Celebrating a little bit tonight, lol, with a cup of coffee. I finished Part One of my inaugural attempt at a book. Already been copy edited, thumps up. Finished are the Intro plus 6 chapters, and 17,000 words. Some of the ground will be familiar to artists and art historians, but I hope it will make deep inroads in the psychology of art and give sense of these artists being alive and transcending time.
This is one of the paragraphs from the 3rd Chapter, Trepidation, Art is Not Tangible and Yet …
The early artist would have been shifting valuable efforts away from life-sustaining work towards the abstract pursuit of art. All animals engage in life-sustaining action, but it would appear as if the artist was rejecting this. Visual art, then as now, has no utilitarian purpose, none whatsoever. Art could not mend things, carve arrows, and build fires. It was not a tool. It did not give warmth, shelter, food, or security. In practical terms it was useless. Diverting resources for such an senseless art adventure would be perceived as a psychosis, the artist having a partial or total break with reality.
Though he was a silly old cynic he knew how to play devil’s advocate and he didn’t mind throwing away any talent he might have had. His Nude Descending a Staircase has its interest, Duchamp took the concept of overlapping sketches and turned them into a painting. Hardly original because that honor would go the Chauvet Cave painters. He was honored because he threw everything away so he could disintegrate in to crustiness. A dream the disgruntled have at their most disgusting low points and which normal people watch in morbid curiosity. The 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship Awards for “Fine Artists” would be a tribute to Duchamp except the judges, referrers, and artists have no self-awareness. If they did they would not inflict their anti-humanism on the public.
Today in writing the sixth chapter of my book Evolution Through Art, the section on the great Egyptian sculptor Thutmose, circa 1350 BC, I was struck by the similarities of this sculpture of Tutankhamen’s grandfather, Amenhotep III and the famous Gold Mask of Tutankhamen. But I am wondering if the portrait study is not Amenhotep III but a life study of Tutankhamen?
Progressing on my book Evolution Through Art, past the 10k in words, now in the middle of the 5th chapter, The Wizards. Here is a snippet:
For the artists that didn’t turn away they would have to cope with, defend, and manage resentment. For their art they would breath deep, fortify themselves, and let go of certainty and control and dive into a vast alternative universe; exploring where no mind had gone before.
I hope everyone is doing okay in these early stages of quarantining. Heartbreaking. Around the start of it I came up with the concept to write this book on aesthetics. I am dividing my time painting, writing the book, and, it seems, washing dishes.
I am writing my first book: Evolution Through Art. I have written the Introduction, and the first two chapters, about 4,000 words. Good early reports back from my copy editor who is a rhetorician! It is a story of how art plays the leading role in our evolution. It is a journey of profound respect and gratitude to the evolutionary artists that had the minds, substance, and courage to follow their truth. Often they fought against tremendous opposition from practical reality, their own arguments, peer pressure, philosophies, religions, and psychologically-impotent sadistic authorities!
I have been thinking about writing an art book filled with stories, anecdotes, speculation on prehistorical art, real life experiences, and the knowledge of what is it is like to strive for the sublime. Today I started with the title and listing chapter headings.
Psychological Aesthetics and the Exciting Fight to Evolve: Beyond Obstacles, Malevolence, and Ignorance
Leaving One’s Mark: Taming Powerful Animals Through Capturing Them In Art
Imagining the Next Step: Willendorf Venus or I Will See You Later Tonight
Safety in Group Think, Their Fear of the Unknown and the Extent They Will Go Eradicate Evolutionary Nudges
Wisdom, Truth, and Courage Within: Calibrating Perception, Evaluation, and Emotion
To Be or Not To Be? To Break Free or to Conform?
Tears, Love, and Visibility: The Alternate Universe
The Art Instinct: What Makes Humans Unique Animals?
Art is the Power That Religion Wants: Control the Artists you Control the Mass Psyche
Art Transcends Agendas By Touching Individual Souls
Power Without Wisdom Corrupts Completely: Michelangelo in the Quarry; Postmodernist Malevolence
“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, critique.” And no one represents this weakness better than Jerry Saltz, winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his article, “My Life as a Failed Artist.”
Jerry Saltz writes about his younger artist self: “In 1973, I was 22, full of myself, and frustrated that I wasn’t already recognized for my work.” But a few years later he had some great acceptance from the art world: museum purchases, a $3,000 NEA grant in 1978 money, reviewed in Artforum, exhibited with Barbara Gladstone Gallery and with Rhona Hoffman. He was ecstatic with the recognition, yet he had a nagging contempt for his art:
“But then I looked back, into the abyss of self-doubt. I erupted with fear, self-loathing, dark thoughts about how bad my work was, how pointless, unoriginal, ridiculous. ‘You don’t know how to draw,’ I told myself. ‘You never went to school. Your work has nothing to do with anything. You’re not a real artist. Your art is irrelevant. You don’t know art history. You can’t paint… No one cares about you. You’re a fake…'”
Roger Scruton’s excellent presentation Why Beauty Matters, a BBC production, has seen a resurgence, over a million views on this embedded YouTube video. Several people have forwarded it to me and I remember seeing it ages ago. In re-watching it I was struck by the coincidence of the same four postmodern works in his presentation and in my article Pandora’s Box Part III. I was kind of horrified that I might have subconsciously lifted them from him without being aware of it. I didn’t.
I was relieved that my article Pandora’s Box Part III was published in the Free Radical (magazine and online) in 2002, while this Scruton publication was released almost 8 years later in November 2009. The four works are canned shit, Manzoni’s Merde d’artista; empty room, Creed’s The Lights Going On and Off; a urinal, Duchamp’s The Fountain; and bricks in a room at the Tate by Andre.
Scruton discusses them at 5:25 to 5:48 and he says: “It has been interrupted in another way by showing that anything can be art. Like a light going on and off, a can of excrement, or even a pile of bricks.”
In a section from my article which I discuss the postmodern works I write: “Kant’s concept of the formless nature of the sublime is the ideological birthplace of the postmodern aesthetic that art, visual art, doesn’t need to be expressed through the means of representational painting or sculpture. In practice, this aesthetic opened up the floodgates of a nihilistic revolution in the 20th Century in which postmodern artists deconstructed art and/or substituted any object but painting or sculpture for art, i.e. arranged rubbish, excrement, installations, etc.”
Bemusedly, I was wondering if my article was the source for “It has been interrupted…” I am just having a little fun figuratively flexing my muscles showing that I have been ahead of the curve. BTW, Pandora’s Box Part III is a wonderful article touching on a few of Kant’s concepts of the Sublime how they are connected to some horrible postmodern works, and I optimistically share some magnificent contemporary figurative works.
The embedded rocks and still-green tumble weeds were flying towards my tennis shoe covered feet, my outstretched hands steering my downward trajectory were being cut to slivers by the crystal rock veins lining the 40-ft ravine incline—the unexpected push and gravity created a reckless momentum that my brother hoped would be fatal. It was not.
Never turn your back on some people, or they will destroy you.
The Eyes of Rembrandt
If light could kiss this would be the most loving, achingly sensitive kinetic caress. Shadowed waves rose and glided back to the recesses, like invisible currents of air witnessing a glint of moisture and a warming pulse. This is where goodness lives. In the eyes of Rembrandt.
“Slipper is one of my favourites by artist Michael Newberry, who like all great literary and visual artists has the ability to conceive and create scenes of total originality that – just like the great myths and legends that had the dramatic power to last thousands of years in the retelling — once seen (or read) the world is inconceivable without them. In the simplest terms, such artists (and such myths) portray great and original scenes that so perfectly animate their theme the world was almost waiting for the artist to create them.
“Newberry does this with his Icarus Landing – the figure that conquers the fall of both Christ and Icarus, and puts man back in charge over his universe. He does it again with Artemis. And he does it too with Slipper, whose exuberance bursts out like a bullet in flight heading straight for the furthest horizon.
“Why have I chosen it for my first artistic post of the year? Because it encapsulates the sense of life I like to express in my architecture. The exuberance. The light. The feeling of release. The movement. The exaltation. It’s not an expression of repose I aim for in my work (which is what all the textbooks tell us we should aim for in our architecture – creating a sense of repose and then letting our buildings sink down into a sea of subdued magnolias, or pongas), it’s the controlled explosion of joy Newberry captures so perfectly here, and that’s so desperately hard to do well.
“It’s not so easy, but it’s the most fun when you can pull it off.”