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?

erotic

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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Critiquing Art: Look for What is Alive

Courbet, The Painter's Studio, 1855, oil on canvas, 12 x 20 feet

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Critiquing Art: Look for What is Alive

Courbet_LAtelier_du_peintre.jpg
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. The idea is that in the art world only the tough survive.

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Five Ayn Rand Questions for Michael Newberry

contemporary oil painting of a nude self-portrait

1) Tell us who you are and what you do.mndana2

I grew up on the beach and have been an artist ever since. I’m a figurative artist and my work explores light, love, and appreciation.

2) When did you first become familiar with Ayn Rand and her works?

When I was 19, my sister Janet—a world top-20 tennis player—told me she had a book I needed to read. That book was Atlas Shrugged.

3) What most interested you or hit you with an “Ah hah!” about Rand’s thinking?

I felt like Rand was giving me a pat on the back for being an artist. She has a very high regard for artists. It was like she was saying to me: “You’re doing a great job; keep going.”

4) How does her work inspire you today?

evesme SmallShe’s a great champion of creators. Rand’s work is a reminder that it’s the creation that matters the most, not superficial things. That is inspiring.

5) Rand wanted us to aspire to a world as it can be and should be. Can you tell us something optimistic you see in the world today or in the future?

What a great question! When I started my career, there were only a handful of figurative artists and they were not held in esteem. Now there are thousands upon thousands of exceptionally good artists who’ve paid their dues and really learned all the skillsets to create incredible figurative works. This is a huge, monumental development and I think Rand helped to set the stage for it.

Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence with The Atlas Society

Imagination

Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea, 1881

Imagination by Michael Newberry

Gallup, The Glistening Playground, 2009, 30 x 40 inches

Gallup, The Glistening Playground, 2009, 30 x 40 inches

Imagination is one of the cornerstones of art. Its use can be quietly subtle, or flagrantly push beyond the bizarre, or inspire generations of people to dream beyond their immediate circumstances and envision a world of possibilities.

One of the more quiet ways to use imagination is to recreate a real scene from life, yet include additional real objects to complete the idea of the work. Here, David Gallup created an idyllic setting of the Pacific Ocean replete with dolphins, birds, and surfers.

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A New Medium for Postmodern Expression

Newberry, 2007, Flatulence d' Artista, canned flatulence, 8x2 1/2x2 1/2"

A New Medium for Postmodern Expression by Michael Newberry

One of Postmodern Art’s important contributions to art history is cheek. But, far from being simple, there are several requirements that need to be met for a successful postmodern work.

The recent Marco Evaristti exhibition of canned meatballs cooked in his fat inspired me for a moment to see what idea I would come up with if I were a postmodernist. It would have to be a new medium of artistic expression and, at the same time, solve several PM requirements. The thing would have to be temporal; use the body of the artist in some fashion; reference an aspect of mass production; be an unorthodox medium; and use the natural force of one’s spontaneous genius (Kant).

As you might imagine, solving these demands is no easy feat.

Evaristti, Polpette al grasso di Marco.
Evaristti, Polpette al grasso di Marco. Marco Evaristti recently exhibited canned meatballs cooked in his liposuction fat.

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Being an Artist: Approach Art Like a Child

Being an Artist: Approach Art Like a Child by Michael Newberry

creation

Expressing artistic vision, aside from all of the technical stuff, is really no more difficult than a child, left to his imagination, creating a little universe out of paper and crayon.

On the other side of the spectrum, da Vinci and Michelangelo went beyond the confines of being craftsmen to establishing themselves as artist-creators. What they did was simply do what the child does, but on an advanced level, thereby dramatically elevating the furthest reaches of art.

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