady, with charm, poise, elegance, and most importantly a woman who is here for change. She isn't put on a high pedastal neither figuratively or literally;  she is casually sitting on a chair is a realaxed position gently smiling at the viewers. Also hard to ignore is the position of her arms, cleverly displaying her wedding ring further showing that her vow to her husband is now her vow to the Nation.

I love Michelle Obama not because of her and her husband's triumphant position as the first African American President and First Lady, but because there is just something about here that brings a breath of fresh air into the political scene. From her healthy and in-shape body, to her elegant and charming style, to her beautiful young daughters, to her commitment to our country- I love her. I especially love the comparisons made to her being like Jackie Kennedy. Perhaps we will see an image of Michelle Obama on a canvas tote one day. Her image was shed an positive and honest light when Annie took this picture. I can't help but think of Annie when I look at this picture. Annie, a strong and capable woman herself, can definitely be seen both through the lens and on paper.

Annie eminates through every snapshot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hokusai is undeniably appealing.

The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai
1829-1833, Color Woodcut, 25.7 cm × 37.8 cm

You know, truth be told I was really going to use another woodcut by Hokusai because this one is just so popular, but then I realized that is even more of a reason to explain it. This image is as common as Michelangelo's David or Leonardo's Mona Lisa, it's in practically every surfer's home, either to make them seem artsy or because it's a "wicked wave." It's in one bazillion dorms rooms, one bazillion stores, and surfing brands such as Quicksilver, took it and marketed it like crazy putting it on purses, board shorts, and surfboards.  But what saddens me the most about the popularity of the piece is the idea that so many people don't even know the artist and how amazing he was. The history behind the piece is so rich that it definitely deserves some attention. The Great Wave of Kanagawa comes from the ukiyo-e series Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fiji. Already there are a ton of things to address, so let's get started!

First, what the heck is ukiyo-e? Well the English translation for the word "ukiyo" is something like "floating world" but that doesn't help to explain much. Ukiyo-e is basically a genre of Japanese art where the artist focused on more naturalistic aspects of the world. Here's where the "floating world" aspect might a little bit of sense. Ukiyo-e artists concenrated on the fleeting beauty of the world and tried best to ignore the responsibility side of life, thus floating illustrates not being tied down to world things. Also, ukiyo-e brought about an art that could be appreciated by the mass, as they were easy to reproduce thus making them affordable. This style of art was not discovered by Westerners until around the 19th century, so Japanese ukiyo-e prints are unique and most importantly- inspirational.

Why I love and acknowledge Hokusai is not merely because his work is breath-taking, but because his work inspired a little group of artists we like to call the Impressionists. So many people don't know this simple fact, but the Impressionists were obsessed with Japanese prints and you can see evidence of Japanese influence in so many works (I will feature one soon just to show you!) Thus Japanese artists influenced Western artists, however the relationship went in both directions. Hokusai adapted Western techniques like perspective and realistic shadows in many of his prints. In fact, without perspective his Thiry-six Views of Mt. Fiji would loose a lot of appeal.

Oh right, I haven't explained the 36 views things. Well The Great Wave of Kanagawa is part of a 36 piece series depicting just what you would think- 36 views of Mt. Fiji. If you look at all of them you see how clever Hokusai was. I mean he traveled all around this mountain and with his artistic mind came up with over 36 ways to see the mountain in all it's beauty. Oh yeah, it's called Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fiji, but there are actually 46, guess he couldn't stop.

Okay like Warhol, Hokusai just has to be featured more because I still have a ton I could say about him. Nevertheless, Hokusai is just beautiful. There is such an appeal to Japanese art. I mean how many people do you know that has some type of Japanese related thing tattooed on them? Shoot, I have cherry blossoms on my back in a very Hokusai-ish style. To put it simply, Japanese art is just unavoidably beautiful just as...

Hokusai is undeniably appealing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A letter of apology.

Dear Blog,

I desperately want to write in you and have wanted to for the past few days, but I have been so tired and busy I just didn't have time to give you a good entry. I sincerly apologize but I will tell you what I have in store for you this week....

I know you are excited, so am I. I promise I will visit you tomorrow.

Miss you bunches,

Friday, November 6, 2009

Andy Warhol was just plain ironic.

Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol, 1967

All right people, today is the day! Today is the day Andy Warhol is finally given the glorious light he deserves. I am BIG Warhol fan but, not for the traditional reasons. Sure, his art is pretty cool, different, unlike his time, the whole bit- BUT, the reason I love him perhaps comes from my brief encounter with being a Psychology major. Warhol is insane, seriously insane- but THAT my friends is the beauty of good 'ol Andy, and THAT is just why I love him!

There are so many Andy works to choose from, but Marilyn conveys my point the best. Let me explain. Andy was literally OBSESSED with celebrities, but the whole idea of his silkscreen stuff was to reproduce the same image over and over until it seems as if he is mocking it. If you see something once, it has meaning, but if you see it like 500 times, not so cool and meaningful anymore (the only exception to this would be Disneyland of course). Andy didn't just like the whole Hollywood scene, he was so insanely fanatical about it that it consumed his every thought. If you look at all his images, I would say like 70% of time it has SOMETHING to do with being famous, money, Hollywood, or status- Andy was just uncontrollably into that.

On top of all that, he was pretty weird guy. Some facts: he had really bad scaring on his face, some say because of acne and some say because he had a disease as a child that caused skin blotchiness- either way he had been preoccupied with appearance ever since he was really young. He wore like an intense amount of face makeup, wigs, and always had sunglasses on. He actually looks a little bit haunting/creepy if you ask me, but I still love him! There’s a book, The Andy Warhol Diaries, that is just this insanely huge collection of entries (seriously, this is a THICK book) with the majority talking about his fixation with Hollywood.

I guess the main point I am trying to make is Andy Warhol was this guy who was so obsessed with celebrities, money, and fame yet in most of his work he basically mocks the whole idea of it. I will definitely have more entries on Warhol because there is some much more I want to say about him, but for now I will leave you with this…

Andy Warhol was just plain ironic.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Though it is an understatement, Caravaggio was marvelous.

Death of the Virgin by Caravaggio
1601-1605/6, Oil on Canvas, 3.69 m x 2.45 m
The Louvre, Paris

First of all, do yourself a favor and click here to see a bigger version, this small little image doesn't do a Caravaggio justice! Caravaggio is really something else. He is most known for his drastic use of lighting and shading, or chiaroscuro if you really want to get technical. Caravaggio was quite the controversy back in his day, he really loved to paint the way HE wanted and not the way the church wanted, so that generally didn't go over so well.

Take Death of the Virgin for example. Death of the Virgin was commissioned by a lawyer for his chapel in Rome, but as soon as the church saw the painting they were outraged! Why would they be appalled by such a beautiful piece you ask? Well for a few reasons. First of all, the model for Mary was a prostitute, and according to some sources- the woman Caravaggio loved. Secondly, Mary is pretty darn holy in the eyes of most religions, giving birth to Christ and all usually puts you in that position. Well Caravaggio painted her like she was just the same as everyone else AND on top of all that, she isn't dying peacefully with cherubs surrounding her, she is clearly dead. Her feet are swollen and her stomach is bloated, clear signs that she was not dying, but already gone. They rejected the painting because her attributes to death were far too realistic for their liking, plus they didn't like that her legs were showing, duh Caravaggio!

Now that I have told you all the reasons this painting was thought to be appalling, let's talk about the obvious amazing qualities. Okay, there is no denying Caravaggio's incredible ability to use lighting to his advantage. The light is directly on Mary, so that is where you eye is immediately drawn. You see a beuatifully depicted peaceful young woman lying in a bed surrounded by magestic deep tones of red. It isn't until the light begins to direct your eye to the people surrounding Mary that you realize she has died. Caravaggio had this insane way of depicting emotions through light. He uses this unknown light source to draw your eye around the canvas to the point where you yourself are filled with emotion.

I can't imagine seeing a Caravaggio in real life. I can stare at his work for hours and just be overcome with emotions. Not only am I in awe of his talent, but I constantly have to remind myself that this piece was denied at first. I mean, someone actually said, "No sorry, this is not acceptable." This blows my mind! Sure, I understand the rejection was due largely in part to the subject matter and the way he chose to depict it, but still- come on, it's breath taking.

If you want to treat yourself today, go and look at some of Caravaggio's work and marvel at his creations.

Though it is an understatement, Caravaggio was marvelous.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Winslow Homer wants us to just smile.

Snap the Whip by Winslow Homer
1872, Oil on Canvas, 22 x 36 in.

First and foremost, who remembers this game? I remember watching people play this, mostly boys, but I was a rather petite little child and playing this game just might have killed me. I avoided dangerous games like dodge ball, so I am sure this was definitely up there on the "No way Jose" list.  This game has been around forever- this and Red Rover are favorite recess games. Just look at the date of this picture, proof that it's been around for at least 100 years. Anyways, I love this picture. Winslow Homer illustrated for Harper's Weekly doing mostly Civil War stuff, but after the war he switched to happier things- like 19th century America, hooray!

Snap the Whip is just so precious. It reminds me of reading Little House on the Prairie during Christmas vacation- just simple and happy times. The little boys have not a care in the world and are just playing a game they love. Homer loved to paint the good 'ol days before the Industrial Revolution. I fear that when I show my kids this picture in many years to come, they will say something like, "You mean these little boys didn't have video games?" I admit, at times it is even hard for me to remember a time without technology, but I do remember dial-up internet- something I am proud of!

All and all, this image is just one of those timeless pieces. From the beautiful detail of the landscape, to the sky that looks like a storm is coming, to the little house in the background, to the little boys cute clothes, and to the little details of the flowers in the grass- this is just plain cute. You can not help but look at this painting and think, "Awww" while smiling. Winslow Homer created a lot of images that evoke a simple smile and THAT is something I can definitely appreciate.

Winslow Homer wants us to just smile.