Saturday, September 7, 2013

An Appreciation of Art

Top 100 2006: Shellfish vendor
14" x 6.75"
oil on wood, 2003
You may have noticed that I haven’t posted many new paintings on this site. Not to worry though; new top 100 paintings will come—I just can’t not do it, I just can’t do it at this moment. The top 100 still is, and always was, a reflection, or diary if you will, of my life (be it through the vantage point of a music fan, and a music fan I will always be). My life, at this point, is at a transitional stage. I am, for the first time, teaching a lecture class—not just one but three of them. And then I am also teaching four studio classes—introduction to drawing, and landscape painting, two of each. The lecture classes—art appreciation for non art majors—are in particular the ones that represent best the transitional phase in my life. In these classes that follow a standard textbook on the subject, I have to situate myself, as an artist, inside the community that discusses art rather than making it. And for an artist this is a very reflective situation to be in. As a sort of preparation for the lectures in these classes I am rereading a lot of my writings from the past that deal with art criticism. In the process I’m also reflecting on a lot of works from the past. As an insider I’m looking from the outside. I have to overcome all forms of bias that come from being at the inside but that result to some sort of detachment while at the same time still communicating the specific insights gained from being within. Even if I weren’t to pick up the paint brush ever again, I could still post weekly (even daily) updates with material (paintings and texts) from my vast archive. There are still about 2,000 paintings and drawings around that haven’t been seen on these pages, as well as more than a thousand pages of commentaries I’ve written over the years. In my current state of reflection, and the creative impasse as a result, I will indeed, as I have been doing the past months, dig into the archive and pull out some interesting things from the archive worth sharing.

The image above belongs to the top 100 of 2003. The source material for the painting comes from a photograph found on an album that was edited by the American musicologist and folklorist Alan Lomax. The photo depicts a shellfish vendor. The album is a collection of primitive and folk music from France and was distributed as part of the Columbia World Library of Folk and Primitive Music. The Top 100 2006 featured three songs from the album: a funeral lament by 86 year old Barbe-Marie Monti, Para Lou-Loup (Beware of the wolf), played on the accordion by Raymond Jabrier, and Martin Prit Sa Hache (Martin took up his axe), sung by A. Letellier in 1950. For the last one of these I used this image of the shellfish vendor. Martin Prit sa Hache, is kind of a humorous novelty song in which the subject had his nose cut off by a group of nuns because he stuck his nose into some business that wasn’t any of his business. Apparently there exists a raunchier version of the song in which it wasn’t the nose that was cut off but rather a more sensitive part of his body, a part that he had stuck in some woman’s business that he shouldn’t have. In the painting it isn’t the nose either that is missing but rather an ear. When I painted the painting I had no idea I was omitting the left ear, I only noticed this much later. At the time, in 2003, my favorite author, and the only author I collected monographs of, was Georges Bataille. This is what I wrote in 2003: "Gerges Bataille reduced the cause of madness that leads to self-mutilation to an obsession with the sun. He traces this irrational behavior to the ancient practice of sun-worship and its sacrifices. Van Gogh had painted his most intense images of the sun around the time he cut off his ear. 'The sun in all its glory' wrote Vincent to his brother Theo. The sun is the highest achievable for human perception—the sun is God. The sun is also a symbol for Christ. The son of God is often depicted with rays emanating from his outstretched arms. When the sun and the son are equally sacred, sin is probably too. For Bataille the sun (God) was not represented by the Son with his outstretched arms but by a naked woman, especially if she was a prostitute, with outstretched legs. Van Gogh mailed his severed ear to a prostitute." That the street vendor in the painting is missing an ear was clearly a freudian slip of the paintbrush.

Needless to say, I can’t use any of my art criticism writings from the past (compare also my previous post on Duchamp) in my current Art Appreciation class. Neither can I use any of my favorite art critics, as I tend to like the more controversial accounts that for me make the art world an interesting place to be. As a matter of fact I have to distance myself altogether from all that the material makes me appreciate art in order to successfully teach the course.

No comments:

Post a Comment