Want to Know What Your Future Is? Examine the Art You Like and the Art of Your Time

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78"

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

Postmodern vs. Evolutionary Art

The following is a version of my part of a joint presentation with Stephen Hicks given at the first ever Malibu Summit student retreat hosted by The Atlas Society on June 29, 2019 at Scorpiesse in Malibu, California.  

June 29th, 2019 at Scorpiesse – Stephen Hicks talks with Atlas Advocates at The Malibu Summit. 

An Impasse Between Creating and Destroying

The contrast between postmodernism and what I call “evolutionary art” is both epistemological, in the sense of how the art is made and the knowledge behind it, and metaphysical, what kind of subjects are important. Postmodern art is about seeking new means and content to challenge the very concept of art. Evolutionary art builds on the contributions of great artists and great art movements with new insights into human psychology and aesthetic means. Philosopher and The Atlas Society Senior Scholar Stephen Hicks, Ph.D, summarizes the difference this way:  it is the difference between a master making a stained glass window and the moron that throws a rock and smashes it!

Louise Bourgeois vs. Martine Vaugel 

Louise Bourgeois at MOMA. “Untitled” (1998), fabric and stainless steel at center

The postmodern works I am including are considered important by important art institutions. A defining moment and lifelong obsession of French-American postmodern artist Louise Bourgeois was the trauma of discovering her father’s affair with her governess. Bourgeois was a member of the American Abstract Artists Group and had her own salon called Bloody Sunday. She referred to her early to later work as “fear of falling…art of falling…and the art of hanging in there.” Not an abstract artist, not a competent drawer or sculptor, with no discernible standards of any kind, she didn’t use art as a means of personal evolution, to grow both technically and soulfully. Instead her works convey that she remained stuck in a regressive emotional intelligence state, which conveyed the only kinds of emotions available to a hopelessly incompetent artist – pain, anxiety, and confusion. 

A great example of her arrested development is this untitled head shown at her retrospective show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Clumps of wool clobbered together to form a cylinder base and a cotton ball-like head, which is then crudely sowed over with pink-flesh colored compression wrap bandages, wrapping the nose, stitched over mouth, and stuffed into the empty eyeball sockets. A cauliflower ear is formed grotesquely out of the same stuff. One has to call into question, not how pathetic her work is, but what is her motive for exhibiting it, and what are the motives of the critics, curators, and directors who give her a reputation that only the awesome prestigious power of New York’s great art institutions can give. Empathy for humanity may be in the press release, but there is a deeper motive that they may not want to examine. 

Martine Vaugel, is a contemporary French-American sculptor whose bronze figure and portrait sculptures are, in her words, the “expression of my love affair with the human spirit.” She is the founder of the Vaugel Sculpture Method, a method of clay modeling based on her knowledge of human anatomy and mastery of structure.

Continue reading “Postmodern vs. Evolutionary Art”

When Two Become One

Icarus Pendant
Icarus Pendant
Icarus Pendant

My friend Karl died last year and his husband Mark Coel sent me an image of a pendant he had made honoring their relationship. At first look, the pendant is of a male angel with wings, but then I recognized the outstretched arms and realized the figure was based on my painting Icarus Landing. Mark wrote that the wings were owl wings, an endearment they shared, and that Icarus Landing was Karl’s favorite painting. The pendant was fashioned from their wedding rings.

An Aesthete’s Guide to Visiting a Museum in a Nutshell

Rijksmuseum, Erik Smits

Don’t follow a map, don’t read anything, don’t ask, don’t look at other people, don’t try to make it worthwhile, and don’t try to “get it.” Just start walking, glancing as you are moving quickly along. Don’t feel bad if nothing “speaks” to you; just keep moving on. It might be in the 10th room, but there will be some work that will grab your attention. Stop there and just look at it. And look until you feel you are ready to move on. That is it.

You will find that experience lights a spark. In a nutshell, it is a personal experience of art. After that you might be interested to research art, movements, and artists. But none of that replaces the unique spark that speaks to you.