In Melbourne, I met Peter Schipperheyn, creator of the magnificent Thus Spake Zarathustra. The monumental piece is at the McClelland Sculpture Park near Mornington. The tension running through Zarathustra’s bowed body as he reaches and affirms his decision is powerful.Continue reading “Stephen Hicks visits Peter Schipperheyn’s “Zarathustra” Sculpture”
Beyond Obstacles, Malevolence, and Ignorance
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
- Life or Death: Consequences of Integrity
- Freedom of the Sublime
Myths, legends, and stories infiltrate our collective and individual consciousness, and the same holds true for the visual arts. The myth of Icarus, who flew too high then crashed and burned, was mentioned by Apollodorus around 150 BC and has since shown up countless times in visual art.
Icarus Landing, Phaethon, and Ayn Rand
An interesting twist in the legend comes with my 2000 version. The concept was inspired by Ayn Rand, who rewrote the myth of Phaethon in Atlas Shrugged. In the ancient myth, Apollo gives the reins of the sun chariot to his son Phaethon, who is unable to control the flying horses or escape his destiny. Phaethon and the chariot threaten to crash and annihilate Earth. Zeus, watching, kills Phaethon with a bolt of lightning, forcing Apollo to retake the reins and right the sun chariot’s course.
In Rand’s version, her character, Richard Halley, composes an opera in which Phaethon brilliantly succeeds to steer the sun chariot to a glorious course. I loved the concept of taking a tragic myth and changing the outcome to reflect my absolute inner belief that magnificent experiences are the stuff of living. The chariot thing was too archaic for my modern sensibility, but with some thought I landed on the concept of Icarus. After flying wildly high, I thought, Icarus would return to Earth with gentle gratitude, lit by the orange glow of the day’s setting sun. I opted for no wings, just the outstretched arms. Appropriately I painted this while I lived in Greece, and I won’t lie, I loved scaling the rock cliffs in the buff, jumping from rock to rock, as my friend philosopher David Kelley can attest to.Continue reading “Icarus: How Visual Artists Such as Myself and Bryan Larsen Steal, Borrow, and Originate”
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.Continue reading “Schipperheyn’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra”
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
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.
That is where you are heading. Very few people take advantage of the fact that their future is literally right in front of them. The future awaiting you is to be seen in the art you engage with. Will I have beauty in my life? Am I doomed to depression? Will justice prevail? Will I be happy? Will I be cut up by a chainsaw? Will I throw myself over a cliff or find exaltation in living in the present?
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.
Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 11/25/2019
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.
Los Angeles Art Association
at Gallery 825
825 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
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.
Don’t Let the Moment Pass and Go For It!
Several months ago …
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.