"Newberry's work speaks to the senses, the intellect, and the passions of those who do not need the judgment of history to tell them what is great, but who can themselves make the judgment of history today." Stephen Hicks, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy
Erotic Symbolism in Visual Art by Michael Newberry
O’Keeffe, 1923, Grey Line with Black, Blue, and Yellow
Representational painting, such as landscapes, people, and furniture, is normally viewed at face value. A flower is just a flower; a chair a chair. But the manner in which an artist uses shapes can convey more than the literal content of the painting.
Once you grasp how an artist plays with shapes to convey another layer of meaning it can open up a universe of deeper insight and, sometimes, powerfully erotic subtexts. You may never see art again in the same way.
Detecting Value Judgements in Painting by Michael Newberry
A few years ago I read the book What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand by Torres and Kamhi. I was disquieted to read their take on Rand’s definition of art, specifically about the meaning of metaphysical value-judgements. Perhaps the thing that was the most surprising to me was that their perspective on this issue is so much not the way that I experience art; either as a creator or as in appreciation, or how I understand Rand’s meaning. In a sense, their book has been the catalyst for this lecture. I hope to answer them by showing how you can detect metaphysical value-judgments in painting. But, more importantly, I hope to show you how to find and, perhaps, share the artist’s incredible passion that lies just beneath the surface of the paint.
Critiquing Art: Look for What is Alive by Michael Newberry
Courbet, The Painter’s Studio, 1855, oil on canvas, 12 x 20 feet
Representational art students are taught to be critical. During critiques, the stress is on the work’s problems. It is not uncommon to see students turning red with embarrassment or anger. Sometimes one will cry. Aside from a bully or two, most of them will accept the critiques as a necessary evil. “Grow a tough skin” is said to oneself and others. In the art world, only the tough survive, at least that is the idea.
Alone and long after college artists agonize over their work by aggressively focusing on their mistakes. This activity does at least demonstrate that the artist knows what is wrong, but it also serves to crush their spirit. The process doesn’t address the one question that matters most: what makes an artwork alive?
Barney Follows in the Wake of the Anti-Art Aesthetic of the Dadaists
My review of a one-day visit to the Guggenheim’s Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, June 2003.
The Cremaster Cycle exhibition is a project of five films with some of the sets and props that have doubled as installations. A few unique mediums he works with are tapioca and Vaseline. A cremaster is the involuntary muscle that creates the rising and falling of the scrotum.
Jerry Saltz, art critic for the Village Voice, comments that he has loved everything Barney has done since a 1990 group show: “Suddenly, this 22-year-old appeared naked, in a videotape, climbing ropes, then lowering himself over a wedge of Vaseline and applying dollops of it to his body.” He continues: “Since then, Barney has been able to do no wrong by me, which is exactly the kind of unequivocal wet kiss from a critic I hate.”
There is a newly-discovered version of the legend of Pandora’s Box. In this third version insanity, despair, and hatred had overrun the world and Pandora, driven by a sense of hope, opened the box by unlocking it with a key. Out from the box rose up all the glories of humanity and they spread throughout the world with undiminished splendor. Pandora discovered that the glories had never disappeared, but it was humankind that had lost the key to identifying the magnificence that lay before them.
The form of art and its function in human life are central to the debate between postmodern art and art. In the first two parts of this series I essayed 1) how postmodern art shocks your epistemological processes through its anti-art means, and 2) how it shocks your psychological processes by expressing disturbing content as the ends. Along these lines, I will go deeper in examining the theoretical basis of postmodern art and then, I would like to show you that an alternative to postmodern art exists, today, in the here and now.
… pathetically, only Hope remained inside. In the other version the box held all of humanity’s glories. When she opened the box progress, knowledge, and exaltation vanished into oblivion, forever lost to humanity.
Special Role of Art
Art, in all its forms, plays an exalted role as one of humanity’s glories. It also plays a profoundly personal role. Think, for instance, of the impact your favorite artwork has had on your life. Has it moved you to tears, to resolution, to moments of joy? Have you felt that an artwork was as close to you as a lover, a friend, or a child? Have you imagined what your life would be like without art? Picture your most beloved painting or recall your favorite song or regard your most treasured book and ask yourself what if it had never existed. Would that leave a gaping hole in your soul where once something precious had been? When Pandora opened the box, marvelous things rose up and vanished into space before her eyes. Without grasping the nature of this phenomenon, she unleashed Postmodernism on humanity.
In treating any disease, it is important to identify the problem at its root. It is also important to find classic cases of the problem to illustrate clearly the results of the disease. Some of the cases here are not pretty and might be offensive. It will take some courage to follow me through the following series of articles as we investigate the nature of Postmodern Art. Fortunately the cure for this type of disease exists but, as with all treatments, we will have to act to eradicate this plague from our world. Come with me as we enter into the aftermath of the Greek daughter’s blunder…
There are two versions of the legend of Pandora’s Box. One version tells us that the box contained all kinds of misery. When Pandora opened the box a plague dispersed and doomed humanity to suffer ruin, insanity, and despair. She hastily closed the box to stop the plague but, pathetically, only Hope remained inside. In the other version the box held all of humanity’s glories. When she opened the box progress, knowledge, and exaltation vanished into oblivion, forever lost to humanity.
Today, in the here and now, both versions of the legend of Pandora’s Box are tragically true.
To witness the obliteration of those glowing, lithe twins was a shock beyond comprehension. They were so playful; light danced on them as they stretched up towards the sky. They were so free; you could not say that they stood tall with pride because they were so unselfconscious of their beauty and height. They were so innocent; they believed in friendship, progress, creation, and joy. They were.
There are people in the world who can’t stand to see that beauty and creativity exist. The guy who took a hatchet to the Pieta of Michelangelo. The Taliban leader who chose to blow up the Buddhist cliff sculptures.