The nude in art is one of the greatest means of expressing individuality. It bypasses the status of clothes and symbols and drives the focus towards character through body and facial expression. The nude asks the viewer to share their deeper, more personal thoughts about how they feel about who they are, their dreams, and their deepest beliefs.
Looking at Peter Schipperheyn’s Zarathustra we see a larger-than-life-sized man, arching back, and his head thrown back at an intense angle – the chin raised above the forehead. The body’s tone is taut, yet there is relaxed fluidity from limb to limb. He has the body of a world-class athlete, such as the current tennis great, Roger Federer. The most prominent gesture is the back of the closed fist meeting the open, extended hand.
An abstract aspect of this sculpture is the arc of the entire body – from the heel to the tip of the head. It conjures up the form of a bow, or of a tree limb a limb pulled back. This, combined with the smack of the hand, creates the sense of a springing force. The raised heel is understated, yet very challenging for the artist – it would be much easier to sculpt the feet flat-footed. The raised heel shifts the lower body forward, balancing the backwards arc, and enhancing the athletic litheness. This curve gently pushes the crotch forward, giving the sense of unselfconscious ease.
This was lecture by Rick hosted through the ICC Speaker Series on the Future of Art as he saw it and featured the work of Artist Michael Newberry. This was taped at the beautiful Creekstone Inn in Idyllwild, California, January 14th, 2016 Video 90-min
My dear friend Rick Barker gave this talk one year from passing away due to complications with Parkinson’s Disease. The talk is about my art and its context but from Rick’s perspective, a life long interest in human evolution. He wrote Transcending Evolution: A Christian Guide to Understanding, Accepting, and Transcending Evolution available at Amazon. I met him in the Idyllwild dog park when I first moved there. It was rewarding to be surrounded by sights, sounds, and smells of playful dogs, pines, and mountains, earthy dirt, and talk with him of philosophy and aesthetics. I lent him one of my paintings, Arabesque Series: Female Couple. He was terribly ill in the hospital in his last week and wanted to die at home, the next day he died; he was found on the floor with his head uplifted towards my painting.
The nature of art is evolutionary–at its best it extends and elevates your knowledge, emotions, and senses. But just because it is our nature to live doesn’t mean we can’t reject life and commit suicide. Art at its worst––I’m talking about postmodernism now––shits on humanity, benevolence, authenticity, and love and leave us with nothing, or worse than nothing. This works both privately, in the deepest recesses of our souls, and publicly, in popular and institutionalized art of our time. In both cases you don’t have to be a victim.
Past all the noise, art as a beacon gives you a choice for your personal future: be a cynic embracing snark, apathy, and ineptness; or be the good person that embraces innovation, authenticity, and human potential. Duchamp, The Fountain (facsimile), the “original” from 1917 was submitted but not shown (probably trashed) by the Society of Independent Artists’ salon in New York. Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78″. A masterpiece of integrating perception, color theory, heart, and our potential for meaningful human connections.
Take the Test
Block out some time to examine art you love and what is popular on social media sites and in contemporary art museums. Lots of people pick art that supports how they feel, you might feel angry or depressed so you could connect with rage art or emptiness. But the test is not how you feel. Rather, it is about how would you like to feel in the near and distant future. Do you really want to be angry your whole life? Die from loneliness? Or do you want to find your inner bliss? The art you surround yourself with pulls you into its path and acts as your future’s beacon. “Is that where I want to go?” In the same way you can see where your culture is heading. Just take a look at a social media site. Some of the things I see are a lot of horror-based art struggling to release hope in a dim distant light. The wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr comes to mind: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” We can’t directly change the art of our time but we can do anything we bloody well want to with our own collection.
Since childhood, I have consistently chosen the path of artistic evolution. As an artist, I have sought and found an alternative to postmodernism, and I continue to test the limits of the sublime as I paint. Going against the grain has been at times a difficult choice, but the inner peace and joy of choosing to grow, learn, and mature is my reward. It is a magnificent place to be. Please join me in choosing evolution.
LAAA | Gallery 825 in West Hollywood The exhibition will run from October 26 – December 26 My YouTube 3-min video here.
Have you ever spent a melancholy morning walking on a beach or in the woods? Aimlessly contemplating little things like like a leaf, a struggling flower, or a stone, perhaps picking it up to feel its texture? Perhaps thinking about the pieces of your life, some that have caused you heartache? Maybe contemplating an odd feeling that nature can’t give you any answers?
There is a magnificent show in the heart of Los Angeles on La Cienega through December 26th that will be one of the most humanist, empathetic, and beautiful exhibitions you will have experienced within the last decade. Tanya Ragir fearlessly dives into our hopes and dreams, regrets, loss, love, and even chaos. Her pieces are the answers to questions about how to handle pain, how to cope, and how to find meaning.
It is not a show to be entertained by or to be blown away by, it is not a social event nor does it give you prestigious points–it is a quiet pilgrimage for the health and well-being of your soul. Ragir has picked up pieces of broken concrete, wood, and leaves merging them with sections of the female figure molded in ceramic clay creating one-of-a-kind pieces.
It strikes me the difference between a solitary walk in nature and visiting this show is that the sculptures are a conduit of communication–they are another person relating to your fragility, showing you respect and honor for your hardships, and gratitude for your gifts of beauty and kindness.
Please carve out a block of time, take a sabbatical, and visit this show. Your spirit will thank you.
Michael Newberry Idyllwild 11/17/2019
Los Angeles Art Association at Gallery 825
825 N. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90069 Phone: 310.652.8272
For decades I have listened to classical music every day while painting. Here are my favorite and most inspiring recordings:
No 1: Puccini, Turandot
Conducted by Zubin Mehta. Sutherland, Pavarotti, Caballe, Chiaurov, Krause, Pears, John Alldis Choir. London Philharmonic Orchestra. This opera and recording represent one of the greatest art achievements of the 20th century. In 1925 Puccini died before completing the last act, it premiered in 1926 at La Scala conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This recording has great singers, great performances, beautifully and passionately conducted, and fresh clean sound. This recording inspired my painting of Puccini and Denouement. My aesthetic takeaway from this opera was that it integrated romance, epic setting, beautiful and exotic color/sound harmonies, gorgeous melodies, powerful chorus, the battle of the sopranos, and maintained the big picture driving towards powerful closings of each act. My painting Denouement was the result of translating this aesthetic from music into paint.
Last night I went to bed early after a long day of painting edits, only some of which were successful. While painting I had been streaming movies and TV episodes in the background. One scene in particular caught my eye. It was of a couple kissing, joining lips in classic Hollywood fashion. The scene was stuck in my head when I went to bed around 9 p.m. I woke up at 9:30 p.m., only a half hour later, with that image still in my mind, and I thought, “Why don’t I paint a kiss?”
Right then I messaged my favorite female muse, who lives in Hollywood, and asked her about the project. Then we discussed who would be the right guy for it. The face had to be stone-like in structure, a big nose (I like painting big noses), and masculine. I remembered a male model that posed for some of my other projects a few years ago, and he, I believed, lived in Hollywood. I messaged him about the project, and he told me that he was leaving Hollywood in the morning (today!) for good. He gave the actor’s dream everything he had, and he was also going to be a dad, and he and his mate were heading to a cabin in the woods in Michigan. I searched his FB page and saw pictures of a vibrant, beautiful woman. I asked: “Are you already packed? Would you, could you, pose with your mate tonight for the “Kiss” painting?” He said: “Yes!” My muse loved that I decided to do the project with them, but she also thought I was crazy for doing such a spontaneous thing.
My show Intimacy at the White Cloud Gallery, Washington, D.C. Nov 3 – Dec 14, 2017
Last year I was painting life-sized nudes, mostly monochromatic, in my Idyllwild cabin with my dog Frida for company. It was like living in a dream, get up in the morning, enjoy my coffee, and then enter into the universe of art. As I painted, I would play music in the background, listening to complete sets of Beethoven’s Symphonies and Handel’s Oratorios, or binge on the complete series of Star Trek Next Generation and Voyager. I was exploring new and challenging ways to express love, myth, and beauty on the canvas. One challenge was how to paint an explicit lovers’ embrace in order to capture their primary feeling of love. Another challenge was creating the deepest space I have ever done. In creating this body of work, I felt my prayers to contribute to a better world being realized.
The experience of the sublime is to be looked for in art. Art integrates senses, emotions, and thought. The sublime in art elevates our sensory experience, heightens and taps our emotional potential, and furthers our knowledge. The sublime in art can give us a moral to the story, a stance towards living. At its best, the sublime in art inspires awe in our human potential and gives us a path to evolve as a whole being and as a species.
Just published, available in Coffee Table Book and Kindle formats.
From the inside jacket cover:
Idyllwild Paintings is a journey from the indifferent art scene of Downtown L.A. to the granite mountains of Idyllwild. In danger of losing the meaning of being an artist, Michael Newberry sought a place to explore depth, death, love, and light. Inside are over 45 paintings of narrative, abstract realism, and larger than life-sized portraits.
Through new mentors he was introduced to evolutionary theories, sandwich techniques, and to his dog Frida. An abundance of studio time enabled him to explore painting techniques, color theory, and pushing the boundaries of two-dimensional space. He also explored the fragile inner workings of love themes and symbolism.
Throughout his experience the nurturing environment of Idyllwild’s people served to make what could have been a lonely life, one filled with love and visibility.
Note: Idyllwild Paintings was a labor of love, it is my pleasure to offer no mark up on the coffee table book.
Idyllwild is a mythic place, if I were religious, I would say it one of God’s gardens. Indeed, if you were to wander the remote paths, you might actually come across a forest nymph interacting with nature. This year I made friends with Katie Bolin and her mate Ivan Ellirand, starting with a life-size painting of her pregnant and nude. This painting, Winter, is the follow-up and Ivan kindly granted me use one of his photos as a reference.
While painting it, I imagined it being one in a series of the four seasons. What do you think? Can you see it?
Throughout the day I see rabbits and squirrels scurrying and birds bounding and flying about. For fun, I embedded two birds and one rabbit in this painting, they are pretty well camouflaged — I doubt you find all three. Let me know if you do!