31 May 2008

Fill with Feelings

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William Degouve de Nuncques, "The Black Swan" (1896)
Click on image to see gallery at ArtMagick.

"To make a painting, all you need to do is to take some paints, draw some lines, and fill the rest up with feelings."
~ attributed to William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)

More images at History of Art.

29 May 2008

The Darkness

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Edward Burtynsky, "Oxford Tire Pile No. 1" (Westley, California 1999)

"Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
~ Carl G. Jung, "The Philosophical Tree" (1945), in Collected Works 13: Alchemical Studies

"These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire -- a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times."
~ Edward Burtynsky, "Exploring the Residual Landscape" (artist statement)

28 May 2008

"The Realities of Life"

"Who is the artist? Is he not a human being like ourselves, with the added gifts of finer understanding and perception of the realities of life, and the ability to arouse emotions through the creation of forms and images? Surely. And this being so, those who give their lives, their knowledge and their time to social struggle have the right to expect great help from the artist. And I cannot imagine a more inspiring role than that which the artist is asked to play for the defence and advancement of civilization."
~ Paraskeva Clark, "Come Out From Behind the Pre-Cambrian Shield," New Frontier, Vol. 1, no. 12 (April 1937)

See also this excerpt (criticizing "precious, esoteric, abstract art" for being "as useful today as a top hat to a tatterdemalion beggar in the midst of winter") at the Mirabile Dictu blog.

25 May 2008


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Ralph Eugene Meatyard, "Here-in-after, here-in-before"
(1963); gelatin silver print, approx. 6.5" x 7.25"
(Click on image to see more of Meatyard's work at George Eastman House)

"If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to live a lie."
~ Banksy, Existencilism (2002)

"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."
~ Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist" (1891)

16 May 2008

Big Questions

Should philosophy have something to say to non-philosophers? Should philosophy be pursued only by those trained in philosophy? Should academic teachers of philosophy consider themselves philosophers in virtue of the fact that they teach philosophy? And should analytic philosophers deny that continental philosophers are philosophers at all, or acknowledge that they represent different modes of philosophizing? Cogito poses some big questions to four prominent British and US philosophers.
(via wood s lot)

Which got me to wondering...
Should art have something to say to non-artists? Should art be pursued only by those trained in art? Should academic teachers of art consider themselves artists in virtue of the fact that they teach art? And should formalist artists deny that conceptual artists are artists at all, or acknowledge that they represent different modes of art-making?

Or, since some painters resist the label "artist":
Should painting have something to say to non-painters? Should painting be pursued only by those trained in painting?

Or, in a literary vein:
Should poetry have something to say to non-poets? Should poetry be pursued only by those trained in poetry?

11 May 2008

Seed Bombs

Another great idea from the folks at Just Seeds.

Seed bombs are described as "basically a simple way of sowing indigenous plants by making small balls consisting of dried clay powder, compost, seeds, and water."
There are many recipes out there, and here is one of them:
  • Combine 2 parts indigenous seeds with 3 parts compost.
  • Stir in 5 parts powdered red or brown clay.
  • Moisten with water until mixture is damp enough to mold into balls.
  • Pinch off a penny-sized piece of the clay mixture and roll it between the palms of your hands until it forms a tight ball (1 inch in diameter).
  • Set the balls on newspaper and allow to dry for 24 - 48 hours. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to sow.
I am reminded of a story my grandmother has told me, of a local schoolbus driver who sowed wildflowers along his route by tossing seeds from the window of his bus back in the 1960s and '70s. Many patches of those flowers survive to this day.

Having lived for a time in Florida, I feel compelled to emphasize the word indigenous in the above recipe. Non-native plants may be invasive! See kudzu for one alarming example of a non-native species introduced with disastrous environmental consequences.

07 May 2008

Crime Scene

~ Walter Benjamin, from "A Small History of Photography" (1931):
The camera is getting smaller and smaller, ever readier to capture fleeting and secret moments whose images paralyze the associative mechanisms in the beholder. This is where the caption comes in, whereby photography turns all life's relationships into literature; and without which all constructivist photography must remain arrested in the approximate. Not for nothing have [Eugène] Atget's photographs been likened to the scene of a crime. But is not every square inch of our cities the scene of a crime? Every passerby a culprit? Is it not the task of the photographer -- descendant of the augurs and haruspices -- to reveal guilt and to point out the guilty in his pictures? "The illiteracy of the future," someone* has said, "will be ignorance not of reading or writing, but of photography." But must not a photographer who cannot read his own pictures be no less counted as illiterate?
* László Moholy-Nagy:
"The famous phrase, 'The illiterate of the future will be ignorant of the pen and the camera alike' is Moholy's. It has gained its considerable currency mainly by way of its paraphrasing -- without attribution -- in Walter Benjamin's celebrated 'Kunswerk' essay of 1936. Moholy's observation, originally in English, was written in 1932 and first published in 'A New Instrument of Vision,' (Feb. 28, 1936)."

The layering of dates (1931, '32, '36), editions, translations, and revisions creates an almost impenetrable confusion. But if, as Benjamin writes, "someone has said," then that "someone" seems to have been Moholy-Nagy.

03 May 2008

"All Plots Are Arbitrary"

"When I find the novel on the bookshelf, I want the sense from it that all plots are arbitrary, and what matters is to begin, to set out. To begin writing and then to follow through this beginning, being loyal to it, letting the narrative reverberate with the Origin it cannot reach. I want to know that it is no plot that matters, but another kind of intrigue, in which Writing has been caught by Writing; in which the Origin is allowed to speak in what is only the beginning of a story, an arbitrary story."
~ Spurious, "A Secret Collision"