Sunday, February 26, 2017

WASTED TIME ON THE PATH TO BECOMING AN ARTIST

Before Jean Dubuffet became an artist, he served in the French army.  He was stationed high atop the Eiffel tower.  Instead of developing his art, he spent long months staring down at the winding streets and tiny buildings below.



What a waste!  Think of what he might have accomplished if he'd spent that time at art school.

Years later when Dubuffet became a world famous artist, no one could figure out where his radical new vision came from:



Before Alberto Burri ever dreamed of becoming an artist, he was drafted into the Italian Army in World War II.  He was quickly captured in Tunisia and shipped off to a POW camp in Texas.  There he spent two long years doing drudge work surrounded by burlap and canvas tents, gunny sacks, sandbags and camouflage netting. What a waste!

After the war he became world famous for his innovative art working with the textures and colors of burlap.




I can't imagine where Burri came up with such a radical idea.  Art schools certainly weren't teaching anything like that.

Illustrator Harold Von Schmidt never had the advantages of art school.  Orphaned at five, he kicked around the Old West working as a cow hand, and then on dam construction.  In this brawny world he broke his neck twice, and suffered other broken bones, dislocated shoulders and numerous bruises but he learned to understand cattle and horses as a working cowboy on trail drives.  Then one day he met the western artist Maynard Dixon who was looking for models and a studio assistant, and it changed Von Schmidt's life.

He eventually became famous for his muscular, authoritative paintings of horses and the wild west.  He painted with the forcefulness of someone who had hit the ground hard-- a forcefulness that eluded his peers who had refined their skills in art school.




Von Schmidt was esteemed by his fellow illustrators and went on to become the President of the Society of Illustrators.  Here is his portrait by James Montgomery Flagg from the Society of Illustrators' Wall of Presidents:


Returning to where we started, with Jean Dubuffet, the author Frank O'Hara wrote a  poem on the subject of Dubuffet's transition from a soldier on the Eiffel Tower to a world famous artist:

Ah Jean Dubuffet
when you think of him
doing his military service in the Eiffel Tower
as a meterologist
in 1922
you know how wonderful the 20th century
can be

Again and again, events that seem to be a delay or distraction from art training turn out to be central to an artist's achievement.  It all seems to be a matter of keeping your eyes open.


54 comments:

nodnarB said...

Thanks David, this is a very inspirational post. Sometimes it is important to remember that just because you can't draw 100% of the time, doesn't mean you can't be an artist 100% of the time.

chris bennett said...

Every work of art is a child born of experience. And, as I'm sure you are aware, it is not the nobility of the experience that defines the pedigree of the work, but its legitimacy to the artist. So this is common to all. The difference between Dubuffet and Von Schmidt is that the later articulated experience in terms of a language he was master of while the former merely honked out pattern mantras stewed from insular obsessions.

kev ferrara said...

That Flagg is a classic of deft, subtle caricature. And, of course, Von Schmidt is neverendingly superb. But, frankly, I much preferred Burri during his minimalist phase.

George Freeman said...

I always thought that 1929 line art of Von Schmidt's was very inspirational to Noel Sickles' Scorchy Smith and thus to Caniff's Terry.

architectatsea said...

This makes me feel a lot better about going back to school after 8 years in the navy!

David Apatoff said...

nondnarB-- Agreed. In fact, sometimes drawing 100% of the time is a disadvantage because it leaves you with nothing to draw about.

Chris Bennett-- "honked out pattern mantras stewed from insular obsessions" ???? Yowie Kazowie, I'm going to write that one down. Personally, I love both Von Schmidt and Dubuffet. At least before his hourloupe phase, I think Dubuffet's work was overflowing with brave, brilliant, innovative designs and unconventional ideas.

kev ferrara-- OK Mr. wise guy, do you find anything redeeming in the art of Burri or Dubuffet? (Even if you don't, I think the inspirational point about drawing from a wider range of experience remains valid). Of course, I agree with your assessment of Von Schmidt and this Flagg.

David Apatoff said...

George Freeman-- I agree. In an era where fine line work was prevalent, Von Schmidt used to take out a big fat brush, thick with black poster paint, and make bold pictures such as his illustrations for Willa Cather's Death Comes For The Archbishop on large illustration boards. http://illustrationart.blogspot.com/2007/04/binary-choices.html ). I think they were very influential.

architectatsea-- Bravo!

kev ferrara said...

David,

I love cartoons and Dubuffet's cartoons are lots of fun to look at. I enjoy his work like I enjoy The Three Stooges; in full appreciation that it is equally hard to come up with one's own style of comedy, even a dumb style of comedy, as it is to come up with one's own dumb kind of design style for graphics or cartooning (sister arts) or decorative fashion (which is graphics/cartooning without most of their linguistic structures.)

I don't think either the Stooges or Dubuffet's works are very good as Art, but they entertain me. And that's nothing to sneeze at.

My main beef with Dubuffet is not him, but what is said about him. As usual, the culprits are, again, the "big thinking" Modernist critics who conflated and conflate, deliberately or ignorantly, stylistic design and compositional design. Which is like saying that theatricality and thought are equivalent. Which is just the kind of anti-teaching that rots the cultural mind, and then the culture itself. As indeed it has.

Burri's stuff is less entertaining. Basically rudimentary experiments in designing fields combined with drab fiber art/quilting. I'd assign him the requisite 25 Cultural Innovation Points™ for coming up with an all important meaningless, worthless original idea in the arts, but Murray Schneckleman of Fineman's Tailor Shop on 8th Avenue was fired for doing similar work in 1922. So Burri is out.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Dubuffet makes me laugh as well, but of course I don't regard laughter as necessarily a lower response to art, and I suspect you don't either. (I laugh at Shakespeare's work too.)

Our difference is that I do think Dubuffet is very good as Art. I think he was one of the most exciting artists of his era. His early "found" sculptures are marvelously inventive, although you must see them in person to appreciate them, and a smaller percentage of his hourloupe sculptures (such as his trees in Manhattan) were experiments that turned out extremely well. I find many of his drawings and paintings from the 50s and early 60s to be beautiful in a radical way (especially his series of beards, cows, the soil, table tops and men urinating, and some of those crazed drawings...). I love the strength of his compositions (although, as you said about Flagg, "If it is sufficient for you, it is sufficient for you. If not, not.") I think his collection of essays, Asphyxiating Culture, is the work of a first rate intellect, and-- rarity of rarities-- he backed it up by the way he lived his life (championing art brut, turning his back on the privileges of the fine art world, painting dirt, pulling the wings off butterflies). So for me, it's not just that he is "entertaining," it's that he is ruthless and scary.

I will say that after he got knee deep into his hourloupe phase I completely lost interest. (How should I explain it? Hmmmm, the phrase, " honked out pattern mantras stewed from insular obsessions" comes to mind.)

As for Burri's "drab" fiber art, somehow he manages to make that second image glow like Sorolla's afternoon sun in the Beach at Valencia.


kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kev ferrara said...

I will seek out that essay you mention. But, overall, doesn't Dubuffet's stuff strike you as just sillier Léger?

As for Burri's "drab" fiber art, somehow he manages to make that second image glow like Sorolla's afternoon sun in the Beach at Valencia.

I don't know what "glow" you are talking about. The piece looks like simple harmony to me. Anybody else out there see merit to David's comparison between Burri's camo-quilt and Sorolla's paintings of the "afternoon sun in the Beach at Valencia?"

MORAN said...

Kev I think David is having fun with you.

kev ferrara said...

No, I think he was serious.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Well... let's just say that I knew Sorolla is one of your favorites, so I took some added glee in using him as an example to counter your unkind dismissal of Burri ("Basically rudimentary experiments... drab fiber... worthless ... Murray Schneckleman of Fineman's Tailor Shop on 8th Avenue was fired for doing similar work in 1922.") If forced, I'd agree that Sorolla may have a few points on Burri but I do think that second Burri has a beautiful golden glow to it. Of course, the effect of color in a picture is largely dependent upon its relationship to the colors around it. You can't just take a tiny sample of the color from Burri's picture and compare it on a white background to a tiny sample of color from Sorolla. I would say that Burri's first image is indeed "drab," and meant to be so with muted, cool colors. But I think by comparison the second image is anything but drab; I think it has a rich warmth to it that dominates the picture.

Aleš said...

I feel the afternoon light in Beach at Valencia because of its representational nature and colour scheme/optical luminance that is achieved through the intentional use of colours. When I look at Burri's fiber picture I don't see content where I could conclude that something is immersed in the afternoon type of light and while the colour scheme resembles certain afternoon colours in nature when the sun in low, there is no richness of transparent layers of colour, or luminance. When I feel Sorolla's glow of the afternoon sun, that is more than just an effect of glowing because it is a part of an experience of an afternoon. Sorolla's glow has a meaning to me. Burri's image does have warm golden colours and they do glow a bit, but glowing in itself is just an effect, right? I mean, what is the meaningful content of that Burri's picture? It is pleasant to look at indeed, but after that I'm lost.

kev ferrara said...

Well... let's just say that I knew Sorolla is one of your favorites, so I took some added glee in using him as an example to counter your unkind dismissal of Burri

Your attempt to taint my objective assessment of what Burri is doing as subjective (let alone "unkind") is an attempt to praise him by faint damning. It is a point worth considering that nobody ever feels the need to buck up Sorolla by comparing him to Burri.

I know collectors who become so enraptured with fine qualitative distinctions that they lose perspective on the overall quality of the bins they are perusing. Fun is fun, but the very best thing you found in your neighbor's dumpster still isn't worth hanging in the den.

If forced, I'd agree that Sorolla may have a few points on Burri...

Don't exhaust your faculties on my account.

the second image is anything but drab; I think it has a rich warmth to it that dominates the picture.

Yes. Burri made an analogous harmony out of fabric. Shall we alert the media?

kev ferrara said...

Aleš iš šinging my šong!

chris bennett said...

I second Kev there on Ales.

Aleš said...

I do listen and learn as much as I can from you Kev, I hope I didn't come off as ungrateful or unrespectful.

David Apatoff said...

Aleš and Chris Bennett-- you have to be on your guard against the unsavory spellbinders who hang around these precincts. Every time I feel Kaa Ferrara begin to mesmerize me with his golden tongue, I splash cold water on my face and go to a museum to see my favorite Adolph Gottlieb or Morris Louis or Saul Steinberg and it restores my perspective.

I'm as susceptible as anyone to the lure of representational art, and the way it can use content to play upon our sentiment and emotion. Aleš writes, "When I feel Sorolla's glow of the afternoon sun, that is more than just an effect of glowing because it is a part of an experience of an afternoon. Sorolla's glow has a meaning to me." There is no denying the feelings that it can trigger in us but I think it's also fair to ask how much of those feelings are the product of the artist's talent and vision, and how much of them are because we project our own sweet memories into the image? If it's the latter, who gets the credit for the feelings elicited by the painting? I'm certain I could find random snapshots taken on a beach where you could "feel the afternoon light" as much as you feel it in Sorolla's Beach at Valencia. Similarly, I'm certain you could find blurry photographs of an old girl friend with plenty of the "meaningful content" that you say distinguishes Sorolla's sunset from Burri's burlap.

There are people who write me insisting that Kinkade's little fairy cottages are superior to Rothko's paintings for the same reasons that you cite: Kinkade gives them "representational nature and colour scheme/optical luminance" to which they can relate.

I'm not saying that Sorolla is Kinkade, or even that Sorolla is Burri. (If you promise not to tell Kev, I'll even admit that I'm in awe of Sorolla's work.) But let's admit that representational painters are tricksters from the start, beginning with the fact that they fool you into thinking that a 2D surface is 3D, or that an opaque surface emanates light. (At least Dubuffet and Burri have the gumption to say, "No more games! this is in reality a flat surface and we will stand our ground here, to live or die without optical illusions!") If we are in the presence of a gifted trickster, doesn't it behoove us to pay attention to where the tricks begin and end? Do they stop with the illusion of 3D, or is the artist also playing on rank sentiment, plucking our heart strings to make us feel that the art is better or more than it is?

Pin up art is popular despite the fact that 97% of pin up art is pure crap. It gets an advantage because its subject matter is, as you say, "part of an experience." Before we grant elevated status to representational art, let's be self aware about how much of what we're praising is coming from the artist.

Kev Ferrara-- I'm not dodging you, I just need more room than this #@!*# format will give me.

David Apatoff said...

Chris Bennett-- Well, at least you didn't say that Burri "honked out pattern mantras stewed from insular obsessions."

Kev Ferrara-- You've persuaded me in previous comments that you aren't one of those Art Renewal Center sentimentalists. We also agree, I think, that the same qualities of design, color and form that make up abstract painting are mere building blocks for complex representational paintings by artists such as Sorolla. I also have great regard for your discriminating taste. So let's rule out, if we can, those broad areas of debate.

Where we do disagree, I believe, is on the question of whether abstract paintings which may consist solely of brush strokes or colors (or burlap)-- ingredients that are the mere starting point for artists such as Sorolla, (or what you dismiss as "rudimentary experiments in designing fields") are necessarily lesser works of art.

I understand the instinct that complexity and skill must be virtues in art, especially when their qualities can be objectively confirmed by comparing the result against some external reference point (for example a late afternoon sun on a beach). However, I hope we can also agree that simplicity, spontaneity and intuition can be virtues as well, and that the process of abstraction, always present in representational painting, can be revealing even when it is ratcheted up to the extreme point where it obliterates content.


So much of the challenge of art is simply deciding when to stop working. You seem to be offended that abstract painters and other lowlifes can "finish" a painting with the kind of brush strokes that Sorolla might use to mix colors on his palette before he begins to apply them to his painting. If an artist becomes enthralled by the first raw brush stroke and decides to stop, that doesn't mean to me the artist is simple minded or lazy or that their art is less profound. It means they have decided to examine meaning at a different way station along the holistic trail. You seem to think that the only meaningful role for that single brush stroke is as an ingredient in a more complex painting. I think it can be complete in itself, and have meaning-- albeit a different meaning.

We of course have to be careful here, on such slippery ground, because too many artists have taken improper liberties with this freedom in recent years, although I submit they could never have done so if they had not been aided and abetted by the new tasteless monied class, and the disgusting sales industry that has built up around them. But I don't think that disease afflicts Burri or Dubuffet or others who suffered and fought the odds for their newness.

Remember, many of those abstract painters (such as Rothko) were real intellectuals trying to achieve something psychologically important, while many of the glib representational artists (including some of the great illustration of the 30s, 40s and 50s) painted content one step up from a Hallmark card. Viewed from that perspective, the connection to content can be a hindrance, and is not unexpendable.

kev ferrara said...

Dear #@!*# Apatoff,

What makes you think I wouldn’t enjoy looking at Saul Steinberg’s or Adolph Gottlieb’s wonderful cartoons, too? (Morris Louis’ work, however, should be given to a Boy Scout troop to weatherproof a lean-to in the woods.)

There is no denying the feelings that it can trigger in us but I think it's also fair to ask how much of those feelings are the product of the artist's talent and vision, and how much of them are because we project our own sweet memories into the image?

David, the problem is that you are a literalist. You like text, and you like when art is like text (pictographics), because then all its qualities are there for you to inspect, and so you can appreciate and appreciate to your heart’s content. But you keep missing what is beyond. The deeper reality is that, just as Harvey Dunn said, “It is the invisible things in a picture that make it a good one.”

This is not a mystical or esoteric point. (Although it may seem like that through our materialist vocabulary and without diving deep on the subject.) This is, rather, the poetry of evocation.

The question of evocation is always, “What are the fewest possible notes to express this idea in the fullness of both its facts and spirit?” This is not some lazy reliance on the viewer to come up with a memory that will fill in the details left by vague suggestive accidents of pigment. Nor is it the meat-camera realist’s indiscriminate litany of facts, (also a literalist cul-de-sac). Nor the Fancy-Dan’s trademarked toolbox buffet of “artsy” conventions thrown at the wall hoping they will add up to something marketable to his flock. This is instead, the synthetic imagination, that rare poetic faculty, at its mysterious work.

(continued...)

kev ferrara said...

Everybody who has been out to landscape paint knows that there are no two days that are exactly alike. (People who live in a world of unchanging concrete, metal, and glass may never come to this fascinating truth.) Therefore, when a day is properly evoked to the viewer in a work of art, it can only feel like a memory, dim, distant and dream-like. But really, what has happened is that the viewer has recognized through the aesthetic spell of the work, through the evocative notes chosen, (and a whole lot of stage magic), the beautiful expression of what was once called,truth. And truth is, lest we forget, what is both hidden and so, the inherent abstract notes and relationships we don’t notice consciously, but which are the actual substance of the meanings of things. (As well as other suggestive relationships and references, which shouldn’t be confused with whimsical or happenstance artistry.)
That faculty to recognize the true when presented as beauty is hard to come to terms with from our materialist vocabulary, walled in with our work and our papers, which tends to stifle the visual intuition. Maybe when you retire you’ll do some painting from life. And after a few years the hidden visual relationships all around you will sneak back into your sensibility. And you will stop using subtly cheapening words like “tricks,” “sentiment,” and “illusion” to talk about great “realistic” work.

Regarding, the “raw brush stroke” that is fascinating on its own, I am not saying that such should not be enjoyed. And I can’t stop anybody from calling it “Art.” But the primitivist sensibility that takes joy in the grunts and swirling puddles of pigment is not our best self. Like a fart joke, it is a respite from the burden of human achievement and the massive responsibility of maintaining it against the vast and relentless forces of entropy.

Laurence John said...

David: “…. and that the process of abstraction, always present in representational painting, can be revealing even when it is ratcheted up to the extreme point where it obliterates content”

non-representational shapes, colours - and pieces of fabric - will always evoke other things, because our brains are very good at playing ‘spot the similarity’.

i’m not sure what you think is being ‘revealed’ in that process though, except for how our brains function.

chris bennett said...

David: You are attuned to the methods by which draughtsmen you admire speak of the things of this world by way of scribbles and smears and strokes. Let's say a drawing of someone making a bed puts you in mind of optimistic, good morning feelings, and let's say that a snap of someone engaged in this task induces the same feelings. Now, as far as I understand you regarding Ales' preference for the 'Sorolla glow', you would see no difference between the drawing's emotional effect and the photo's emotional effect. And in terms of extrinsic association there is none. The difference resides in 'the meaning between the lines' (quoting Jeff Jones) or the 'invisible' (quoting Kev by way of Dunn); the evoking power induced by relationships within the aesthetic artifice that is the only means by which a slice of life can be realised as a universal truth.
To put it another way: fictions that are works of art feel more real, more 'true' than most true stories.

Aleš said...

David, I do give nonrepresentational art a chance but sadly I never managed to find some greater sense and inspiration in those works. When I leave the gallery I feel like I just visited some sort of expensive furniture store or something, It was pleasant to look at but I didn't gain any insight into how to sense the world around me. That's the honest truth.

Kev is persuasive, yes, but I don't consider myself to be an uncritical follower in any aspect of my life. Things have to make sense to me and since I try to learn to draw too, everything has to fit with how I experience the process of creating. And It's not like Kev is preaching, using arguments of authority, expressing partial interests or things like that, I think he provides explanations (he wants us to understand, not just to believe him) and as far as I can judge them, they fit with how I feel about art and further sharpen my senses too. Besides the insights, that are as far as I can tell his own, he is relying on the great legacy of philosophy of aesthetics so it would be impossible to be "on your guard against" those thoughts without delegitimizing the valuable knowledge used by past masters. So It's also true that I'm willing to trust Kev even when I'm not completely sure about something, but that's because I think he is a moral person and he gathered a lot of knowledge and proved to be rarely wrong in the past.

I don't have a problem expressing what I think about people, but this is a bit unpleasant because I respect you both a lot. This is a great place with valuable constructive discussions and your enthusiastic posts about artists expanded my area of appreciation many times. Sadly nonrepresentational art remains a problem.

Regarding the random snapshots of afternoon light, I have many of those from my vacations, but they do not make me feel as great artwork can. Sorolla's painting is created, it shows a total, concrete experience which includes his reaction as an observer and the things he observes. He most likely captured significant memories along with his observations of nature and the result is an image that is formulated in the sensuous medium to be expressive all through. Because organization is understanding, his painting is communicable. Nature on the other hand is a product of evolution and random snapshots consist of mechanically captured facts of nature, as Kev pointed out so many times. Chris said something like that we don't pick a color just because it looks similar to the one in nature but we construct it so that it works harmonically with the structural ideas about the essence/truth of a thing that we are painting. A year ago two Guardian critics were arguing whether photography is art. Before that Scruton wrote that painting is appreciated aesthetically while photos arouse our interest in captured subjects, Rand complained that there is no visual conceptualization, that photos are not selective recreations and this debate reaches back to Eastlake, Baudelaire and Ruskin. That's why I said that being "on your guard against" might be riskful because Kev isn't just making stuff up, he obviously studies things well. And I do feel the sterility, frozeness and lack of life in machine made photos myself. So I don't think I was spellbind by anyone, I really feel that no camera mechanism can capture the experience of afternoon light the way a great painter can.

chris bennett said...

Just to add something to the closing lines of Ales' thoughtful, fair, honest and well-composed post above;
Regarding the question of whether photography is art - have you ever seen an unfinished photograph?

(BTW David, I also consider your posts, like Kev's, to be thoughtful, fair, honest and well-composed. :) )

Laurence John said...

David: "But let's admit that representational painters are tricksters from the start, beginning with the fact that they fool you into thinking that a 2D surface is 3D, or that an opaque surface emanates light"

the ‘trick’ is precisely the enjoyable part; we (the viewer) are participants in a game in which we allow ourselves to be fooled into believing that a flat surface full of line or coloured pigment in front of us is a window into a fictional world.

non representational art attempts to deny us this game, and asks that we view the marks and colours simply for what they are, on their own terms. as i mention above though: the Rorschach part of the brain will always find visual analogies in anything, however abstract.

Tom said...

Funny, I have never thought of realist painting as a trick. When I see a Sorrolla he hasn't fooled me, I know I am looking at a painting. What holds my attention is what the artist conveys about reality, the relations he establishes in his work.

Everyone talks a Von Schmidt's horses which are great of course, but he brings the same sense of volume to all his forms. Look how wonderfully he paints plants and foliage and rocks is such a precise simple manner.

Nice post David, but maybe these artist where not really "wasting their time." Maybe nature was giving them exactly what they needed to become artist.

Sean Farrell said...

David, Your premise that artists discover themselves in the world around them and often have curious ways of seeing things is a valid one and it was as true for Dunn as it was for Von Schmidt. Burri, and Dubuffet offer a surprising twist on the concept. Who would argue that we are most truthful when we do what we know best? Yet some claim they are best when learning or looking at something they don't know or for the first time and such may be true for them.

It does require observational imagination to feel the weightless orbiting of shapes in the Burri pieces. The Burri pieces and the Dubuffet don't challenge your larger theme that illustration has a place alongside modern art and especially considering themes of post-modernism. The 20th century was filled with people trying to look at the world with simplified ways of seeing. Hawthorne, Dickenson, and Anderson are a few examples. Sargent was also looking at the world in his own way which worked for him. Yet others find paintings of what one actually sees to be very much lacking in imagination even when drawn or painted with great sensitivity. I don't agree with that statement but it's not without its considerations.

Recently someone told me they read how Degas was great not for his understanding of the picture plane but for the deep emotional feelings he was painting. Degas did paint some penetrating portraits and deep feelings, but his little distracted figures in sometimes very ungraceful poses were felt in terms of motion, not deeply felt emotions. And are we to hold it against Degas that he promoted Van Gogh, whose application of individually mixed patches of paint, rather than blending paint on the canvas, became a preferred method for many artists to follow?

How is one to view a painting like Gerard David's Vienna Nativity, 1495?

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_I-_8Bvb0k30/TRvaTZGEUeI/AAAAAAAAAJ0/11Y7dtlTuuw/s1600/David_Gerard_Vienna_Nativity.JPG

Is it a text like illustration from pre-manufactured parts? Should it be dismissed as part of a non-inclusionary past derived from fantasies? Or does it capture a quiet and delicate fraternal tenderness in the adulation of simple innocence which is a very real interior experience, a highly civilized way of seeing the smallest and simplest of things; an experience levitating one above the demands of everyday existence?

None of this is to take issue with what Kev and Chris and Aleš are saying. But it could get very quiet around here if every artistic appreciation has to run the gauntlet of a single notion of greatness, or even a single notion of feeling. But somehow I am assured you aren't going to let that happen. Thanks.

David Apatoff said...

Aleš-- I hope you never, ever feel that any of the debates that take place here, particularly between Kev and me, are "a bit unpleasant." On the contrary, I find them extremely pleasant. Kev has been commenting on these pictures for years now and, while I didn't know him at the start, I have grown to have great respect for him. I have learned a lot from from him and I think it's good that you have too. In fact, I have such regard for his taste, knowledge, intelligence, passion and eloquence, it hardly bothers me at all that he is narrow minded, bad tempered, hidebound, mulish and irrational.

On the subject of photography and art, I deliberately offered the example of "random snapshots" on the beach to distinguish them from carefully planned artistic photographs. I do believe photographs can be art (I'd be interested in Kev's perspective on this) but my point was that we could find an exact match for Sorolla's color of beach sunlight in a casual photo with no artistic pretensions-- one that would measure identically on a spectrophotometer or some other tool of colorimetry-- so Sorolla's ability to achieve that precise color can't be the measure of the greatness of The Beach at Valencia, just as Burri's failure to achieve that precise color can't be evidence of his lack of greatness.


Laurence John wrote: "i’m not sure what you think is being ‘revealed’ in that process though, except for how our brains function."

I'm not sure what is being "revealed" in any art (including The Beach at Valencia) except for how our brains function. We stand looking at a sheet of fabric smeared with minerals and chemicals and it evokes the most extraordinary associations and emotions. That sheet has no meaning, relevance or function except through how our brains function. One of the ways our brains function is, as you say, "spot the similarity" but you seem to imply that this is merely some Rohrshach game. Representational artists such as Andrew Wyeth will paint a German shepherd dog with sharp teeth and craggy colors, then replace the dog with a fallen tree with jagged splinters and rough bark, saying that the tree "serves the same purpose as the dog" in our brain. This is a process we've struggled with before at this site. (Do I like curvy lines because I like girls, or do I like girls because I like curvy lines?) I don't propose to offer any final answers in this comment, only to say that it would seem unnecessarily limiting to say the only good smears of chemicals on fabric are the ones that simulate 3 dimensional space. Also pretty arbitrary. Andrew Wyeth understood the "similarity" between jagged shapes, or the "similarity" between rough bark and a rough demeanor, even though a dog looks nothing like a tree. That's abstraction.

Chris Bennett-- I'm having trouble understanding why a photograph can't have "meaning between the lines" just as much as a Sorolla painting. The random beach photo I posited to Aleš had the same "extrinsic association" as you say, but there are also plenty of photographs that invoke "the invisible" or "feel more real, more true than most true stories."

chris bennett said...

David: Because a photograph is a species of found object, it is not authored - you might as well say a patch of grass or a railroad has 'meaning between the lines'.

As to your second point:
A photograph is never a fiction, let alone an aesthetic fiction, it is always a mechanical record, always points to its origin as a causal effect of the world. And it is photography's intrinsically journalistic, impartial nature (the only 'authoring' being the when and where the shutter is pressed) that prevents it from becoming 'other'. It cannot induce the sense of the universal because it is not soliciting our belief, which is to say it is not exercising our imaginative senses. It is the same reason that live animals on stage wrench us out of the play's dramatic dream.

Aleš said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aleš said...

I do believe photographs can be art (I'd be interested in Kev's perspective on this) but my point was that we could find an exact match for Sorolla's color of beach sunlight in a casual photo with no artistic pretensions-- one that would measure identically on a spectrophotometer or some other tool of colorimetry-- so Sorolla's ability to achieve that precise color can't be the measure of the greatness of The Beach at Valencia

Yes, it can't be the measure of the greatness of that painting. The precise color or any factual precision isn't where the aesthetic power of the picture resides. As I quoted Chris before: "we don't pick a color just because it looks similar to the one in nature but we construct it so that it works harmonically with the structural ideas about the essence/truth of a thing that we are painting". Sorolla created the painting through the use of visual language, he expressed his deep emotional vision through the masterful construction of dots, lines, colors, values, masses, rhythms, etc. He didn't just copy appearances, he used the language to tell us something about what we are looking at. That's what makes the image meaningful and that is where the power of the image resides. I have a camera but I can't create a Sorolla painting precisely because clicking a button on top of it won't tell the Canon mechanism how to use artistic language to express the sensual idea that resides in my head. Sorolla's beach sunlight isn't a precise dead fact like the ones on our photographs.

Aleš said...

Aleš-- I hope you never, ever feel that any of the debates that take place here, particularly between Kev and me, are "a bit unpleasant."

No, not at all . What I meant was that what I was doing was unpleasant. Generally on discussion boards/blogs when I witness passionate debates between two people everybody else stands around silently witnessing everything. Two persons spend their knowledge and passion to refute their arguments for all of us while the viewers rarely grant them the information about how they perceived it all. Even tho I know that you or Kev don't need my support, I feel bad for not expressing my opinion about whose arguments convinced me. I think it would be fair to do that, and sometimes when the situation arises to "take sides" regarding the judgement of character or capability, that could maybe also lead to a bit of resentment. And when you have big respect for both persons, that's when it can become unpleasant. So I stay silent, but since Kev sometimes says "Anybody else out there thinks...?" and you say " you have to be on your guard against", It confirms my sense that It's unfair of me to float here like a ghost without giving some feedback. So I did the unpleasant thing, that's what I meant. (maybe it's just me, I get over sentimental a lot :) )

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara wrote: "the primitivist sensibility that takes joy in the grunts and swirling puddles of pigment is not our best self. Like a fart joke, it is a respite from the burden of human achievement and the massive responsibility of maintaining it against the vast and relentless forces of entropy."

Hey, don't be so quick to dismiss grunts. S.I. Hayakawa, the brilliant linguist and semanticist at the University of Chicago, made a pretty persuasive case that grunts, growls and inflections not only made up human speech for the vast majority of our history, but still today makes up most of human communication, and often the subtlest and most meaningful part. And of course, I've often quoted Goethe (an undeniable flower of what you call "human achievement") who wrote that "The shudder of awe is the highest human faculty."

More importantly, there are good reasons why people stopped regarding what you describe as "the burden of human achievement" as a bulwark "against the vast and relentless forces of entropy." The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium overflowed with masterpieces of high civilization while the Belgians practiced the most depraved and systematic abuses of human beings in the Congo. That made many people (although apparently not you) step back and re-examine who was "primitivist" and who wasn't. The countries of Mozart, Beethoven, Durer and other exemplars of "human achievement" stoked the furnaces and gas chambers of genocide, claiming they had the responsibility of maintaining their exalted civilization against the primitivists and decadent modern painters. You seem to imply that Picasso when he turned to African masks, or Gauguin when he fled western civilization for the south pacific, or Dubuffet when he turned to art brut, simply got tired of shouldering their fair share of the heavy burden of human achievement. I would say instead that these artists detected what they believe to be major structural flaws in our vision of "human achievement." That seemed to be a very popular reaction in the wake of World War I. To the extent that people abandon some of their hubris and begin to recognize look back and find virtues in primitive art.

Kev Ferrara also wrote: "the beautiful expression of what was once called, truth.... That faculty to recognize the true when presented as beauty "

Man oh man, I'm not sure I have the strength to shoulder the burden of the philosophical concepts of truth and beauty, let alone the burden of human achievement. I don't know what you mean by "truth" but perhaps you will agree with me that art encompasses a whole lot of beautiful lies. Not just the lie of three dimensionality but the lie of idealization (all those beautiful women by Coby Whitmore and Joe de Mers, all those neighborhoods by Norman Rockwell, all those glamorized patriotic war scenes). The lies of Bierstadt composite landscapes. Sargent's flattering pictures of corporate moguls and wealthy dowagers. Those are mighty funny applications of your term, "truth." I love those artists, but when you accuse me of "using subtly cheapening words like 'tricks,' 'sentiment,' and 'illusion' to talk about great 'realistic' work," I didn't intend there to be anything subtle about it.

Kev Ferrara also wrote: " the problem is that you are a literalist."

Interesting that the advocate for realism views the advocate for abstract and conceptual art as being too literal.

Tom said...

David said,

"Also pretty arbitrary. Andrew Wyeth understood the "similarity" between jagged shapes, or the "similarity" between rough bark and a rough demeanor, even though a dog looks nothing like a tree. That's abstraction."

I think that's Kev's point about literalism, an artist would say a tree is a lot like a dog, the both have a body and limbs at the simplest level, the difference is one has a vertical orientation and one has a horizontal orientation. I not saying they are the same thing but the underlying reality that makes them drawable is the same.

I think analogy is a much better word then abstraction. A cigarette is like a cylinder, a cylinder is like a tree trunk , a tree truck is like a missile and on and on. Things do look like other things. An isn't analogy a why of describing something in terms of something else.

A dog's canine tooth, is like a shark's dorsal fin, which is like a throne on a stem of a rose. Unity and similarity always seem to be the harder thing to see.

kev ferrara said...

The puzzle piece that is missing in your understanding is that it is Sorolla and Sargent (and N.C. Wyeth and Fechin, and Everett and Uglow and Brangwyn, etc.) who are the actual card-carrying abstractionists, not Burri or Louis, who are actually non-referentialist graphic designers. It takes a lot of experience, but once you begin to unravel the intertwined abstractions of great visual poets, the profundity and density of the weave overwhelms.

The use of the word “abstraction” has been trashed by high Modernist pontification. And the result is that we culture yappers are all the dopier for it. If we properly understand the abstraction process to be a poetic distillation of content with the goal of retaining the essentials of the matter and only just enough details to retain the references, you see abstraction must begin and end with a sensible communication about something. Sense tethers abstraction to content.

With high modern art graphics, the “non-referential abstraction” has, for the most part, no life or spirit outside itself. Generously, we might call it an unmoored emotion or emotion complex. And in its codification on canvas, that emotion complex is turned into a pictograph, which is a form of writing. Thus are non-referential emotions turned into a form of literature to be read. Cartoons function similarly. So do tribal masks. And that is just why it is that your interest in the pictographs of modernism and cartooning tie into your fascination with the ultra-literal rendering/descriptors of someone like Robert Fawcett.

I grant, however, that your interest in Fuchs complicates a simple assessment of you as a literalist. And so my generalization isn’t exactly ironclad.

continued...

kev ferrara said...

And, regarding your Belgian bull session, my dear fellow, culture is not made nor kept alive by nations nor institutions, but by people like you and me. It is up to us, and the people we may affect in this life and beyond with our words, works, and deeds. And, a point regarding the rhetorical thrust of your Belgian comment; if I were to adopt the same tactic to use on you, it might go something like this: Many murderers have liked Modern art. Therefore, don’t you, as a barker on Modernism’s behalf, have a lot to answer for, as you share the same opinion as so many murderers?

I don't know what you mean by "truth" but...

Truth is (something like) a justified, commutable insight about a dynamic relationship inherent to a select suite of observable facts.

Perhaps you will agree with me that art encompasses a whole lot of beautiful lies. Not just the lie of three dimensionality but the lie of idealization (all those beautiful women by Coby Whitmore and Joe de Mers, all those neighborhoods by Norman Rockwell, all those glamorized patriotic war scenes).

Have you lost the ability to distinguish the poetry of fiction from a lie? Or did you just eat some bad meatloaf while sitting on a thumbtack?

I would say instead that these artists detected what they believe to be major structural flaws in our vision of "human achievement."

And what makes you think this belief of yours is justified?

I have such regard for (kev’s) taste, knowledge, intelligence, passion and eloquence, it hardly bothers me at all that he is narrow minded, bad tempered, hidebound, mulish and irrational.

I take offense at the notion that I have taste. I just want the aesthetic emotion of a picture to have something in common with the actual experience it references. And I don’t want people to equate the stupid and banal with the brilliant and insightful. That’s pretty much it.

My opinions of photography are probably quite similar to Bennett and Aleš as we’ve barked around together in a few lots over the years.

Laurence John said...

David: “…only to say that it would seem unnecessarily limiting to say the only good smears of chemicals on fabric are the ones that simulate 3 dimensional space”

like most of your other regular commenters i’ve given nonrepresentational art more than enough time to win me over and it hasn’t. i’m predominantly interested in fictional worlds, the dramatic narratives within them, and the various forms, styles and devices of visual-narrative art (mise en scene, lighting, staging, posing, framing etc.) therefore, abstract / nonrepresentational art holds little interest.

for me, the interesting thing about marks on canvas or paper, whether they’re pencil or paint, is precisely in seeing HOW they work together to describe illusory 3D form and space (how eloquently, how delicately, how unusually, how distortedly etc.)

the marks all serve a purpose, and we judge them on how well they carry out their function; marks working together to describe form within a larger composition. without that purpose (describing 3D form within a space) marks become arbitrary and meaningless. as was discussed long ago regarding Barnett Newman and his two (or was it three ? it makes no difference) vertical lines, composition also becomes arbitrary and meaningless if the elements within it don’t carry any dramatic function. they can be arranged and rearranged indefinitely… essentially just pretty, wall-filling design.

i’m genuinely baffled (and concerned) that you think those Burri sack images are worth posting, and describe yourself (above) as an "advocate for abstract and conceptual art” when you’ve been so vocal in the past about the lame ideas and lack of technical skill of most modern conceptual artists.

Sean Farrell said...

One of the reasons for previously introducing the idea that different artists had different concerns was because they did and it changes the meaning of the word feeling as it is applied to each interest.

Many abstract interactions happen because they are already present. In Uglow's peach, he was interested in form, but turn off the color and the planes don't function the same way. It may not have been the artist's intention, but that's what happens when the color is removed from the peach. The difficult relationship between two things of a different nature, tone and color, is part of what is making what we are seeing, a peach in space. The tone wasn't entirely as one might have thought.
http://paintingperceptions.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2_PeachI_Young-lg.jpg

The color phenomenon is a question which seeks an answer because our curiosity comes with the package of life, as an unwilled will, or as part of our survival instinct. It is part of our nature to seek.

The “abstract” or formal investigations may never have fully resolved anything in color but to discover its relational nature and how sensitive colors are to each other, but that's a lot. I may be wrong, but were all those paintings or investigations then meaningless? It may be that they were meaningless, but clobbering people over the head for acting as humans do, is to demonstrate another part of humanity which is to clobber people over the head. If intention is linear or literary as its nature is being discussed here, can the nature of intention itself be changed to something else? So what is being referred to here as literary, is the nature of intention acting without regard for the nature or physicality of things or sensitivity. But if the nature of intention is part of the same survival instinct that is curious and sees and feels, then it can't be so categorically removed from that same force we call life.

How about Bernini and Tiepolo? Was their bold and powerful movement without feeling? Movement is uniquely considered when compared to say finding a shape. We might say movement is of intention. Yet in accelerated movement we lose a certain amount of intimacy because the concentration is on the movement and forms as forces of movement. Seeing, sensing, color, movement, tenderness, form and yes, our investigation and understanding are all part of human feeling, but very different and if the term we are going to use as a criteria is feeling, then it must cast a wide net.

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Apatoff said...

There are enough overlapping themes in some of the recent comments from Laurence John, Tom, Sean Farrell, Aleš and Kev Ferrara (for example, on the subject of abstraction or photography) that I'd like to start with a few general remarks before responding to specific individual commenters.

On the subject of abstract art: I'm probably a poor advocate for the strengths of abstract art because this is not my specialty. If this blog has any semblance of a credo, it's the ancient maxim from Seneca: "If you would judge, investigate." I feel I haven't investigated enough to qualify as a spokesperson for post-modern or abstract art. Besides, I share the concern of Pericles in his famous funeral oration, when he said that the glory of heroes should not be dependent on the meager rhetorical skills of whatever speaker gets assigned to deliver their eulogy. ("I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperiled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill.") So if you remain unpersuaded by some of my responses below, don't let it end there-- read some of the original source material or talk with someone who actually knows something.

Despite the obvious reasons for me to be restrained, I'm emboldened to defend abstract art here because some of the Manichean positions taken by Kev are so obviously wrong, no real expertise is required to correct them.

Laurence John, speaking for many, wrote, "I've given nonrepresentational art more than enough time to win me over and it hasn't." I'd ask you to consider who has the burden of proof: is it art's job to win you over, or is it your job to conquer art's challenges? If I'd waited for fine red wine to win me over, I'd still be drinking Coca-Cola.

I've been pretty tough on what I perceive to be "bad" abstract, conceptual and other recent art. Much of this work I've described as the self-indulgent dabblings of fraudsters and thieves. But that doesn't mean I reject the entire category. I doubt there's a higher percentage of clunkers in abstract art than there is in representational art.

On the subject of Photography-- I confess to being a little surprised by the number of people here who apparently think that photographs are merely "found" factual records devoid of vision, talent or personality.

There has to be a reason photography has successfully conquered so much of what once was the exclusive domain of art. Art used to be the only way to preserve the likeness of a loved one or a powerful leader. Without portraits, faces would fade after a single generation. Busts from ancient Greece and Rome, or tomb paintings from Ancient Egypt, show how desperate our ancestors were to cling to those likenesses. In another category, art used to be the only way to record great battles or spread the images of religious miracles. We should not underestimate that artists used to own the exclusive province of dirty pictures. Desperately curious men hungered for images for millennia and aristocrats paid plenty for them (such as with Gustav Courbet’s “The Origin of the World.”) Closer to home, artists used to own the field of illustration, and were clobbered by photography in the 60s and 70s (when Bernie Fuchs began doing assignments in photographs).

If photography can wrest such core functions away from art, I think it's unrealistic to say that photography-- good photography-- doesn't offer viewers many of the same qualities as art. Look at Sebastiao Salgado's photographs of the gold miners. I wouldn't call them "a mechanical record [which]...cannot induce the sense of the universal because it is not soliciting our belief, which is to say it is not exercising our imaginative senses." For me, they're probably the best account of Dante's Inferno since Gustave Dore's.

I'll offer more specific reactions as soon as I get a project off my desk.

Sean Farrell said...

Thank you Kev, I'm trying to bring a different angle to the investigations which began during the late 1800s and continued through the 20th century. To that end, I understand your grief is with the intellectuals, who were using language and its intentions as a way of purifying art from human intentions, creating a kind of pure visual experience without the interference of human intention or concerns. And their cultural iconoclasm was similar to what the religious iconoclasts were doing in the Reformation in part, ridding the world of artwork like the Vienna Nativity, as each movement viewed itself as a purification of an impure past and specifically they were both attacking the visual story.

The elements of art are harmonized according to the priority, intention, or benefit of the story. (Different eras of art tended to emphasize certain elements by their intentions.) As you once pointed out, some strides were made in the 20th century and examining individual relationships closely played a part of this growth. Our issue today isn't ridding ourselves of such experiments, or even the democratization of art that obscures the hierarchal organization which benefits intention or story, but it is to make the case for prioritization, intention and story, as these are part of us and an important part despite our imperfections, because they are being thrown out in an attempt to purify history, language and supposedly humanity.

Sean Farrell said...

PS: Kev, Thank you for the quote. I forgot to say that the case needs to be made for story because of our imperfections.

kev ferrara said...

some of the Manichean positions taken by Kev are so obviously wrong, no real expertise is required to correct them.

Well, David, since you have no real expertise, maybe you're just the man for the job.

Sean,

The desperadoes hacking out outrages for Art Basel cash haven't the slightest interest in any case we might make. Nobody deposes themselves from a cultural throne festooned with cash and prestige. They must either die or be carried off in a sack, bloodied.

The brainwashing has been deeply dyed into the fabric of the culture. Decades upon decades of endless publicity and political connection; the patter takes on an inertial gravity that gives it its own reality. The claims have becomes wallpaper to the zeitgeist; inescapable as background rationale. Most people just want to be comfortable in their worldviews. They hear all this high minded gibberish about art, such big words and big ideas, spoken by all these fashionables, and wanting to seem open minded, sophisticated, and proper, they convince themselves "where there's smoke there must be fire." There must be a there there if everybody keeps saying there is, which is a religious belief (And aren't those pretty colors pretty?) But, of course, its all been sold by the mouth and by the claim, which is the source of the problem. People making great work were too busy making great work. They didn't live and die by the twitter of their lips. Instead, their work spoke.

When Frank Brangwyn took a moment from his brilliantly productive life as an artist to point out to his apprentice, former Pyle student Allen Tupper True, that Modernists were making aesthetic claims about their art that Art simply cannot furnish, given its language, there were maybe 200 people in the world who would have understood what he meant. But there was only one person in the room when he said it. How many others thought the same thought, I can only guess. True's notebook, where he jotted this statement down, was archived after he left England, and eventually microfilmed. My guess is maybe about 20 people in the last 100 years have gone through it thoroughly enough to have read that quote from Brangwyn. And, in all likelihood, I alone among them would have understand what he meant.

The problem is social, educational, political, philosophical, media-centric, ethical, impossible. Had Brangwyn made work consisting of squares, stripes, splashes, fabric, trash and dung, he would have had all the time in the world to whisper clever and sweet nothings in the ears of influential eggheads, news punks and the moneyed saps who wanted to be important. By the end of his life the mouths had turned the tide of the world against him and his silently grand art.

The reality is, in an increasingly socialized world, the dedicated commercial or political mouthpieces, jacked with infinite scalability, will win every argument against good Art, against even the necessity of any Art at all, simply by never shutting up. And they will happily rule the sway of the mob, distraction by distraction.

chris bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris bennett said...

David Apatoff wrote: There has to be a reason photography has successfully conquered so much of what once was the exclusive domain of art.

The reason lies in the examples you gave, coupled with my comment earlier. It is the impartiality of the photographic machine which makes it so suited and essential to the task of recording without interpretation; grandmas, ballet performances, burning skyscrapers, oxo cubes, alluring people with no clothes on, battles, houses for sale, film stars, topography...
So it's quite understandable, and inevitable, that photography has conquered this vast domain; hand painting likeness for likeness' sake has gone out with the spinning wheel, horse-draw carriage and the scribe.

Laurence John said...

David: "I'd ask you to consider who has the burden of proof: is it art's job to win you over, or is it your job to conquer art's challenges?”

careful David, you’re perilously close to falling into the beard-stroking, pseudo intellectual trap: that if enough influential critics deem a work of art important it must be, even if all your senses tell you otherwise.

chris bennett said...

And where does this notion of 'art challenging' come from?
The cave paintings, the Egyptian marbles and those of the ancient Greeks, the Renaissance, the romantic works of the 18th and 19th centuries... none of it challenged the culture within which it was fashioned.
The cultural vandalism of the last 150 years is a symptom of our spiritual malaise, and the belief that 'challenge' is a salient characteristic of art is a measure of how long we have lost sight of its illuminating flame.

Sean Farrell said...

Kev, I can't argue with your assessment of the situation. Every word you wrote is true. But I'm going to say a few things just the same, though I agree with you.

Our instinct for beauty and even purity is very strong and often strongest in those who would never suspect it. It's a dangerous instinct when love for beauty is confused with actually possessing it, or when misidentified or manipulated, but it's in there and it's not going anywhere because it's part of life itself. Even with the powerful forces you mention clearly in charge, this hunger is at work trying to find its way. The instinct remains at the ready, though lost in distractions both passive and malicious as you beautifully describe the horror of the mess. But that's one of its strangest assets, that despite its neglect, this instinct remains underneath it all, as youthful as a kitten.

kev ferrara said...

This machine that captures light rays bouncing off surfaces is one of the true marvels of human ingenuity. Its mass production has put the very easiest tool for creating journalism in the hands of amateur journalists everywhere, and the best close-magic prop magicians ever devised in the hands of amateur magicians everywhere. So just as a method for otherwise untalented people to gain attention, the camera's success was assured from the moment of its invention. Social media is its teleological apotheosis. "Look what I did, saw, or found" is probably the most common plea for attention in all social communication.

As recordings of matters of fact, of course photographs have their place in argument. But there is a great problem with photography as testament; its realism is so seductive that its shallowness, insensibility, and myopia become invisible to most people. Thus, many fallacies and illusions dog the use of photographs. Including the lie of stillness. And the lie of comprehension.

The photograph's real service is to show that the past once was real. And that there are other locations that exist in the same way as the one we inhabit.

To be artful means to be suggestive. Art's inherent nature as a suggestive communication means it was never properly cut out to give evidence in court. It has always been the case that, in its capacity to fool the eye, "photo-realistic" rendering was a stage magic trick, (and as such was destined for mechanization.) Which is why Tromp L'oeil painting, and meat-camera art of all stripes, is the very worst kind of art. And also why the old wisdom holds, that a work of Art should immediately and forcefully demonstrate, and thereby admit, to the viewer that it is an aesthetic fiction. Because it has deeper, more sensible, and more universal things to say than "fooled you!"

kev ferrara said...

But that's one of its strangest assets, that despite its neglect, this instinct remains underneath it all, as youthful as a kitten.

As I believe there can be no beauty without meaning, I believe the kittenish longing within all of us is a longing for both, united. Beautiful meaning is what makes life worth living, and possible to live, as something more than an animal.

Sean Farrell said...

Kev, By kitten I meant fresh, new, alive and was referring to the instinct for beauty, honor, hope, purpose, love, relationship and a whole host of things we learn to discern from the troubles that lead to despair. What has been lost can be recovered or rediscovered if it can't be recovered, because these are in human life, neither animal, nor disembodied ideas. Such things preexist our linguistic decision making process and reside just underneath the confusion of wants. That's why I wrote the comment, because whether those festooned with power and prestige must either die or be carried off in a sack, bloodied, they cannot entirely kill off what is part of life. Truth, beauty and meaning are recognized, not invented. Yes, we have to learn much about these in as much as one can learn about them, and it involves learning some invention too, but even these involve recognition. Understanding is a process of recognition. The capacity to understand preexists recognition. Yes, I agree with you that the situation is bleak, but its anatomy has become more recognizable and a growing point of light. Thanks.