Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ART vs. LIFE



Art is a double edged sword. It enhances our experience of life, but also obstructs and diminishes it.

We spend most of our time here at the good ol' Illustration Art blog focusing on that enhancement part, but today as a special public service we offer some thoughts on that dark side of art-- the part they never mentioned in your Art Appreciation class.

Goethe believed the arts make us more sensitive. In The Sorrows of Young Werther he described a cultured young couple in love:
We went to the window. It was still thundering at a distance: a soft rain was pouring down over the country, and filled the air around us with delicious odours. Charlotte leaned forward on her arm; her eyes wandered over the scene; she raised them to the sky, and then turned them upon me; they were moistened with tears; she placed her hand on mine and said, “Klopstock!”
The mere mention of the poet Friedrich Gottfried Klopstock (1724-1803) caused our hero to quiver with emotion:
At once I remembered the magnificent ode which was in her thoughts: I felt oppressed with the weight of my sensations, and sank under them. It was more than I could bear. I bent over her hand, kissed it in a stream of delicious tears, and again looked up to her eyes. Divine Klopstock!
Now, I'm a fan of sensitivity just as much as the next guy, but when it is left to run rampant, sensitivity can be downright debilitating. Goethe's couple leaves me gasping for air.

There's no shortage of examples of art getting in the way of life. Consider those young males who fixate on fantasy pictures of naked space vixens in garter belts and spiked heels. They collect such images in magazines, art portfolios and limited edition giclee prints.   They play with such images in graphic computer games.  But after a point, such images distract young men from real life relationships. If we let fantasy art distort our taste and values and expectations, we may find ourselves with only deluxe coated archival paper stock to fondle. Art can lure us away from Ruskin's principle that "the only wealth is life."

This did not escape the attention of Walt Whitman, who asked: "Have you reckon'd that the landscape took substance and form that it might be painted in a picture?"

Here, Ronald Searle shows us someone who apparently got the answer wrong:



It seems to me that there is a bargain between art and life. To derive the most from art, we should keep the trade offs of that bargain freshly in mind:

  • Art robs us of time, but with the promise that it will pay us back by saving us time later. In theory, art will mature us, enrich us, and educate us faster than we could ever experience just by living our solitary lives. It will expose us to a wider range of perspectives than we could ever experience in real time.

  • Art comes between us and the immediacy of experience, but with the promise that its filters will enrich the way we perceive those experiences.
  • Art tells us lies (often starting with the illusion of 3D on a 2D surface) with the promise that those lies will eventually help us see the truth more clearly.
  • Art is supposed to sensitize us, but as Werther demonstrated, it's possible to become too sensitive. There are a lot of complex, high strung people out there whose refined palates do them no good at all. They have trouble getting pleasure out of life or having good relationships; you see them picking at everything, having lost the ability to take pleasure in the merely nice.
If you weigh everything we surrender to art in exchange for the good things we receive from it, it is easy to see how art could become the enemy of life. In my view, maintaining a proper balance between art and life is a major part of the challenge of appreciating art.

I try to keep in mind the wise philosophy of Lionello Venturi, who wrote:

What ultimately matters in art is not the canvas, the hue of oil or tempera, the anatomical structure and all the other measurable items, but its contribution to our life, its suggestions to our sensations, feeling and imagination.

127 Comments:

Blogger Gregory Becker said...

A very timely post. We should certainly live a life of love and let the art flow out of that.

1/19/2010 9:33 PM  
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1/19/2010 9:40 PM  
Blogger Diantres said...

always great posts David, this one isn't an exception.

1/19/2010 10:04 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

I've been thinking about that a lot lately. As I've improved, I find that I notice a lot more around me, which is great. I notice colors I never realized were there, shape groupings, value relationships, etc.

The downside is - I find it hard to turn it off sometimes. I'm analyzing everything all the time. Sometimes I wonder if that detracts from just experiencing things.

Very interesting post!

1/19/2010 10:43 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

A great thought, nicely expressed.

However, reading that Geothe character, I didn't think how "sensitive" he was. To me, sensitivity is the ability to perceive clearly that which is hidden to most. Highly competent people are enormously sensitive and, what's more important, selective about what they are sensitive about.

For some reason "sensitive" is often applied to people who are simply so socially clueless that they feel the need to analyze and reference their way through even the most basic situations of life. These people aren't sensitive, they're slow. And they're slow because they have had their basic life instincts quashed somewhere along the way. I doubt such quashing was Art's doing. Over-reliance on Art is just the symptom. (More likely an angry drunken dad and an unhappy mom were the culprits, as per the cliche.)

True sensitivity, it seems to me, arises from perfect clarity of mind.

Anyway, great post!

kev

1/19/2010 11:03 PM  
Blogger jagmed said...

well put! this makes art more justifiable when it is posed as an enrichment to life instead of a substitute.

1/19/2010 11:11 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

very interesting post
thanks

1/20/2010 1:23 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

well, people who make art aren't happy. they're usually the introspective, malcontent ones. the urge comes from a lack, not an abundance. it serves a compensatory function; it adds beauty and order to areas of life where it is lacking. in an ideal world art wouldn't need to exist.

1/20/2010 4:36 AM  
Blogger Lennard Grahn said...

Art is what artists do, teaching math is what math teachers do, baking bread is what bakers do.

1/20/2010 8:51 AM  
Blogger KFM Gallery said...

you got it... its all about the balance.

1/20/2010 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Artist said...

The connection between art and life is doubtlessly very close.

1/20/2010 9:21 AM  
Blogger Bruce Docker said...

Any activity can be taken too seriously, even obsessively by some. Life or art, it’s about balance and an understanding of priorities.

1/20/2010 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

You could make all the same points about television, sports, politics, even drug abuse--how it robs us of time, separates us from real experience, promises to enrich us, etc.

I'm not really sure if I'd say that art robs anyone of anything. It's a personal choice to spend a lot of time on it. Nobody imposes that on anyone else.

I guess the opposite idea is that of living like an animal, where you would be completely in the present at all times, without any kind of reflection or playing around with reality. People are just not like that.

Unless you draw and paint for a living, you will never have much personal "balance" if you are really into anything else, including art. There's not enough time.

It's just all about making choices. Probably the larger point is why people make such choices and what forces, benevolent or malevolent, are at play.

I just think you ask hard questions that don't necessarily have a definite answer, but an individual one.

1/20/2010 11:18 AM  
Blogger Don Cox said...

"well, people who make art aren't happy."

What makes you think that? The artists I know are no more or less happy than anyone else, and I see nothing to suggest that artists of the past were any different.

1/20/2010 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Norm said...

I agree with Brian.

1/20/2010 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Adam Ritchie said...

So what use is art if your radiator is leaking or if you have a flat tire or if you are hungry?
Art is a pleasant distraction from the challenges of life, but no more.
There are too many navel-gazers on this blog.

1/20/2010 2:01 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"What makes you think that?"

i agree with David (and Adam) that art is a distraction from life.
a distraction that can sometimes become obsessive and even damaging.
if life was perfect we wouldn't need art. life would be so wonderful that we wouldn't need to recreate or re-imagine it. hence, art is born of discontented people.

1/20/2010 2:22 PM  
Blogger william wray said...

I knew art stole my life.

1/20/2010 2:59 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I'm probably coming at this from the wrong angle. Art (or at least something like it)pays for my food and radiator fixing and flat tire replacing.
But, maybe I can see the other side. I used to play Dungeons and Dragons and one day (a nice sunny Summy day)some friends and I were sitting around trying to decide what to do. I wanted to go to the beach, but my friends wanted to play DandD. We wound up spending the day, inside, playing our characters going to an imaginary beach.
So, yeah...I could see art getting used (abused)that way.
But I still agree with Brian. It's all balance. So, really, it's not art at all that's the issue, but rather the individual and how they choose to spend their time.
And, Laurence,
Since art is communication, I see it as a useful insight into other people's points of view. I like art that makes me say, "Hm, I didn't think of that." or "I never saw it that way before"
So, art is a real part of life and society, not something apart from it.

1/20/2010 5:09 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Um...."Summer" day...darned type-os

1/20/2010 5:12 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Art has ben so much part of my life, my family's life and the lives of my friends. The truth is that we consort with very few "civilians," that is people who do not earn their livelihoods in art. I realize that's a failing, but there are compensations. Today, my oldest friend, Jerry Pinkney, called me up to announce that his best-selling book, The Lion and The Mouse, had just won the Caldecott Medal.

For those of us in the field, this is a well-deserved award for this master illustrator.

In a way...a big way, illustrators are very different from artists. We are artists, of course, but we work withing narrower confines. It's pleasing to note the wider attention paid to illustration in recent years and a bit bemusing to see how many people make comments that are more in the bailiwick of fine arts.
In one way, Jerry's latest book is akin to fine arts in that it is a wordless book...all of the content is visual.

1/20/2010 6:10 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

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1/21/2010 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art vs. Life? I'd say, art IS life, or a way of living, more successfully and satisfying than any non-artist could even dream of... And as all life has to end one day: this would be my idea of paradise, a vast empty white space and a magic pencil to get it populated. And of course a magic eraser as well... What huries I would have!!! In what palaces we would live!...
So if God is still around here (see comment 48 or so, last thread): could You please make a note?...
Anatol

1/21/2010 12:23 PM  
Anonymous Douglas said...

Mr Howard seems to be looking at art purely as a job.And engaging in 'shop talk', just as a family of electricians or plumbers would talk about how their businesses were going when they all gather round the dinner table.
That's not exactly the Bloomsbury Set is it?

Also am I the only one who finds the term 'Civilians' highly offensive and patronising?

It seems like a codeword for 'ordinary people', which I thought we all were.

1/21/2010 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Rick DS said...

Don't worry Doug. he's a total ass.

1/21/2010 2:02 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>It seems like a codeword for 'ordinary people', which I thought we all were.<<<

Mister Rogers told you that you're special and you actually believed it. As a representative of Everyman, I am sure that you feel you can easily compete with the Special Forces soldier at his job, then jump into an Indy race car and take it to the winner's circle.

Okay, you think that's a bit of over reaching? Me too. Yet you think that you are the equal of a professional illustrator even though you probably haven't quite mastered the rudiments of drawing and painting, let alone story-telling...hey, it looks easy!

Don't you understand how insulting and demeaning it is for someone who has mastered his craft to listen to some buffoon posturing about equality. Unless you have the portfolio, the client list, the awards, just what the hell makes people like you consider yourself as equals.

Doubtless there are skills you have mastered that you might take offense to if some punk kid denigrated them and said he could do what you do as well...that he's your equal. Doubtless you'd say..."okay, punk, put up or shut up. Show me what you can do."

Equality is not a right. It's like money, you have to earn it (unless you are on welfare.) There's no bullshiiting your way out of it. Show me the artwork or STFU. If you're good, I'll be among the first to say so...I'm that honest.

1/21/2010 4:17 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Don't worry Doug. he's a total ass.<<< All the better for kissing. So, let's see what sort of non-ass art you can do. Let's seee the Promethean heights you've climbed.

Oh yeah...I don't have to impress you...yep, that's the standard cop-out. Want to put me down and show what an ass i am, let's see some of your work. Failing that...pucker up.

1/21/2010 4:20 PM  
Anonymous Doug said...

"Don't you understand how insulting and demeaning it is for someone who has mastered his craft to listen to some buffoon posturing about equality."

Given that your work is designed to appeal to 'civilians',I'd have thought our opinion was rather important.Unless of course your work is so sophisticated that it would only appeal to a cultural elite.
As I've made no qualitative judgement on your abilities, I'd have said your broadside was off-topic.
And if equality is the issue,maybe you'd care to tell me how many extra votes you were allowed in the last election, what with your opinion being so valuable?

How about pompous,posturing ass? Now we're getting closer.

Oh, and thanks for explaining what exactly a 'wordless book' is, all this technical art-talk can get confusing.

1/21/2010 5:01 PM  
Blogger squidmonk3j said...

When I see that New Yorker cover, I choose to see Sisyphus reveling in the sheer futility and absurdity of his existence.

1/21/2010 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Vincent-Lev said...

Love the pieces you choose for your posts, a lot of great art. unfortunately good are is getting more and more scares these days. And art is so important in our lives, it gives food to the soul so to speak. Art makes life more beautiful and meaningful

http://levart.blog.com/

1/21/2010 9:35 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Given that your work is designed to appeal to 'civilians',I'd have thought our opinion was rather important.Unless of course your work is so sophisticated that it would only appeal to a cultural elite.<<<

Wrong! You didn't think it through. If you had you'd know that there's a huge gulf that exists between the performer on the stage and the audience. The skilled performer can play the same show every night and make the members of the audience feel as if the performance is fresh and wrought especially for them. That's the art part of the ARTificiality. Making you suspend disbelief, making you think that the performer really truly loves you individually when he bids you a good night and says he loves you is ARTificial. You give us money. That's all that you can do for us. It compensates for the risks and the endless practice.

Thanks very much for the money. It doesn't make us similar or bosom buddies and it is very important for the artist to maintain that detachment. This does not mean the artist is without generalized feelings of attachment to his fellow humans, but the attachment is generalized and used as an aid in producing greater emotional impact.

The reality is that there's a huge gulf between your deeply felt air guitar and the skilled guitarist onstage just as there's a huge gulf between making a picture that evokes an emotion and being in the audience, responding to the emotion-producing artwork. Tears well up in the eyes of the audience (see the reference to Werther). If they well up in the artist's eye, he can't see well enough to draw.

To think that both sides of the stage are the same is the sort of delusion a good artist tries to promote. That does not mean that as he is manipulating your emotions, he is treating you any diferently than a biology experiment in which we can repeatedly make a frog's leg twitch.

You're just twitching on cue and you don't understand how it's done, anymore than the frog does. You ascribe it to some magical power muddled with what you think talent is. But it's all repeatable trickery. Some of us are better than others and the really frustrating thing is the difference between a solid yeoman and a stellar artist is just a tiny bit...but it might as well be a thousand miles for all the yeoman will ever approach that last inch or so.

1/22/2010 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Douglas said...

So in other words ,you're doing tricks for the public, like a performing monkey.
What a clever boy.

1/22/2010 12:28 AM  
Blogger Joe Jusko said...

Funny, I can't remember the last time I watched a movie and didn't miss entire passages of dialogue because I was studying how scenes were lit and composed, or lost blocks of time just looking at the world around me (lighting, form, texture, etc). I do make time to turn the visual queue off but it's on a mental timer that just kicks in the second I spot something.

1/22/2010 1:24 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

Life is unstoppable
Art is unstoppable
Apparently Rob is unstoppable too.
All these things inseparable

My favorite post yet. I often enjoy the comments as much or more than the post itself
but of course....inseparable, and why should we want to pit them against each other art vs. life,
post vs. comments? Is that the human dilemma dividing life into me and not me. I think that's the original mistake. People certainly create art for multitudes of reasons. It is a fantastical idea that in an ideal world art would not exist. I think a truer statement of the same idea would be that in an ideal world you wouldn't see any possibility of saying this or that is or isn't art. And so in fact it is. The deeper you look, you will see that is reality.

1/22/2010 2:34 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Oh, come on guys (Doug, Rick DS and whoever else might jump in), can't you just leave Rob alone? I mean, where would he be if he couldn't log on to the net and repeatedly namedrop all the people he's known who were more successful, better known, and won more prestigious awards than he has?

Can't you just let a dog have his bone? :)

1/22/2010 4:26 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"It is a fantastical idea that in an ideal world art would not exist"


you're right, it is fantastical. the 'ideal world' i imagined is a purely hypothetical place and given what humans beings are, it is also fantastically unlikely.


on a side note (and at the risk of contradicting myself) there is a perfectly natural purpose for art which we musn't overlook... as a show-off display to attract a mate.
this might explain why men have traditionally been the more numerous and aggressive in the art world; the males in the animal world are always the ones with the brightest plumage, the biggest antlers or the silliest dance.

1/22/2010 4:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with the Ronald Searle picture is that, though the message seems to be clear, it somehow doesn't work: Searle fools himself (and us) by not realizing, that the beautiful sunset which the painter seems so little impressed with is a piece of art itself,it's a painting by - Searle. Like most people, Searle simply cannot think of a really beautiful sunset without getting it mixed up with something he has seen in a film, a photo or, most likely, in a painting. Life isn't as beautiful as art, there are no real sunsets like painted ones, no real landscapes like the ones, artists have made up, no girls half as sexy as those you find in books and museums. Even paradise a place artists have invented.

1/22/2010 8:33 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

I like the quote by Venturi. It's not about technique, it's about the fulfillment we can each draw from art as human beings, in whichever way, at whatever level.

I would emphasise the importance of art in the 'doing', in the making of art. Everyone is creative and can create art. Of course, everyone isn't a Michelangelo, and there are contexts where it is appropriate to expose an artist's skills to the glare of criticism, but at a certain level that doesn't matter - we can all do creative things just for our own satisfaction.

This is why I don't agree with Laurence John's point: "if life was perfect we wouldn't need art. life would be so wonderful that we wouldn't need to recreate or re-imagine it. hence, art is born of discontented people."

Human beings will create art regardless of whether life is perfect or not, or whether they are discontented or not. We invest our creativity in everything we do or make. Cars for example are practical objects designed to get us from one place to another, yet we also make them beautiful even though it adds nothing to their utilitarian purpose.

As long as human beings are making things, i.e. for as long as the species is around, we will also be creating art. It's in our nature. Art isn't just a reimagination of an objective world, it is a reimagination of ourselves.

Also by Laurence John (sorry, don't mean to pick on you!) "this might explain why men have traditionally been the more numerous and aggressive in the art world"

No, not at all. Men have traditionally been more numerous in the art world for the same reasons they have been more numerous in business and politics and other things. Sexism, in short. Women are no inherently less talented or interested in art than men, but society has for most of history discouraged their equal participation in the art world.

1/22/2010 8:48 AM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

I didn't believe he even knew Pinkney, but then I read this post at another blog.

"The other day I called my one-time studio assistant, Robs Howards, to tell him I had won yet another award. Since he left, my brushes haven't been so clean, until I found Ugly Dog Brush Soap." -Jerry Pinkney

1/22/2010 9:54 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I don't know where you live, anon, but in the hudson valley, real sunsets are better than painted ones. Real sexy girls are far better than painted ones, especially if they're funny and fun too. Real hot chicken cutlet with melted swiss on a hard roll with russian dressing is better than a photo of it. (etc.)

The Searle cartoon is about exactly that. How puny the realist in the face of the actual gloriousness of a sunset. Searle's painter not only doesn't appreciate the sunset, but he also seeks to measure it with his brush, as if that will help apprehend its awesome wonder on his insignificant canvas. (I wonder if Searle put the canvas on the easel out of perspective purposefully to indicate the error in perspective of the painter?)

Anyhow,
kev

1/22/2010 10:37 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I didn't believe he even knew Pinkney, but then I read this post at another blog.

"The other day I called my one-time studio assistant, Robs Howards, to tell him I had won yet another award. Since he left, my brushes haven't been so clean, until I found Ugly Dog Brush Soap." -Jerry Pinkney

1/22/2010 6:54 AM
<<<

Ah, the return of the wife beater and his calumies.

Jerry and I were partners at Kaleidoscope Studios.

1/22/2010 5:34 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>> I mean, where would he be if he couldn't log on to the net and repeatedly namedrop all the people he's known who were more successful, better known, and won more prestigious awards than he has?<<<

I guess that I'd either be in the studio or out in the garage with the classic Benzs.

Pucker up, oh Gnat of the Indus.

1/22/2010 5:37 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Men have traditionally been more numerous in the art world for the same reasons they have been more numerous in business and politics and other things. Sexism,<<<

Ah, that answers all of my questions about Catherine the Mediocre, Sub-Empress Theodora, and Mini-Queens Elizabeth and Victoria. They never got a break because the MALE ESTABLISHMENT stood in their way. Let's not forget poor oppressed Baronne Dudevant who found that noble titles did nothing against THE MALE ESTABLISHMENT and had to dress like a man and call herself George Sands in order to be accepted by the guys. Yep, she really fooled them and that's the reason that she got published.

The problem with those built in excuses is that they keep you back and the previously mentioned ladies (and they were ladies) had widely recognized talents and were accepted for them. Every ethnic group mounts their losers together and claims to have been put upon yet they are loathe to point to the exceptional members who rose to succeed. During an era when blacks were not accorded easy regard. Elijah McCoy invented an automatic lubricator for locomotives. He was highly regarded and rewarded. His invention was so good that no substitutes were countenanced and everyone insisted on "the Real McCoy."

We don't hear much about people like Elijah McCoy, just the pathetic cases recounted to elicit sympathy and provide an excuse for not being anything like the Real McCoy. Why do women (who are in the majority)...or I should say some small minority of women, choose to ghettoize themselves with gut courses like Women's Studies (seems they can't find enough exemplary women to make a quorum) and Women's Museums, etc.

Failure at attaining one's dreams is a bitch, but blaming it on some external force is guaranteed to perpetuate that failure. It appears that you have never met any really successful women or you wouldn't lay that stuff to sexism.

There really, really are physical, hormonal and emotional differences between males and females. People who built the great architecture of the world just happened to be guys. It wasn't because they pushed the talented female architects off cliffs

1/22/2010 5:59 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Doug, my pointing to the difference between those in the audience and those on the stage is particularly appropriate in relation to David's recounting of young Werther.

In young Werther we had a person destined for the audience, far too sensitive to ever be a working artist...the kind that daily face criticism, rejection and forced changes and alterations to their artwork.

Young Werther today would have been one of those poetic souls prattling on about some sort of unseen, but deeply felt quality in a work of art and like Werther, reading in all sorts of things the artist never intended.

You must ask yourself if that sort of approach is helpful in the production of art...breaking down, quivering tearfully at the sheer beauty of a thunderstorm and how it relates to MacPherson's Ossian.

Oh God, poor Werther was much too sensitive to have ever existed on this cruel earth let alone in the even crueler arena of sturm und drang art.

As you undoubtedly recall, Werther took the only way out for such a tortured and sensitive soul, he blew his self-concerned brain out. Goethe did not mention if Werther was carrying an air guitar at the time, but he died as he lived...an audience member.

1/22/2010 6:16 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

"Ah, that answers all of my questions about Catherine the Mediocre, Sub-Empress Theodora, and Mini-Queens Elizabeth and Victoria."

Rob, many women across history have managed to do exceptional things. Picking out one or two facts while ignoring an overwhelming majority of facts that say the opposite is pretty poor reasoning. So what if Elizabeth and Victoria were strong queens? It doesn't mean that most women during their reigns weren't deprived of the right to own property, couldn't legally be beaten by their husbands, weren't forbidden from entering university or having the vote and all the other crap.

Have you no awareness of history at all?

"People who built the great architecture of the world just happened to be guys."

They also were the only people allowed into architecture schools. Or do those "physical, hormonal and emotional differences between males and females" mean that women are simply incapable of designing a building? Think carefully now...

1/22/2010 6:53 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Dave, you work hard (and produce a very wondeful blog) to open our minds...

Yet most of us wander over to use you blog to open a can of worms so we can go fishing in some dank dark swamp for bottom feeding guppies. Maybe you can rename your blog Daves bait shop

Laurence, you said that if life was perfect we wouldn't need art. I suspect that it is a natural part of us to want to create, to make art. If life was perfect we would be creating and making art, but it would be an art that rejoices and not an art created so that we can get money, sex, fame.

1/22/2010 9:24 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

If life were perfect, we'd still be monkeys.

1/22/2010 10:47 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

"If life were perfect, we'd still be monkeys"

Let us rejoice, for judging by the comments, we got a lot of monkey in us yet.

1/23/2010 12:33 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

Rob you make a great caricature!

Dave does a nice job of humility in his taking a seat in the audience.

Guillermo Del Toro's artistic achievement is pretty much a given but he calls himself a fan first an artist second. Pretty cool.

A little balance perhaps? Isn't sensitivity the essential aspect of creativity, I think your overlooking your own in your brusque oratory.

Edvard Munch or Van Gogh are great examples of artists struggling to maintain both sensetivity and the strength to share it. Perhaps you think they are wimps. Can't we celebrate Cezanne as well as Leyendecker, Monet as well as Rockwell?

1/23/2010 12:48 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Job Blowhard said: "I guess that I'd either be in the studio or out in the garage with the classic Benzs.

Pucker up, oh Gnat of the Indus.


Oh, Rob. Does puckering up grant you the much needed confirmation that you've done something significant with your life? Unfortunately, I'm not very impressed with stuff like classic Benzs or someone's studio. What a sad little man you are.

Uh oh, I called Rob "little"! He might respond by reminding us that he stands 6'3" and that he used to be 6'5". What an incredibly accomplished man....

1/23/2010 4:37 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"Or do those "physical, hormonal and emotional differences between males and females" mean that women are simply incapable of designing a building?"


if women and men had had equality from day one with no male domination whatsoever, do you think women would have been driven to build skyscrapers, hydro-electric dams, and baseball stadiums ? would they have hunted and fished more, or worked in construction ? would their unsuppressed ambition have given birth to female painters as good as Caravaggio or JS Sargent ?

just asking.

1/23/2010 6:35 AM  
Anonymous Doug said...

"Oh God, poor Werther was much too sensitive to have ever existed on this cruel earth let alone in the even crueler arena of sturm und drang art"

Rob, the quality of sensitivity is fundamental to the essence of being an artist.The fact that you seem to revile this feeling demonstrates that you are no more than a tradesman ,someone who would be equally at home fixing TVs or installing replacement windows.
These too are the sort of people who define 'success'by how much they earn.
Sorry to be so hard, but their is a horrible crassness about your whole attitude.
Maybe you are too ignorant to see it or maybe you see it and try to cover it with semi-literate posturing. I dont know.
But you will never be a true artist because you profess to despise the thing you can never have.
You can learn all the technique in the world, but some things can't be taught, or bought.

1/23/2010 7:30 AM  
Blogger Robert Hagan said...

Great post, loved it! Now back to my easel. If you have a chance check out my blog I posted a piece on Truth vs's Rubbish! Keep up the great work David. Robert

1/23/2010 10:58 AM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

R Howardz

Calumny?! My shtick hardly compares to the wife-beater bit.
You trivialize the reality of every woman abused by some savage bastard.

1/23/2010 1:31 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

""female painters as good as Caravaggio or JS Sargent ?""

I suppose Artemsia Gentileschi and Cecilia Beaux (at their best) are the obvious response, but I don't think their quantity~quality is as impressive.

1/23/2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

"would their unsuppressed ambition have given birth to female painters as good as Caravaggio or JS Sargent?"

Yes, absolutely. Otherwise one is proposing that women are inherently inferior to men. I don't think that would stand up to scrutiny!

1/23/2010 5:36 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I believe David Stove is being referenced:

http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/women.html

1/23/2010 5:52 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Kev, i would never suggest that men have a greater intellectual capacity to women. but that they have a greater urge to PROVE themselves. to SHOW OFF.

1/23/2010 6:42 PM  
Blogger Steve Fastner said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/23/2010 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Jack Ruttan said...

That was a very good post. Sorry I've not been in the discussion mode, lately!

1/24/2010 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Jack Ruttan said...

Oh, all right. I do find that the note taking, analysis, even sketching I do sometimes gets in the way of one form (was going to say "the real way," but that's not right) of interacting with the world.

But art is another form of interacting, and so it is something additional. And haven't something more isn't a bad thing, is it? Of course anything is harmful if taken to extremes.

1/24/2010 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Jack Ruttan said...

"Having" not "haven't" in the last sentence. Sorry.

1/24/2010 11:00 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

"men have a greater urge to PROVE themselves. to SHOW OFF."

Men often are more confident and assertive than women, and this feeds into their ambitiousness, productivity and so on.

But to say this is an innate urge, and that that urge drove art, would just return us to the notion that women are inherently inferior at art.

It would be more accurate to say that male social and political dominance has given men greater self-confidence than women, and put much more social pressure upon them to achieve things while discouraging achievement in women. Together with the way male dominance was extended to the art world, this undermined the self-confidence of women. This came on top of women not being allowed into universities and all the other material barriers.

So men's greater achievements in art were socio-historical in origin, it wasn't because men had more innate ability. If women had been predominant over men in a comparable way, we'd be remembering Michelangela and not Michelangelo...

The greater social independence of women has been accompanied by a noticeable rise in the number of women artists becoming prominent in the art world, and this is not an accident.

1/24/2010 12:52 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Talent and intelligence can not be uncoupled from will. The mind does not expand effortlessly.

1/24/2010 1:58 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Mellie said: "If women had been predominant over men in a comparable way"

The question is why haven't women been predominant over men in a comparable way. If men and women have always been equal/the same and their differences in character merely socio-historical in origin, then why do men dominate society? The answer I usually get to this is "males are physically stronger, so they forced women out of everything". But that doesn't hold up when you consider that the great achievements of civilization are primarily intellectual in nature. Brute strength does not make you a great artist, architect, or philosopher. Even if you're relegated to the bottom of society (which women definitely weren't), you can still plot and scheme, draw up plans, write manifestos, clear up your ideas about how you're going to get out of your undesirable position in life. You don't just wait around for your oppressors to have a change of heart and let you join in their exploits. Throughout history, groups of oppressed or marginalized people have often taken matters into their own hands, risking it all to build their own cultures and societies and not waiting for the top dogs to change the rules for them. Not surprisingly, the leaders of these groups were always men.

Now, how do we explain that without resorting to some extravagant conspiracy theory?

1/24/2010 2:14 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Mellie said: "The greater social independence of women"

And how did this greater social independence come about? That's right, men decided that it was time for it to happen.

1/24/2010 2:17 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

How in the world am I going to catch up with this chain?

Brian and Norm-- "I'm not really sure if I'd say that art robs anyone of anything. It's a personal choice to spend a lot of time on it."

In my view, art is different from sports, politics and the other diversions you describe, because it is a mode of perception, a filter on reality (in addition to being an activity like sports that we devote time to). Art (broadly construed to include art, literature, theatre, etc.) seems close to the heart of the consciousness that separates humans from fish. Sure, we're all familiar with the countless reasons why it is better to be a human than a fish; and yet... and yet... on the other hand, fish are never "sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." The poet Ezra Pound, a highly cultured expert on Greek, Latin and the romance languages, wrote about the burdens of culture:

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.

No, I'm not ready for a lobotomy yet, but I do think it behooves us to keep in mind that there is a balance to be maintained here. Maintaining that balance requires us to find the right role for the primacy of experience, lurking beyond the perimeters of art.

1/24/2010 4:02 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence John, Don Cox and others who addressed the notion that "people who make art aren't happy."

There are plenty of examples of artists whose sensitivity (or hyper-sensitivity or mental illness) left them haunted and tortured, but as we have discussed in previous posts, there are many ways in which an aesthetic perception of the world is the wonderful consolation prize that makes being an artist worthwhile. I don't think you can generalize about something like that.

1/24/2010 4:28 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Adam Ritchie-- "So what use is art if your radiator is leaking or if you have a flat tire or if you are hungry? Art is a pleasant distraction from the challenges of life, but no more. There are too many navel-gazers on this blog."

Adam, if you let a little thing like a leaky radiator or a flat tire distract you from art, then you are too easily derailed. But I suppose the theme of this post is that art does involve a lot of navel-gazing and even some keyhole peeping. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a double edged sword. Much of the dialogue here involves our efforts to understand and come to grips with the pros and cons.

1/24/2010 5:01 PM  
Blogger Jack Yu said...

i love this post!

1/25/2010 12:28 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/25/2010 5:05 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

David, your "sicklied o'er" quote is closer to what i was meaning. not mental illness, just too much introspection, over analysis and unspecified angst, and not enough running about happily like dogs (who resolutely DON'T make art).

1/25/2010 5:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I looked at Studio Products website to see what Rob Howard made. I was surprised that everything looked traced and projected. The crabs were obviously based on photos. The girl against the wall, the same. There was no anatomy, just vague pools of value. The hands: any atelier student could do better. l So what? Is this talent or merely the work of a hack. I think hack is my gut instinct. Where is the art? Then, there are images of some fat woman with lots of drapery. Most masters would have shown a figure underneath. But not RH. Just blobs and mindless tracing. Sad.

1/25/2010 11:04 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

theory_of_me: we've had enough sexist garbage on this thread already. I thought dinosaurs were extinct?

"why do men dominate society?"

It's not because men are "stronger", nor has it anything to do with innate superiority.

Some people have always tried to claim that inequality, sexism etc were innate and could therefore never be ended. The real answer lies in history. Men have been dominant because when humanity experienced the agricultural revolution, with all the vast growth in social wealth that came with it, men were the main beneficiaries. Wealth means power.

If men dominated because of innate qualities they would always have dominated, but there is no anthropological evidence for that over the great majority of the human past.

"That's right, men decided that it was time for it to happen."

Women have become empowered for two principal reasons: 1) since World War One especially they have increasingly been drawn into the workforce and, again, money means independence and power; 2) they have fought for equal rights for many years. Male parliamentarians didn't grant women the vote out of nobility of heart, they did so because of immense social pressure to do so from a changing economy and from movements like the Suffragettes.

1/26/2010 3:14 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

David,
Aside from the "art is like sports or other diversions" argument (which may, or may not be argued successfully...I'm not sure I have the energy to try ...though I still lean that way)
I'd rather concentrate the defense of art on the point I ,and others, made about art being a social, communicative activity....not just a dead end for naval gazers.

That said, are still plenty of examples of artists becoming disturbingly disconnected from their real lives
I think it was Renoir (I'm sure someone can correct me if I'm wrong) who, while looking at the body of his dead wife, made a mental note of the color change that occured in her lifeless body.
But, was that the fault of art...or just someone way too wrapped up in his work?
Or does that example fit here?

1/26/2010 3:16 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Ooops....Monet.
"I kept staring at the tragic temple while mechanically looking for the sequence, the appropriation of the color degradation which death had just left on the motionless face. Blue, yellow, gray tones, and goodness knows what else. That is what I had come to."

1/26/2010 3:47 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Renoir was credited with saying "I paint with my penis"
Which....seems to be the other end of the spectrum...
So, it was pretty darned unfair of me to saddle him with the Monet quote.

And, David...I didn't mean to blow off your argument about how art is different than sports...I'm just too lazy to try to make a strong counter argument...and, admittedly, you just might be right ....

1/26/2010 4:29 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Mellie said: "when humanity experienced the agricultural revolution, with all the vast growth in social wealth that came with it, men were the main beneficiaries."

You haven't given any explanation as to why men were the main beneficiaries (if they really were). You're just stating that they were and implying that it was due to some kind of unfairness. It could even be theorized that women initiated the agricultural revolution. If that is so, then why did men get most of the benefit? Your assertions are pretty vague, they're mostly just accusations.

If men dominated because of innate qualities they would always have dominated, but there is no anthropological evidence for that over the great majority of the human past.

There is even less anthropological evidence for the existence of unambiguous matriarchal societies. And even if there was, why would they be so hard to find?

"Women have become empowered for two principal reasons: 1) since World War One especially they have increasingly been drawn into the workforce"

To fill the spots vacated by men during the World Wars and only because men allowed it to happen.

"Male parliamentarians didn't grant women the vote out of nobility of heart, they did so because of immense social pressure to do so"

Still, it was in their power to do so. You still haven't come up with a good explanation for why men always have more power than women. If men and women are really innately the same, how do you explain this discrepancy?

1/26/2010 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

You only have to look back thru history to see the dominant role men have taken in shaping societies the world over.
Clearly this is no anomoly and it is not belittling to women.It is part of male instinct to need to do this and is therefore natural.
Many people with agendas try to question or dispute this fact but history does not lie.

1/26/2010 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Jack Ruttan said...

I think poetry's the right response here, or maybe a well-considered drawing or two...

1/26/2010 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen to yourselves. This post says that art will never be as good as fucking. Never has been. Never will be. That dude in the first painting knows it and so does everybody else except you dumbass artists who just fight and fight about who makes the best art. Art and sexism and the agricultural revolution and shit. You don't get it. That comment about navel gazing was absolutely right. Any sane person would rather fuck than paint a picture or look at a picture. I feel sorry for artists.

1/26/2010 8:13 PM  
Blogger Einbildungskraft said...

re: G & sensitivity can be downright debilitating....

But how heartwarming, lovely, that you nudge attention in this 'direction'...!
E

1/26/2010 11:03 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

Sure, Fucking's at the top of the "fun/survival of the species" pyramid.I'd never say a bad word about it. But...don't you think there might be a just little time left over after lots and lots and lots of fucking for...I don't know....reading a book?

1/26/2010 11:08 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I'm sorry. I shouldn't be snarky...but I do think there's time and energy enough for sex and art.
And if all anyone did was have sex...for better or worse, we'd be back to the animal thing a few other people mentioned.

1/26/2010 11:33 PM  
Anonymous Name Witheld By Request said...

Anonymous,

People who only care about fucking tend to be assholes. Such people will likely seek out a like-minded partner, someone equally monomanaical about screwing.

For this reason fucking assholes always tend to be fucking assholes.

Which reminds me, don't you have somewhere to be?

1/26/2010 11:52 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Anonymous said: "Any sane person would rather fuck than paint a picture or look at a picture. I feel sorry for artists."

Ah, but you're forgetting that being an artist is a great way to get laid. I know plenty of artists with little to no discernible talent or anything profound to say that have plenty of female admirers primarily because they go through the motions of being "artistic".

1/27/2010 12:21 AM  
Anonymous A Man in the Street said...

Anonymous reminds me of the sex-obsessed character in the Monty Python 'Nudge Nudge,Wink Wink' sketch, who presents himself as a 'man of the world' but turns out to be a prurient middle-aged virgin;

"You've done it with a lady, haven't you,squire?"

"Yes,I have."

"...What's it like?"

TBH. It can get a bit samey.

1/27/2010 12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>You still haven't come up with a good explanation for why men always have more power than women.<<

Not always ...but it is because we've allowed it. Remember, it has been we women, your busy mothers, who throughout the ages have spent our time raising and nurturing you; rather than building temples and bridges, we've been building men and families. Yes, to use your logic, we decided it was okay for you boys to have power. :P

1/27/2010 1:19 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Anonymous said: "to use your logic, we decided it was okay for you boys to have power. :P"

You're kidding, right? So the Feminist movement is all a sham? That explains why it's so hard for a thinking person to take it seriously.

1/27/2010 2:02 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

theory_of_me:

"You haven't given any explanation as to why men were the main beneficiaries... Your assertions are pretty vague, they're mostly just accusations."

Well, if you want an explanation I can give you one. It's just that I didn't want to talk longer than my fair share. It takes a long time to explain things properly.

In Stone Age society there was a division of labour based upon sex, i.e. men hunt, women gather. It seems a cliche but seems to have been mostly true.

When the agricultural revolution took place, men had primary responsibility for the animals, probably because of their traditional hunting role. (Of course, there's huge variation, I'm only speaking generally here.) Women had responsibility for cultivating crops, because their gathering role meant they had the knowledge about the growth patterns of naturally occurring wheat etc. So as you say, women probably did lead the invention of farming.

But greater social productivity led to a much higher rate of childbirth - hunter gatherers can only feed so many mouths, whereas a society with agriculture can support more and indeed needs more labour. Women spent more and more time bearing children. At the same time, the technical innovation of the plough made agriculture itself much heavier work and harder to do when bearing a child. Farming more and more became a male responsibility. Look at the ancient images of ploughing, such as the well-known painting from the Egyptian tomb of Sennedjem, and it's a man doing it.

So men took control of animal rearing and raising crops at precisely the time that these innovations would dramatically increase the wealth of human societies. Thus they were, massively, the beneficiaries.

"There is even less anthropological evidence for the existence of unambiguous matriarchal societies. And even if there was, why would they be so hard to find?"

But I didn't say there were matriarchal societies. As you say, there is no evidence for them. The likelihood is that the sexes were pretty much equal for most of human history.

"To fill the spots vacated by men during the World Wars and only because men allowed it to happen."

Yes, to fill the spots vacated by men. But not because men "allowed" it to happen, but because alternative labour had to be supplied. It would be more correct to say that the men in charge had no choice.

Kennard, the point is that men have not always been dominant over women. The likelihood is that they have been dominant only for the last 10,000 years or so out of a human history of perhaps 200,000 years. If anyone has an agenda, it is people who insist on desperately trying to assert that male dominance is innate and therefore inevitable, despite all the evidence that it is social and historical in character. If male dominance did not exist for most of human history, then it can be made non-existent again - some people find this very threatening, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.

1/27/2010 4:58 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

my white male guilt is taking a bit of a bruising in this thread.

1/27/2010 6:32 AM  
Blogger Mellie said...

Don't worry, Laurence, there's no need to feel guilty - inequality's the work of historical circumstances, not your innate white male failings!

Please sleep easy tonight...

1/27/2010 6:43 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

"As long as human beings are making things, i.e. for as long as the species is around, we will also be creating art. It's in our nature"

"I suspect that it is a natural part of us to want to create, to make art"

"Since art is communication, I see it as a useful insight into other people's points of view."



people usually accentuate the nobler aspects of any ambitious pursuit and choose to ignore the more base motivations; public acclaim, sexual allure and financial reward.

1/27/2010 6:54 AM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

Mellie:
The thing is I'm not 'desperately' trying to assert my point,I'm merely looking at all recorded history and drawing conclusions.

"Kennard, the point is that men have not always been dominant over women. The likelihood is that they have been dominant only for the last 10,000 years "

How can you seriously rebut a factual observation with an unsupported theory, "The likelihood is", which is only another way of saying "in my, or someone else's opinion".
That surely is the act of desperation,an argument based on no hard evidence.That IS an agenda, being in no way empirical, merely an exercise in wishful thinking.

1/27/2010 10:41 AM  
Blogger Einbildungskraft said...

Lets get back to more cultural aspects here. Your statement David, "Goethe's tribute to cultural refinement leaves me gasping for fresh air." piqued me somewhat and thus I am BACK :-) and esp as I think the conversation needs a "new change of direction"! It is best to keep in mind that 'The Sorrows of Young Werther' is not famed nowadays for the work itself, but more because it shot young Goethe, who wrote it while he was in lawschool (out of boredom?) into world-wide fame at the time. It was a literary rebellion against the social rigidities of christendom and the etiquette of the aristocracy; a man expressing EMOTION? unheard of! But surely this small work was a BIG step in the learning curve of the western male... bottom line paving the way for you guys to, besides just F, also, express emotion........... !!

1/27/2010 11:22 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Einbildungskraft-- "surely this small work was a BIG step in the learning curve of the western male... bottom line paving the way for you guys to, besides just F, also, express emotion"

Don't get me wrong, I think Goethe was a very talented fellow but "The Sorrows of Young Werther" was insufferable, and once Werther "paved the way" for guys to start expressing their emotions, everybody (including Goethe) wished they would stop. Young men all over the country started emulating Werther by committing suicide, jumping off bridges and hanging themselves to show how sensitive they were. In later editions of the book, Goethe added the line, "Be a man and do not follow me" just to discourage suicides. There was a famous case around that time of a writer who committed suicide to draw attention to his own work of art, but when people read it, it turned out to be quite mediocre.

Before anyone suggests that men should start talking about their emotions, they should at least entertain the possibility that the results could be quite dismaying.

1/27/2010 1:52 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Mellie said: "Women spent more and more time bearing children.

This is the crux of the whole issue if you ask me. Any truly perceptive and individualistic person would be able to see how just mindlessly bearing more and more children isn't in their best interests if it seriously hampers their autonomy and their ability to compete with others who don't share that burden.

"Farming more and more became a male responsibility."

But if what you say is true, it didn't have to be. A woman could have opted to have no children in order to partake in all the benefits you claim men had more access to. It really would be that simple, unless something about being female made the decision to sacrifice motherhood extremely unbearable. The fact that this doesn't seem to have happened to a significant degree is very telling.

1/27/2010 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what if you were a father with all the responsibility that entails every time you've ejaculated, T.O.M.? For someone who considers himself to be "a thinker" you sure have big gaps in your knowledge and logic. Birth control and abortions are still unavailable in 99% of the world but, according to you and oddly enough the Religious Right, abstinence is the key...Just Say No.

1/28/2010 2:50 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Anonymous said: "And what if you were a father with all the responsibility that entails every time you've ejaculated, T.O.M.?"

I've made a conscious choice not to have children. So far, it's been a pretty easy choice to live with. But maybe I'm just lucky.

"Birth control and abortions are still unavailable in 99% of the world"

And so is self control, apparently.

"according to you and oddly enough the Religious Right, abstinence is the key...Just Say No."

The religious right believes in abstinence before marriage. I've never seriously considered getting married. There's just too much compromise involved. That choice has also been very easy to live with, especially when I see what married people are like. No thanks. Sex is not worth paying for and obviously I don't mean that just in terms of money.

But don't mistake me for a moralist. I don't go around imploring people not to have sex or get married. You have to figure out stuff like that on your own and it's all based on what you want out of life.

1/28/2010 4:23 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Theory of Me-- "I've never seriously considered getting married. There's just too much compromise involved."

When did compromise acquire such a bad reputation? Evolutionary biologists will tell you that the reason nature made sexual reproduction a two person process (as opposed to single person, asexual reproduction) is that there are real benefits to combining two different gene pools, compromising some of the traits of each to achieve a better result. As we discussed in a previous post, the benefits of blending with another human being are not limited to making babies. It just requires having the vision to see beyond the short term irritations of "compromise."

1/28/2010 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

Maybe you've been lucky enough to marry the 'right' girl,David.
But not all marriages fit your idyllic description.And I speak from experience.
Suffice to say you can end up doing a lot of compromising, putting a lot into it,even compromising on your ambitions and getting very little back.

I think Theory of Me has shown a lot of guts by making a decision that's true to himself and saying "I'll have to forego this because I value that far more".
That is a mature and brave stance.

1/28/2010 12:22 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kennard-- if compromise didn't involve making yourself vulnerable, and if vulnerability didn't involve great personal risk, then this would all be just another computer game instead of the transformative experience that it can be.

Anyone who ventures out into the world and takes such risks will inevitably end up with knife wounds and bullet holes to show for it. I don't know another way to acquire genuine understanding of how truly separate another human being is. By a certain age we've all experienced some degree of trauma (and, I would wager, inflicted some too, whether intentionally or not). The challenge becomes: at what point do you decide to stop taking risks because there couldn't possibly be anything out there worth it?

As for your point about Theory of Me, anyone who says, "I'll have to forego this because I value that far more" better be confident that they fully understand the potential value in "this" as compared with "that." Otherwise they are not being true to themselves, they are selling themselves short.

In the great Art v. Life debate, I still maintain that art is better used as a seduction technique with other human beings than as anesthesia to console us for lack of relationships.

1/28/2010 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

"As for your point about Theory of Me, anyone who says, "I'll have to forego this because I value that far more" better be confident that they fully understand the potential value in "this" as compared with "that." Otherwise they are not being true to themselves, they are selling themselves short."

And someone who chooses 'that' because others have played safe and not had the guts to go it alone for fear of ending up 'lonely' as many many people in marriages do, had better be sure that 'this' is worhwhile missing out on.
In simple terms, the FEAR of loneliness is behind many marriages and many dreams are compromised as a result.

1/28/2010 1:33 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kennard-- No argument. There is fear of being alone just as there is fear of being wounded in a new relationship. Some fears are to be conquered. Others are to be respected.

1/28/2010 2:28 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I can see avoiding getting married to a specific person, but to rule out marriage in general seems pretty extreme.
But, this topic seems to be heading in an interesting direction...to forego marriage to better attain a dream (maybe art)...
How about that "art vs life" choice?
When you're life is over, what's worth more to you, your creative achievments...or your family.
Frank Lloyd Wright went with art...pretty much blowing off his family.
Did he make the right choice?
I don't think so...but look at his accomplishments.
Were they worth it?

1/28/2010 4:20 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

...For the record...I don't see why you have to chose between the two, but just for the sake of argument, I asked the question.

1/28/2010 4:23 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

I might have overly simplified Wright's complicated personal life...
heck...
Theory of Me might use Wright's life as an argument against marriage (though I'd just say, don't marry Frank)

1/28/2010 4:42 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

David said: "there are real benefits to combining two different gene pools, compromising some of the traits of each to achieve a better result"

I have no problem with compromise in that sense. It's definitely played a part in the human race surviving as long as it has. I'd even admit that things like marriage have played a role in our survival. But, there are signs that such things have become obsolete. It also can't be ruled out that we could have developed better, more efficient ways of surviving and thriving into the future.

I don't think I need to list all the negative consequences of conforming to the tradition of marriage simply because "it's whats people do." The divorce rate by itself tells us that at least half of people who get married don't give it much real thought.

In the "Artists In Love" post about Dorne you wrote:

"When two individuals combine, they have a chance to fill in blind spots and compensate for weaknesses that might otherwise harden during a solitary existence."

The problem I have with this is that compensating for a weakness doesn't necessarily mean that you've eliminated the weakness. In fact, I don't think it ever means that. Compensation is usually a means of distracting yourself or others from a weakness in order to give the impression of being strong. If the weakness still exists, then it's still having an effect on your actions. If there is no weakness there is no need for compensation. I prefer to eliminate weaknesses are much as possible and only resort to compensation and compromise as temporary relief measures.

I also have a problem with your claim that a solitary life will likely lead to a hardening of blind spots and weaknesses. I agree that it's likely but it's also possible that it won't. In fact, I'd say that if a person is strong enough to remain skeptical and sane during a prolonged solitude, they are more likely to erase their weaknesses and blind spots. This is because when you're alone, you are forced to face yourself in all your imperfections. There are no girlfriends, friends, or family distracting you from self-analysis long enough to satisfy all their mindless emotional needs, leaving you with barely any energy to sort yourself out. There's also no one around to flatter or compliment you, dangerous things if you happen to be susceptible to them.

And, ultimately, beyond everything I've just said, the simple truth is that we are always alone in every moment of our lives. There's really no hiding from that, although most people do their damnedest to distract themselves from it. Every word of praise you receive, every look of love, longing and appreciation you get from another person has to first go through the filters of your mind before it can be interpreted as valid or desirable. There's no escaping that.

The nature of existence gives us two choices whether we are aware of them or not, either forge your individuality, define and realize yourself to the best of your ability or melt back into the formless, mindless mass of nothingness, the ambiguity that passes as humanity, tradition, faith, etc.

Art is a way of defining yourself. When we make art we tackle that inner ambiguity we all experience since our very first memories. For a true artist, there really is no choice between art and life, they are enmeshed so perfectly that the difference between them takes on the form of an apparition, a myth that is to be discredited. But of course, a "true artist" is an ideal type, there may never be such a person. Actual, existing people, have to deal with fears and insecurities. Dealing with these fears rationally should be the foundation for all our actions in life, whether we are artists or not.

[continued...]

1/28/2010 7:43 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

So when you say:

"Some fears are to be conquered. Others are to be respected."

I have to disagree strongly. Fears are caused by inaccurate observations about reality. If we respect a fear we are defending an illusion.

1/28/2010 7:44 PM  
Anonymous norm said...

What if I lived in a very dangerous part of town and I was afraid getting robbed?

1/28/2010 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

...And I will also say that there may be marriages where your partner compensates for your forthcomings, and you for theirs.

I know too that VERY often after the first flush of love, those weaknesses can easily become the rotten core of your relationship and increasingly become the thing that drives 2 people apart.

As TOM points out we live in a time where people are far less willing to 'accept and work it out' and separation becomes the answer.

It really seems like its time that we took the rose colored spectacles off and saw things for what they are, people, as they are today, and marriage just don't fit.

1/28/2010 9:25 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

norm said: "What if I lived in a very dangerous part of town and I was afraid getting robbed?"

Marry a woman that knows Kung Fu or Judo, maybe Krav Maga.

1/29/2010 3:00 AM  
Anonymous norm said...

Man...you're almost tempting me to break my no emoticon rule and figure out how to do a smiley face.

1/29/2010 3:08 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Norm-- talk about opening Pandora's box... the Frank Lloyd Wright syndrome has bedeviled artists (and their unfortunate friends and families) since cave men first started painting.
Yeats regretfully inscribed his poems to his father, apologizing for not having a grandson to offer him instead. Andrew Wyeth notoriously put his art ahead of his family. And of course, there is the Yoko Ono/Linda McCartney phenomenon, which says that happiness takes the edge off your art. You are correct, that is a huge slice of the life vs. art debate, but I think it deserves a fresh start. It should not be just the stepchild of this discussion as it tapers off.

Theory of Me-- >>"I'd say that if a person is strong enough to remain skeptical and sane during a prolonged solitude, they are more likely to erase their weaknesses and blind spots."

Well, the thing about a blind spot is that you are blind to it. It has nothing to do with how smart you are or how determined you are to scrutinize yourself methodically. That's kinda what being blind means. If you think an intense monologue is a substitute for a dialogue, you've been alone too long.

>>"And, ultimately, beyond everything I've just said, the simple truth is that we are always alone in every moment of our lives."

That's a rather mundane reaction to human isolation. Go back and reread Matthew Arnold's reaction to the same isolation on Dover Beach ("Ah, love, let us be true To one another!") You don't have to harbor any illusions about the human condition to do better than what you suggest.

1/29/2010 7:44 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kennard (and Theory of Me): "It really seems like its time that we took the rose colored spectacles off and saw things for what they are, people, as they are today, and marriage just don't fit."

I wouldn't say that, and I am surprised that anyone who professes to have iron will and spartan determination in other contexts would say such a thing. No matter how a particular relationship turned out in the past, it's tough to argue that "people" are incapable of cleaving to each other in a way that can withstand the petty irritations and tempations of modern life. Perhaps some people are just choosing to devote that ol' iron will to other things?

1/29/2010 8:01 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

David said: "the thing about a blind spot is that you are blind to it. It has nothing to do with how smart you are or how determined you are to scrutinize yourself methodically."

The blind spots we are talking about have more to do with personal prejudices and ignorance. If there was no way to get rid of them, making our best option to simply merge with other people, philosophy and science would never have made any progress. I have no idea what hugs, kisses and the sharing of bodily fluids have to do with eliminating ignorance by gaining knowledge about the world and our existence.

"If you think an intense monologue is a substitute for a dialogue, you've been alone too long."

I have no problem with dialogue, but if it's tainted with emotional, material or sexual desire then it has no chance of breaking any new ground. The dialogue will always be directed at acquiring only those things.

1/30/2010 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully said.
MM

1/30/2010 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

David, you only have to look at the divorce figures to see that people are less and less willing or capable of
"cleaving to each other in a way that can withstand the petty irritations and tempations of modern life."
Would that it were not the case but the figures tell the story.
Which begs the question:
Is too much freedom a bad thing?

1/31/2010 9:02 AM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

"You are free and that is why you are lost."

- Franz Kafka

1/31/2010 2:40 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

Kennard,

"How can you seriously rebut a factual observation with an unsupported theory", etc.

It is not unsupported, but I can't write a whole essay on this. Read some anthropology and archaeology. You won't regret it, it's fascinating.

You said "You only have to look back thru history to see the dominant role men have taken in shaping societies the world over." That is a factual observation. Very good. I never disputed this.

You also said "It is part of male instinct to need to do this and is therefore natural."

You claim this is a factual empirical statement, no? But just because males have been dominant for the last several thousand years does not mean that it is instinctive and "therefore natural". Your statement is a mere "unsupported theory". Male dominance may just as well have been a social-historical phenomenon, as I argue.

(Sorry to be late getting back on this.)

theory_of_me: "women could have opted" not to have children, etc.

I think you are applying modern individualism to a Neolithic society which just didn't think like you do.

2/01/2010 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

So Mellie, now you need me to rebut my own argument because you have no ACTUAL body of evidence,just suppositions in a number of unnamed texts.Not exactly a compelling case there I think.

My only evidence is based on,er, ALL KNOWN AND RECORDED HISTORY.

It's difficult to think how I could make my case more 'concrete'. Especially as yours seems to rest on:
A woman's intuition.
Wishful thinking.
Something I saw on TV.
A feminist agenda.
What my friends think.
An article in Reader's Digest.
etc.etc.

"Male dominance may just as well have been a social-historical phenomenon, as I argue."

An argument requires evidence.You have merely stated your opinion.

2/01/2010 1:10 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

Kennard,

"My only evidence is based on,er, ALL KNOWN AND RECORDED HISTORY."

No it isn't. You have ignored my point. You observe that males have been dominant for "all known and recorded history", then you assume that this means it is instinctive and natural. You say I provide no evidence for the social-historical view (anthropology provides plenty - if you want named texts, a good starting point might be Margaret Ehrenberg's "Women in Prehistory") but you PROVIDE NO EVIDENCE (love caps, eh?) for your own assumption.

What is your evidence that male domination is instinctive and natural? Men and women have existed for far longer than "all known and recorded history". If you have no evidence that males were dominant over females outside of the relatively short period represented by recorded history, then your claim that male dominance is instinctive and natural rather than historical is A MERE ASSUMPTION. All you've done is state your opinion.

I can't make it any clearer for you.

You ignore this profound problem in your position then make sexist comments on "women's intuition" to try and cover up. How embarrassing for you.

2/01/2010 3:40 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Mellie said: "I think you are applying modern individualism to a Neolithic society which just didn't think like you do."

It only seems "modern" if you maintain that women are essentially the same as men yet for some strange reason decided to adopt the more subservient and less intellectually demanding roles in society. You are simply saying that the women of that time were not willing to go against the grain, something men have done quite often throughout history. There's nothing "modern" about that. But if you insist that there are no innate differences between the sexes then it makes no sense that women would intentionally make choices that would put them in subordinate roles to people who are supposedly their equals in every way only to complain about it after 10,000 years. What's to complain about if they intentionally and consciously made those choices?

If women allowed themselves to be "oppressed" for so long, wouldn't that say a lot about their character and psychology? They'd have to be either very passive and have almost no initiative, or they simply enjoy being submissive to men, or both.

"If you have no evidence that males were dominant over females outside of the relatively short period represented by recorded history"

You're also just assuming that they are equal without any evidence. I might agree with you that on a fundamental existential level, men and women are the same, but I could say the same thing about a rock and a tree. On a slightly more superficial level, there are apparent differences that result in the dramatic differences we see in social status. For example, how about the fact that men just naturally make more testosterone than women, don't you think this would play a big role in the choices they make?

2/01/2010 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Kennard said...

I'm so embarassed.

I'm so embarassed that your whole argument hinges on a possibility that men were the non- dominant species before there were any records of anything.This is the most wafer thin basis of a theory imaginable.Embarassing.

At least my 'supposition' is based on recorded fact.
You might be able to point to a matriarchal society somewhere sometime, maybe even 2 or 3 -not that you have - but even then the vast weight of historical evidence goes against you.
I mean what would it take to prove it to you?
You ignore the only available evidence because it doesnt fit your agenda.

I was wrong, clearly you have no intuition at all.
And no argument.

The preceding could be construed as an example of a dominant male exercising his superiority over an inferior female.
Sotto voce, of course.

2/01/2010 7:19 PM  
Blogger Mellie said...

I do not claim there were "matriarchies". My "agenda" is to respect the sciences.

Most anthropologists agree that prehistoric society was probably egalitarian. There is not and can not be 100 percent certainty. But it is very likely because there was no material basis for inequality. Your argument is with the majority of experts in this field, not with me.

2/13/2010 6:05 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Mellie said: "there was no material basis for inequality."

The "basis for inequality" would have to be mostly psychological. The most assertive and dominant men have the most children. Lustful men who compete for status with other men tend to be attracted to women that are more submissive and weak-willed. Over the generations, this would have dramatic effects on the psychological makeup of the sexes. It's possible that the average female was more assertive and masculine during pre-historical times but since these females had a harder time reproducing due to their being less attractive to the males, they eventually died out and only more submissive females remained.

2/27/2010 4:45 AM  
Blogger Alan Lawrence said...

A very interesting post that sparked some ideas about artists seeing things that none artists do not. The story about Monet finding his dead wife’s skin a beautiful shade of blue is but one decidedly creepy response from a man who was hyper sensitive to the surface of things, but incapable of responding to deeper emotions, in his art anyway.

Somebody once said, “Monet is only an eye, but my god, what an eye.”

I must say I agree. All surface and no substance.

The paper, canvas and computer generated sex goddesses are another example.

The blog owner hit the nail on the head when he suggested that the polished, airbrushed version of a woman can get a man’s blood flowing in the right direction, because men are hyper visual, as well as hyper sensual animals.

John Ruskin’s marriage to Effie Gray was an utter failure because he visited the British Museum too much as an adolescent boy. If you’ve ever been in that place you’ll know that it has probably the finest collection of polished marble females in the world. Gallery after gallery depicting perfect female beauty, perfect breasts, perfect bottoms, rose coloured visions carved by ancient Greek and Roman sculptors to honour the lovely Venus... every sensual curve of her.

But back to poor Ruskin. He compared his young wife to a marble Venus and was sadly disappointed. Real women looked nothing like Venus, he decided. Those flaccid breasts, that stomach, suggesting fatty deposits rather than polished marble... Worst of all, dark pubic hair. Venus didn’t have pubic hair, decided Ruskin, the devout art lover par excellence.

I love the main title art for this thread... Unlike Ruskin, the art lover in this painting prefers the real thing, fatty tissue, wide hips and all. I hope he struck up a conversation with the coy model and managed to get her between the sheets. Art is all well and good, but it will never replace real life... Well not completely.

For those of you who like dates and more info about places and people mentioned here.

Try...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ruskin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Museum

Alan

3/14/2010 8:03 PM  

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