Of Nudes and Knowledge

First published by The Atlas Society.

One of the more poetic events in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand is when the protagonist, Howard Roark comes to watch Dominique posing naked for Mallory’s marble sculpture. The sculpture is of the human spirit destined for the Stoddard Temple. The three of them experience a perfect synergy of admiration, creativity, and beauty.

Further plot events see the destruction of the Stoddard Temple, one of the many painful obstacles Roark needs to overcome to continue his unique and innovative vision of architecture.

marlene dietrich the song of songs   studio2
Stills from Song of Songs starring Marlene Dietrich and Brian Aherne

In a way, we can look at art history and see some patterns similar to The Fountainhead that include the beautiful nude, innovations, and the power of the creative artist.

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Figure the Future

Figure the Future
By Michael Newberry
Presented by The Atlas Society, 2008

Michael Newberry reflects on how the nude supports the best within us and shows that it has been present at the conception and implementation: of democracy; of systematic philosophy; and of art history.

0:17 Introduction by Robert Bidinotto

2:33 The Nude as the Personification of the Individual
The Status of Clothed Figures
Ramasus, Queen Elizabeth 1, Ingres, Millet, Whistler, Wyeth, Pearlstein, and Richter.

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Innovation in Art by Michael Newberry

On October 6th, 2003 The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented this conference at New York’s Pierre Hotel. Stephen Hicks gives the introduction to the conference and to Michael Newberry’s talk, Innovation in Art. Part 1

0:09 Stephen Hicks Introduction
3:03 Michael Newberry Innovations in Art
4:11 Zuburan, Mondrian, John Moore
6:05 Color and Light Theory, Vermeer, Monet, Rothko, Rutkowski
7:59 Illustration of Ideas, Bosch, Magritte, Larsen
10:48 Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Newberry
12:54 Form, Henry Moore, David Smith, Martine Vaugel
14:17 Sublime, Egyptian, Michelangelo, Stuart Mark Feldman

Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence at The Atlas Society. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Athens, and Rome. In the Fall of 2017, he has a solo show at the White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.

Back to Front, Tats 1, Time-Lapse

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For the last year or so I have been painting from the most distant background space and carefully painting in stages to the foreground. I love it! It helps create spatial movement as if a spatial pattern emerges. It also enables me to take more time with details knowing that I don’t have to redo them a thousand times. I can’t say if it is easy or not, I have a few decades of painting every day, but it has worked well with students. Try it!

 

Drawing the Line between Pornography and Art

Porn and art generate two classic human responses: “Art is in the eye of the beholder” and “I know porn when I see it.”

Sometimes these responses overlap such as in reaction to erotic Egyptian drawings, Ancient Greek wine vases, 19th century etchings and literature, and in 20th century erotic photos, movies, and adult cartoons. In these cases, we observe art with erotic touches or eroticism with artistic touches. What is the difference between them? And can we find the spot that divides them?

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Erotic and Satirical Papyrus. Papyrus, Der el-Medina, New Kingdom,
Dynasty XX (1186 – 1070 BCE). Turin Museum

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Erotic scene on the rim of an Attic red-figure kylix, c. 510 BC.

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Support Art, Cut NEA

On January 19th of this year, The Hill reported that the incoming administration was proposing that “the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.”

The public backlash has contributed to the hysterical opposition greeting the new administration. The NEA states it is an “independent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities.” How can anyone discontinue that?

Conventional wisdom holds that supporting art is the right thing to do. This artist dares to disagree.

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Art and Judgment

Over three decades ago, in 1982, I booked a private telephone consultation with an Objectivist philosopher (associated now with the Ayn Rand Institute) on reading The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand’s classic non-fiction work on aesthetics.

At 24, I was both an artist and an Objectivist.  A fine art major; I had taken several art history classes including contemporary art theory. At the time, I had just completed the painting Promethia, and even though it was a thematic work, I didn’t understand how one objectively identifies a theme of an artwork. With that in mind, I was excited to be mentored by an Objectivist philosopher.

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In our consultation, he pointed to Willem Kalf’s still life painting in the classic art history book, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.

“How do I discover the theme?” I asked, genuinely.

“The theme of this painting is malevolent because of the dark background!” was the swift and vociferous response.

This was “obvious” — i.e. self-evident — he said.  No further reasoning or discussion was necessary.

I ended the session and never consulted him again.

Alas, I had yet to learn how themes work in painting. So I returned to what Ayn Rand herself had written.

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Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku

“In the broad valley, far below him, in the first sunlight of early morning, he saw a town. Only it was not a town. Towns did not look like that. He had to suspend the possible for a while longer, to seek no questions or explanations, only to look.”

The above was Ayn Rand’s description of Howard Roark’s Monadnock Valley development in The Fountainhead. Rand is revered — and reviled — as a philosopher and novelist, but to me she was also an artist. She defined art as a recreation of reality according to an artist’s values, and in her work, she recreated an inspirational world of heroes, light, and flourishing.

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That is why The Atlas Society chose art as an arena for intellectual and spiritual engagement with Ayn Rand’s ideas.  The 25-year-old philosophical organization capped 2016 with winners of first annual Atlas Art Contest. Over 400 entries were narrowed down to 21 artists by a panel of four judges: Sabin Howard, sculptor; Judd Weiss, photographer; Agnieszka Pilat, painter: and myself. The public was then invited to vote, further spreading the engagement with the outstanding work of our finalists.

The winners were, from first to third place, Abiodun Olaku, Eric Armusik, and Danielle Dalechek. Given Ayn Rand’s aesthetics, it is rather fitting that Olaku won first prize with his clean style, perspective, and nuanced light.

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