Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku

“In the broad valley, far below him, in the first sunlight of early morning, he saw a town. Only it was not a town. Towns did not look like that. He had to suspend the possible for a while longer, to seek no questions or explanations, only to look.”

The above was Ayn Rand’s description of Howard Roark’s Monadnock Valley development in The Fountainhead. Rand is revered — and reviled — as a philosopher and novelist, but to me she was also an artist. She defined art as a recreation of reality according to an artist’s values, and in her work, she recreated an inspirational world of heroes, light, and flourishing.

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That is why The Atlas Society chose art as an arena for intellectual and spiritual engagement with Ayn Rand’s ideas.  The 25-year-old philosophical organization capped 2016 with winners of first annual Atlas Art Contest. Over 400 entries were narrowed down to 21 artists by a panel of four judges: Sabin Howard, sculptor; Judd Weiss, photographer; Agnieszka Pilat, painter: and myself. The public was then invited to vote, further spreading the engagement with the outstanding work of our finalists.

The winners were, from first to third place, Abiodun Olaku, Eric Armusik, and Danielle Dalechek. Given Ayn Rand’s aesthetics, it is rather fitting that Olaku won first prize with his clean style, perspective, and nuanced light.

Continue reading “Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku”

Erotic Symbolism in Visual Art

Erotic Symbolism in Visual Art by Michael Newberry

Erotic Symbolism in Art
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.

When thinking about erotic symbolism in art Georgia O’Keeffe springs to mind. The painting to the right is a detail of a flower, but it is also an excellent visual symbol of an open and flushed vulva.

Erotic Symbolism in Art
At first glance you see a flower and, on reflection, you might grasp features of female anatomical details such as the clitoral hood, the clitoris, the labia majora, and the labia minora.

O’Keeffe is making an interesting statement in associating the vagina with a flower. The vagina is to humanity what a flower is to nature: it is life-giving, beautiful, and fragile, yet resilient.

Erotic Symbolism in Art
O’Keeffe, 1924, Light Iris
Continuing with another O’Keeffe painting, notice that there are no sharp vertical lines here. Rather, there are organic, fluid shapes and outlines. These shapes are easy metaphors for the soft lips of the labia and the yellow bud serves for the small erectile body of the clitoris.

There is a strong sense that we are entering into the flower, but we also get a sense that inside is a whole new universe open to us.

Erotic Symbolism in Art
Velázquez, The Surrender of Breda

A painting that has intrigued artists, such as Dali, is The Surrender of Breda by Velázquez.

This painting is loaded with phallic shapes: vertical, rigid spears, as well as thrusting weapons meant to penetrate human flesh.

Erotic Symbolism in Art

Erotic Symbolism in Art

On a less obvious note, the spears in the upper part of the canvas are balanced below by phallic shapes of the men’s and horse’s legs and the vertical negative spaces between them.

Erotic Symbolism in Art

In a fantastic stroke of scope, Velázquez incorporated feminine, fluid, organic forms into the panoramic landscape. It is as if the organic landscape is imprisoned by the bars of weapons and the soft feminine mounds of earth are pressed underfoot by the rigid men’s legs.

Though this painting is literally about the civil and very polite-looking surrender of Breda, it is not a stretch of the imagination to see, through Velázquez’s use of erotic symbolism, that this painting is really about destructive rape.

Erotic Symbolism in Art

Going back to the first O’Keeffe, it’s easy to see that the inner lips are made up of phallic shapes.

I find it amusing that in constructing this painting O’Keeffe used phallic shapes, not as a dominant force as in The Surrender of Breda, but in subservience to the feminine whole.

I hope you enjoyed this escapade in seeing art in a fresh way.

Michael Newberry
New York, September 15th, 2006

Jacob Collins, Sensuous Nature of Light

Jacob Collins, Sensuous Nature of Light by Michael Newberry

To talk about the art of Jacob Collins is to talk about his inquisitiveness.

Jacob Collins is a contemporary realist artist. He paints and draws portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, and nudes. Across the board, he imbues them all with sensuous light and an aptitude for finely wrought detail. He reminds me of a scientist who shines a light on an object to see it to full advantage. And like a scientist, he sees beauty in realizing his understanding of things. He told me “I find beauty in observing and in furthering my knowledge about light, the identity of plants and trees, and even such things as the nature of the formation of rocks and land masses.”

Currently, he is working on completing a landscape project of 50 oil paintings and graphite studies, with the centerpiece being a large landscape 50 x 100″. An exhibition of this landscape project will be on view May 8 – June 13, 2008, at Hirschl Alder Modern in New York City.

Jacob Collins

Jacob Collins

In this graphite on paper, Collins concerns himself only with the silhouette and shape of the land and tree masses, leaving the sky and water blank. This frees him to fully concentrate on details of the trees and land masses, as well as their relationships. In other studies, he has concentrated on only the water or some other section of the total image.

In his student days in the 80’s, aside from copying masterworks in Museums in New York and Italy, he studied anatomy to fully comprehend the curves and landmarks on the body’s surfaces. Integral to his figure studies is his need to see what the light is doing on the surfaces.

Jacob Collins

This drawing, a study for the painting Redhead, shows the light and dark on her body. In addition, Collins has made notations, commenting on how to further enhance the lights and darks. A painter that is working with light has one enormous obstacle to overcome: light in real life is about a hundred times brighter than the re-creation of light with paint and canvas. An artist, through paint, can’t very well shine a 500-watt halogen light in your face! One way an artist simulates light is to show the reflection of light on objects. Think of the Moon in relationship to the Sun. Another thing that an artist can do, and which Jacob has done, is to fine tune the nuances of light to the nth degree. Compare the different tones of highlights of her forehead, breast, and thigh. Once viewers have adjusted their eyes to a painting that has a great range of nuance between light and dark, their eyes will feel the brightness of the light.

Jacob Collins

I found it easy to talk with Jacob. Perhaps, because he is also an educator and a man who goes his own way. He is the founder of the Hudson River School for Landscape in Hunter, NY, the Founder of Grand Central Academy of Art in NYC, and the Founder of Water Street Atelier also in NYC. He has also taught at National Academy of Design, the Portrait Society of America, and the New York Academy of Art.

Jacob Collins

Drawing is my favorite Collin’s painting. Spreading out in foreshortened perspective are the paper and tools for drawing. Even if you are not an artist, you might have experienced the joy in going into an art store and seeing and feeling the textures of the papers, looking at the pastels and charcoals, and wondering how much fun it would be to make art. Notice the different textures and subtle colors of the papers in Drawing. You might notice the highlighted, ruffled, and delicately torn edges of several of the papers. I have fond memories of learning about different papers as an art student. One lesson we learned was to tear a really good acid-free 100% cotton rag paper to size using a straight edge–it’s a very sensual experience. Collins gets that tactile beauty of the paper down exactly.

Jacob Collins

In the painting, Candace, Jacob is doing several impressive things. One is that the composition is powerfully divided between the light and dark of the fabrics, which is echoed by the high contrast of light and dark on her body. The modeling of her body is superb. Notice the form of her left thigh, how the form rotates up to the highlight on the iliac crest, and then gently descends onto the plain of her taught belly. Her flesh-tone color is natural, rich, and subtle. Notice the pinkish fingertips, the crisp pearl-color of her breasts, the cool blue mid-tone of her ribs, and the ochre highlights of her thighs.

Jacob Collins

In Candace, and in Collins’ art in general, I cannot help but see hints of da Vinci’s attention to molding forms, Rembrandt’s hierarchy of light, and Bouguereau’s delicate skin colorization.

A funny experience I have had with musicians has been their use of the word “stagnant” to describe the form of painting. But Jacob describes light as it “bounces in soft and hard ways.” A good place to see this “bounce” is by comparing the highlight on her forehead, to the shoulder’s highlight silhouetting her chin, and to the highlight on her throat. Collins is “bouncing” the highlights through space.

The last aspect of this painting I will comment on is the exquisite detailing of the fabric. Collins painted her body first, then he set up the fabric with a mannequin so that he could paint the folds of the cloth undisturbed. By doing this, he could arrange the folds of the cloth to bring out their beauty, even down to the smallest details, and he gave himself all the time he needed do to them justice.

Many people wonder why artists go through all this work when they can simply copy a photograph. Collins volunteered that “photos are not as rich an experience as working from life.” Let’s take a cue from Collins, and enrich our lives by looking more closely at his universe of inquiry and light.

Michael Newberry
New York, April 2008
Originally published in The New Individual

Blarney at the Guggenheim

Blarney at the Guggenheim by Michael Newberry

CREMASTER 3, by Matthew Barney

A 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. The cremaster is the involuntary muscle that creates the rising and falling of the scrotum.

A 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.”

Nancy Spector, the curator of the Guggenheim, wrote the synopses of the five films of the Cremaster Cycle. Here is an excerpt:

Cremaster 2 embodies this regressive impulse through its looping narrative, moving from 1977, the year of Gary Gilmore’s execution, to 1893, when Harry Houdini, who may have been Gilmore’s grandfather, performed at the World’s Colombian Exposition. The film is structured around three interrelated themes—the landscape as  witness, the story of Gilmore (played by Barney,) and the life of bees—that metaphorically describe the potential of moving backward in order to escape one’s destiny. Both Gilmore’s kinship to Houdini (played by Norman Mailer) and his correlation with the male bee are established in the séance/conception scene in the beginning of the film, during which Houdini’s spirit is summoned and Gilmore’s father expires after fertilizing his wife.

She steers clear of evaluating the work in print, merely cataloging the content.

A scene from the Cremaster 3 film was set inside the Guggenheim. It is loaded with references to Las Vegas showgirls, game shows, mythology, blood, and ambition. Barney, dressed in Scottish garb, climbs artificial mountain panels on the outer ramp-walls of the Guggenheim rotunda, reminiscent of televised athletic contests. Could be symbolic of competing for and scaling the heights of the art world? Along the way, he solves a spatial puzzle, showing aesthetic savvy. He overcomes a challenge by a half-woman half-tigress that bites him on the mouth, drawing a substantial amount of blood. Implied might be the double symbolism of Barney being Christ and the half-woman representing the predatory nature of dealers and agents? The wound to the mouth might also be suggestive that it is better to remain silent if you are to pursue your ambitions no matter how much of your life force it drains? The climax is when he reaches the uppermost heights of the Guggenheim to find a zombie-like Richard Serra, monumental minimalist sculptor, decked out in industrial garb shoveling boiled Vaseline onto the top of a mini-ramp. Then there is a close-up shot of the oozing lubricant’s downward path. Either due to the spectacle of Serra at the top of the Guggenheim or to this artist shoveling slime on the inner ramp-walls of the Guggenheim rotunda, Barney falls over the ramp to splash into a bubble bath filled with showgirls. Falling to success then leads to the denouement in which he takes revenge on the woman/tigress and kills her.

Barney is following in the wake of the anti-art aesthetic of the Dadaists, but he is dangerously close to taking his expression seriously. Barney is more like a filmmaker, but being just incoherent enough to qualify as a postmodernist. In other rooms of the Guggenheim, Barney displays props from the film’s sets, such as the scores of plastic 6-foot pillars.

Also on exhibit are some of the quite brilliant still photographs taken from the films. A great deal of credit must go to the cameraman, Peter Strietmann. He has a great eye for composition and essential details.

After viewing this superficial spectacle, I think it is a good time for us to step back, way back, and question the viability of postmodern art. There is a shift of attitude by the contemporary postmodernists such as McCarthy, Huyghe, and Barney, a nuance of difference between them and the Dadaists. Duchamp had an overpowering sense of cynicism, but he also had his wits about him. He knew and played with the fact that he was an anti-artist, note his use of a Rembrandt image as a cover for an ironing board. These post-postmodernists don’t have this type of awareness. They sincerely express, as if it were a value, chaos, morbid states, unintelligibility, temporal mediums, and an overall negative view of humanity without any sense of irony.

David Rockefeller speaking of MoMA, though he could be speaking of museums in general, says: “As for the polemics over whether MoMA should choose a period and just not collect beyond it—maybe Abstract Expressionism; Modern but not post-Modern—I feel the museum has an obligation to continue to collect into the present, to identify the best, most creative artists of today.”

Might curators and critics reevaluate the meaning of postmodern aesthetics in light of human values? Perhaps then, we would see more than “blarney” at the Guggenheim.

CREMASTER 5, 1997 by Matthew Barney

Michael Newberry
2003, revised in Santa Monica, 2011

Pandora’s Box Part 3

Pandora’s Box Part 3

by Michael Newberry
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.

To start I would like to address a few of Kant’s concepts of the sublime. These concepts are important because he introduces some profoundly radical concepts into the history of aesthetics that have, in a fundamental sense, become the blueprints for postmodern art.

Kant states: “The beautiful in nature is a question of the form of the object, and this consists in limitation, whereas the sublime is to be found in an object even devoid of form.”

Kant is contrasting the beautiful with the sublime. He connects, quite reasonably, the beautiful with the form of an object but, oddly, he attaches formlessness to the concept of sublime. To give you two examples, think of the Venus de Milo and Duchamp’s Fountain. The Venus de Milo derives her aesthetic value because of the sculptor’s superlative skill in creating a fluid, graceful female form in stone. The Fountain, on the other hand, is a urinal. It derives its postmodern aesthetic esteem because Duchamp exercised no skill and used no means; it is the antithesis of making sculpture. In a very true sense it is aesthetically formless, it represents an idea, but the actual urinal is of no aesthetic value in itself.

Kant’s view is that a concept communicated through a formless means is superior to a concept communicated through the form of sculpture or painting. In other words, it is the concept that counts and not the artwork.

venus11

The Venus de Milo is an example of a concept communicated through the form of beautiful sculpture, requiring great skill.

Beauty, however, is inferior to the sublime, which can be communicated through formless artlessness, requiring no skill, by Kant’s reckoning.

fountain

The Fountain is a urinal. It is also an example of postmodern sublimity.

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.

An opinion voiced by many people in response to postmodern art, such as Andre’s bricks arranged on a floor as exhibited in the Tate, is “my eight-year-old could do this.” It is easy to understand their perspective; their assumption is that a value is something that takes effort and skill, the higher the value the more it would require superlative skill, not something assembled at random.

Andre

Arranged bricks at the Tate Modern.

This attitude, in part, echoes Aristotle’s comment that “art is identical with a state of capacity to make, involving a true course of reasoning.” The idea is that a sculptor sculpts and a painter paints and they remain true to their arts forms, to the means of creation. There would be no room in his concept of art to include assemblages of factory-made objects. “All art is concerned with coming into being, i.e. with contriving and considering how something may come into being and whose origin is in the maker.” An Aristotelian definition of a person who scattered bricks would be a brick arranger, not an artist.

A contemporary take on the nature of art comes from Rand, who connects humanity’s need of art to the process of translating concepts, through painting or sculpture, into an immediate perceptual concrete. She observes: “An artist isolates the things which he regards as metaphysically essential and integrates them into a single new concrete that represents an embodied abstraction.”

In Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, we literally see a woman leading people forward, an immediate perceptual concrete, and this scene projects concepts such as fighting for one’s values, overcoming barriers, and life or death struggles. Experiencing this phenomenon is what can give humans the sense of the reality of their possibilities. The idea is that artistic visions can and do inspire our dreams and goal-directed actions in real life.

delacroix

The nature of art is to be a beacon to guide one’s path in life. In what direction does your path lead?

Both Rand and Aristotle keep aesthetics grounded to art. On the other hand, Kant, through his concept of the formless nature of the sublime, divorces aesthetics from art.

As the means of an artwork deals with the form, the end deals with the “point”, the intellectual and emotional expression of the art. In Kant’s view the end point of the sublime should “excite[s] a feeling of an outrage on the imagination, and yet it is judged all the more sublime on that account.”

Kant’s theory of the sublime is the foundation for all the derivative theories of shock aesthetics that find realization in such postmodern works as: meat grinders for humans, Hatoum’s Mouli Julienne; the irrelevant defacement of the Mona Lisa image by the inclusion of a moustache, Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q.; canned shit, Manzoni’s Merde d’artista; empty room as art, Creed’s The Lights Going On and Off; etc.

hatoum duchamp-LHOOQ artshit creed

On a basic human level there is a touch of nastiness in all these works. They are displays that take us to states of mind that are either envious, grotesque, or senseless.

The Dalai Lama by contrast believes that your happiness is threatened if you embrace negative states of being. He eloquently states: “…hatred, jealousy, anger, and so on are harmful. We consider them negative states of mind because they destroy our mental happiness; once you harbor feelings of hatred or ill feeling towards someone, once you yourself are filled by hatred or negative emotions, then other people appear to you as also hostile.” Though he is not making an aesthetic statement, his idea serves as an ethical stance in which happiness is a proper aim for one’s life.

The question arises: what role does human value, as a subject matter, have in aesthetics?

Kant has already shown us his negative stance by the idea of an “outrage on the imagination”. In contrast to Kant’s aesthetics, Rand and Aristotle have benevolent views of what the end point in art should be. In Rand’s case she thinks art can/should create the experience of “a moment of metaphysical joy–a moment of love for existence.” And Aristotle thinks that: “Every art is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim.”

Rand and Aristotle come from the standpoint that every act of human creativity has a human value as an end point, including art. The converse would be that if an act has a negative state as its end, it would be destructive or meaningless for a healthy humanity.

So let’s start afresh, away from Kant’s malapropos use of the word “sublime”, and find out what the dictionary definition of it is. The American Heritage Dictionary defines sublime as 1) characterized by nobility; majestic. 2) a. Of high spiritual, moral, or intellectual worth. b. Not to be excelled; supreme. 3) Inspiring awe; impressive. 4) Archaic. Raised aloft; set high.

Keep those definitions in mind as we look at the following work.

Feldman’s sculpture group, The Future In Our Hands, 1992, Reservoir Park, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is four life-size bronze statues placed around a large outdoor fountain. There are two males and two females, life-sized, each playing with a child.

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Instead of looking at each sculpture separately, let’s first look at their common features.

Each adult is standing with one leg solidly anchored on the ground, giving us the sense that they are grounded in real life. Their other leg is relaxed and slightly extended, giving them a sense of balance and flexibility. Each adult is intently looking at their child and, more, their entire body language is directed to and in support of the child. Notice how each adult has an extended free arm poised for maintaining balance. Their free arm is also extended in an expression of care.

Each child is in a moment of freedom; they are rising, reaching, or flying.

Notice that none of the children are held or held back.

There is an intensely intimate physical connection between the adults and the children. Aside from the one child literally in flight, the other children are balancing themselves on their parents. As well, in beautiful exchanges of tenderness, the parents are balancing the children with little more than a touch of a finger, the support of a palm, or the tip of a nose.

F1 F2 F3 Future

If we continue to look more closely at the sculptures, we will notice that each adult is a unique body type: the lithe girlish figure contrasts with the full womanly figure; the men’s figures are similarly contrasted between slender and solid builds.

F1detail

Unique individual features merged with a theme of benevolence, perhaps meaning that goodness starts with the individual?

Notice the face of the mother tossing the child; the line of her mouth and the tilt of her nose are distinct features. We have the sense that if the model walked by we would recognize her. Each figure has these unique characteristics, which marks them as individuals. But common among them is the elegance of the proportions of their body parts. Not a hand, head, or foot seems out of sync with the whole body. Here Feldman has stepped away from the generic prototypes of the ancient Greeks, where, for example, youths’ heads look very much alike.

In each sculpture notice the flow of the surface skin and how it molds the underlying anatomy from the hips to stomach up to the chest to around the shoulders. Look at the natural shape of the knees; we can sense how they are either locked into place or totally relaxed. This is a virtuosic display of modeling clay. It also shows the breadth of Feldman’s anatomical knowledge from the delineation of a neck muscle to the hardness of an elbow.

It might be easy to overlook the simple naturalness of the children. But there are several very difficult technical things going on here. One is that their proportions are true to little children: the largeness of their heads and the fullness of their torsos. Another aspect is the modeling of their flesh, which gives us a sense of a malleable plumpness. The third is that these toddlers are in incredibly dynamic poses. Children, throughout the history of art, from the Egyptians to modern times have often looked, simply put, weird. It is refreshing to find in sculpture children that look like children.

Futurekid F1kid F2kid F3kid

Stepping back, let’s take in the sculptures from a distance and look at their big forms. The big form is, in contrast to details such as ears, the essential “sweep” of the whole sculpture. If you use your imagination it is like waving a magic wand in ascending arches, in large flowing curves, or in shooting diagonal exclamation marks. And imagine that your gestured arches, curves, and diagonals magically turn into wildly arching backs, shoulders pivoting against thrust hips, and ecstatic children soaring.

Looking at the sculpture of the lithe woman with the flying child, follow the bow-like sweep from her right shoulder through her left hip down through left leg that ends at the curve of her left big toe. Notice how the child is flying diagonally off the sweep of the mother’s body, like an arrow shooting off a bow. Feldman is using this big sweep to dramatically accent the child’s flight.

Parenthetically, Rodin’s greatest historical innovation was his integration of big sweeping forms of the human body, which he used to give a sense of immediacy, of living in the moment, to the expression of the figure. His figures never feel “posed”, like the melodramatic poses you might see in silent movies. It is outside of the scope of this essay but it could be argued that Rodin sacrificed proportions, the flesh-like texture of the modeling, and the completeness of the entire figure so that he could achieve the big sweep of immediacy and form. On the other hand, Feldman has integrated this technique without sacrificing any of these other sculptural values.

FuturesmallP F3smallP F2smalllP F1smallP

A swirling twist of space is the big form in the sculpture of the child who is raising himself off his mother’s shoulder. She is taking a step, rotating in the direction of her turned head, following the direction of her child, whose back enhances this line and whose head is turned in such a way as to continue this sweep out towards his furthest sight. The whole composition is like a waltz of balance.

Looking at the sculpture of the child balanced on his father’s shoulder, we can sense a flowing “S” sweep from the father’s right leg, swinging up through his torso, curving through the tilting torso of the child, ending in a burst of joyfully flung arms and legs, much like the ascent and explosion of fireworks.

Perhaps the most impressive of the four sculptures is the one in which the father has raised the delighted child on high. Notice the soaring line from the father’s right shoulder through his arm up through the child’s high flung leg.

The Future in Our Hands has a lot to take in: the theme of joy of supporting human growth with its sub-themes of individuality, flight, comradely, and equality of the sexes. There is its multi-faceted execution of intimate detailing, naturalism, dynamic movement, and big forms all of which underlie and support the theme. In one way it simply looks natural but the aesthetic construct is a tour de force of integration.

I don’t know if contemporary critics, curators, and collectors have lost the capacity to feel awe for good things. Whether they have or have not, it would be hard to miss the qualities in The Future in Our Hands of nobility, value, excellence, and raising the human spirit aloft, in essence those things which make the sublime.

The Postmodern project substitutes exaltation for rage, visual means for formlessness, and sublimity for nihilism, but it can not destroy the existence and nature of art, or other human accomplishments. But these anti-art definitions can and do destroy our general ability to identify important aesthetic values in works of art; if we are not careful we could lose the language to distinguish the good from the absurd.

The antidote to postmodern and the key to understanding the dilemma posed by this Pandora’s Box series is identification: open your eyes and name it for what it is.

All three versions of the legend of Pandora’s Box are true: the swirling demons and the diseases of insanity; the hope; and, as well, the magnificence of human creation. But it is the third version of Pandora’s Box, the one in which “out from the box rose up all the glories of humanity and they spread throughout the world with undiminished splendor” is the real one. It is the version that has value for those of us wishing to achieve a flourishing existence on earth.

Michael Newberry
2002, first published in the Free Radical #54