Sunday, June 20, 2021

UNCONQUERABLE SOULS

Andrew Wyeth painted this picture shortly after the muscles in his shoulder had been severed.  He couldn't even hold a brush without supporting his hand using a sling suspended from the ceiling. 


Wyeth suffered from bronchiectasis, a frequently fatal disease, and had most of a lung removed in a major operation in which he nearly died.  During the operation, doctors severed his shoulder muscles and it was questionable whether he would ever paint again.  While recuperating from his operation, Wyeth struggled to paint this picture. Every blade of grass must have been painted in pain.

Bernie Fuchs painted this next picture seven years after three of his fingers had been sliced from his drawing hand in an industrial accident.


When he got out of the hospital, he couldn't even figure out how to hold a piece of charcoal with his remaining fingers.  No one believed a career as an artist was remotely feasible.

Degas suffered from poor vision his entire adult life, and by his forties was virtually blind in his right eye.  By the time he turned 60, he frequently wore spectacles that were completely blacked out except for a small slit in the left lens.  It was under these conditions that he painted several of his masterpieces, including this picture:


It's amazing how many great artists started out with bad breaks and terrible odds.  

The fabulously successful Al Dorne was born in the slums of New York and grew up fatherless in abject poverty.  As a child suffering from tuberculosis, malnutrition and heart disease, it appears that he only survived because a social worker ordered him removed to a charity hospital.  Dorne quit school after 7th grade to support his mother, two sisters and younger brother by selling newspapers on a street corner.  He taught himself to draw by looking at the pictures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Even the aristocracy of illustration such as Norman Rockwell or Mead Schaeffer or Henry Raleigh scratched and clawed to overcome the odds as starting illustrators after their peers had became daunted and gave up.  Rockwell spied on his idol J.C. Leyendecker to learn his techniques.  He lied to the art director of Collier's, claiming to be from San Francisco because he heard the art director favored artists from San Francisco.  Mead Schaeffer snooped on an art director's desk and intercepted an assignment intended for another artist.  

Perhaps because they grew up in a dog-eat-dog world with no illusions about what it took to survive, these great artists also tended to seek out the toughest most demanding teachers they could find, teachers who'd regularly beat the stuffing out of them.  


Robert Fawcett went on a pilgrimage to London to study for two years at the Slade School, which was in those days a grueling, medieval type institution famous for teaching students to draw through old fashioned traditional methods which Fawcett described as "torture."  Norman Rockwell took lessons from the demanding George Bridgman who scolded his students that they'd end up shoveling coal for a living.  Rockwell also valued the critiques from Leyendecker who taught by "tearing my pictures to pieces."  Rockwell said, "You never ask [Leyendecker]... what he thought of your painting unless you wanted a real critique; he thought nothing of [saying]...You'd best scrap it and start over."  Mead Schaeffer walked away from a scholarship at Pratt to learn by cleaning Dean Cornwell's brushes for free because he valued Cornwell’s blunt criticism: “[Cornwell] didn’t pull any punches. I learned so fast that I did three years in one. It was a great stroke of luck.... Dean Cornwell was the single most important contributor to my development.”


Andrew Wyeth said that he submitted himself to not one but two harsh masters: "Jesus, I had a severe training with my father, but I had a more severe training with Betsy [his wife]."  


Perhaps these artists had heard the call from Walt Whitman:

Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?

I've thought about this in recent years as I've read about disputes at some of today's prominent art schools for illustrators.  I've read complaints on social media from students who say that their instructors don't make them feel "validated" and aren't sufficiently "encouraging."  I've read web platforms that have been set aside as "safe spaces" where art students can complain about their schools or instructors without the school or instructor being permitted to respond or dispute the story.  I've read complaints that instructors have given poor grades without due consideration to how students have been traumatized by the recent political environment.

As a general matter, I think everyone should treat everyone else with sensitivity and fairness. I also think the priorities now being expressed are likely to increase the number of art students who feel validated. However, looking back at the types of artists who not only survived but thrived in changing markets, these recent exchanges don't seem destined to foster resilient, successful illustrators.

Perhaps an art history class on basic survival skills should be added to the modern curriculum.

44 comments:

chris bennett said...

When the ideal is believed to be a delusion, so the self and its imagined identity stands in that space as its own private deity. And with that fragile construct comes the need for constant validation.

But when a transcendental ideal is believed, criticism is seen as the means to keep us directed towards it.

Without a sense of value greater than oneself, avoiding hardship and criticism has no purpose other than to protect the selfhood from suffering. But the artists you mentioned saw these things as obstacles to be overcome in order to continue on a path paved with the very meaning to which it leads.

Donald Pittenger said...

As an undergraduate at the University of Washington's School of Art, we did not get severe criticism. I suspect that was because the faculty chose to avoid teaching us how to do art (because that would ruin our "innate creativity," I suspect). If they didn't teach us what might be done, there was no point in attacking us for not doing it.

Not mentioned in your post, perhaps due to limitations in your source material, is that it is quite possible that the critiques mentioned were accompanied by a few words of encouragement ... "Yes, that was a piece of sh*t in your color treatment, but I think you have it in you to do a lot better, so keep at it!"

Also, the last time I was there, the Andrew Wyeth paintng was on display at the Brandywine Museum.

MORAN said...

Whiners.

vanderleun said...

"Feel Validated" ???

What a cluster of useless soon to be forgotten unfocused twits who are in art school not because they have talent but because they have no ability.

Flush them all.

Jaleen said...

Sorry to multi-post - I wanted to sign my post but it wasn't registering my other google identity and won't let me delete either. - Jaleen

An excellent polemic and containing a lot of truth - for some. Let us not forget that the tough-love approach does not work for everyone. Just because these select few had the requisite cultural background and psychology to live up to harsh mentorship (and note that what was acceptable in the early 20th C is not necessarily directly transferrable to the present) does not mean it works for everyone else. Plus, all obstacles must also be balanced against all advantages, if you want to really look at what made the difference for their successes. It ain't all grit that makes the career.

I wonder how many women and how many racially disadvantaged people were willing to be just as gritty. Oh wait. If you were female or Black or Asian and stole something off somebody's desk, thumbed your nose at a scholarship, asked to clean brushes for someone famous, well, would that really work in your favour? Go anywhere? Give you a leg up?

That said, we are probably in a pendulum-swing moment that errs to the side of Too Lenient. This too shall pass. In the meantime, educating will and is becoming more humane and accessible to more types of people. We shall emerge with a renewed and fresh strength in talent and concepts in illustration as a result.

Mike-SMO said...

Visual art or aesthetics are not part of my world. I always felt that I was paying an "instructor" to instruct. "That word is for cowards." "This section is all babble. What were you trying to say?" "That introduction has nothing to do with the rest of the text." We were working on teaching me how to write and to think. He wasn't there to "validate" me. I didn't have to "like" his "style", I had to learn to formulate a concept and to put it to paper. It is a skill. "Validation" may come later.

The most profound insights are worthless if they can't be brought to another person. Screw the validation of your petty ego victimhood. Show me,"what you got".

Anonymous said...

chris, well said.

JSL

Tom said...

I like Chris's response too!

Donald wrote
" I suspect that was because the faculty chose to avoid teaching us how to do art (because that would ruin our "innate creativity," I suspect). If they didn't teach us what might be done, there was no point in attacking us for not doing it."

I had the same experience but I think the "avoidence," came from the fact that the teachers could not draw and paint. It was always talk never showing.

"Nowadays we are mistakenly inclined to lay emphasis on a so-called expression, by which the individual feelings of the maker are projected outwards, through the medium of the made object...However, this is contrary to the opinion of all great civilizations, which have always striven towards that objective expression which proceeds from the work itself."
Hans van der Laan

David Apatoff said...

chris bennett-- What you say strikes me as being quite true, and also well put, but as so often happens in the arts there is more than one truth. Some "ideals" have turned out to be false, or at least more limited than some idealists initially believed. Every once in a while an artist's "private deity" has turned out to be worth worshiping.

We stimulate new perspectives by challenging old ideals, but this process of renewal calls upon us to be our best selves-- appreciative of what matters in our historical ideals but open minded and curious about new inventions. That's why I disapprove of voices that are ignorant of the value of ideals, and who try to push new inventions on the grounds of politics or economics or personal weakness, rather than artistic merit.

Donald Pittenger-- Yes, I've seen that Wyeth at the Brandywine, too. A splendid museum.

I suspect that you and I probably took college art classes in the same era, for I certainly encountered the same philosophy of teaching. Fortunately, I was also an apprentice in a commercial art studio with a very different philosophy.

MORAN-- Yes, I fear that some of them may be.

David Apatoff said...

vanderleun-- Unfortunately, I fear that people who demand to be "validated" by others are often flushing themselves.

Jaleen wrote, "It ain't all grit that makes the career."

Agreed. Talent and a few other variables are obviously important parts of the equation. And in an era of NFTs and other bizarre happenings in the art market, it's harder than ever to predict which factors will lead to commercial success. But when it comes to artistic quality, I think that people who want to be graded on the basis of social injustice, or who need to be coaxed to turn in their assignments, are far less likely to produce work the world is interested in seeing. The artists I've described are like weeds growing by the railroad tracks. Nothing could stop them from pushing their way up through the rocks.

Mike-SMO-- Sometimes people only tolerate an instructor long enough to get a degree because they feel that the degree, rather than the learning, is going to be the key to their future.

Francesco Paonessa said...

These histories are fascinating. I never knew how all of these great artists got started. Thanks for sharing them! I also have two thoughts on the subjects. First, It's been a few minutes since I read the beginning of this post, and I'm still blown away that Bernie Fuchs was missing three fingers on his drawing hand. Absolutely floored. Along the same lines, Wyeth's injury would've been terrifying as well. That's actually one of my favourite paintings by him, and I had no idea he created it in such pain.

Second, I put myself in the middle camp for the harsh-teacher approach. I don't favor a one-size-fits-all approach, and every art school should have a mix of personalities in their faculty. Some students will seek out the harsh critics, and others will seek out safe spaces. I think you'll still get successful artists out of both groups, as well as some folk who change their minds and look for other creative pursuits. Life has a way of winnowing the field.

kev ferrara said...

“The spirit of Howard Pyle is still alive. He was one of the great masters of composition; he taught how to create a composition from the inside. I find his spirit very disturbing at times; It forces me to do my work over and over again." - Violet Oakley

David Apatoff said...

Tom-- Agreed.

Also, if there were teachers able to draw and paint, they were probably better off keeping it to themselves.

Francesco Paonessa-- Time and again, the "middle camp" proves to the the smart place to be, just because there are always examples at either extreme that can be used to justify almost any position. But as Jaleen suggested (above), "we are probably in a pendulum-swing moment that errs to the side of Too Lenient." It seems to me that these days we are far more likely to encounter students seeking a validating, confirming education.

Kev Ferrara-- Yes, Pyle was the real McCoy. The boots in the very first picture (by Andrew Wyeth) belonged to Pyle. Pyle's student N.C. Wyeth inherited them, then passed them along, with Pyle's teachings, to N.C.'s son Andrew. Andrew used to wear them while tramping through the Pennsylvania fields.

When the young student N.C. Wyeth lucked into an assignment to paint a wild west cover for the Saturday Evening Post, Pyle urged him not to celebrate prematurely, but rather to travel out west and get some authentic experience and make honest observations. Pyle warned N.C. against a life of skating by with superficial likenesses, and N.C. loved him for it.

In addition to stern words, Pyle helped arrange funding for N.C.'s trip.

Paul Sullivan said...

David—This is one of the best posts I have read. The message is for all of us—teachers, students, practicing artists—for we can never stop learning.

Wes said...

The old saw that "what did happen is what was most likely to happen" probably applies to swinish intructors who berate their student's early mediocre work -- those students that have or develop the drive and desire to become talented will do so despite harsh critics. The idea that teachers have carte blanche to severely chastise their wards is biblical in theory: "spare the rod and spoil the child" -- a dubious idea that we have abandoned as child abuse. Any irrationally delivered and abusive message (even if well founded) from a teacher will abuse the weak but just annoy and slow down the strong. The genius artists you display here don't need a abuse to become brilliant -- they probably would have done so anyway.

David Apatoff said...

Paul Sullivan-- Many thanks.

Wes-- I think your adjectives prejudge your conclusion. There is a big gap between a tough instructor and a "swinish instructor" who "irrationally" delivers "abusive messages." I disapprove of the latter but in my experience, truly sadistic instructors are rare. This post describes instructors and schools who have been publicly castigated on social media for being insufficiently "validating" or "encouraging" (the actual words used by their accusers). It refers to students who don't turn in their assignments or who want to be relieved of tests or grades because of the trauma of the current political environment. It discusses comments that instructors from the "wrong" race or gender should not be in a position to pass judgment on a student's work. Rather than being "abused children," these students are quite fearless about leveling these criticisms on social media because they know it will harm their schools or instructors without fear of retribution or even rebuttal. Personally, I think that art students who are interested in a challenging education that will truly equip them to face the daunting illustration market would be well advised to avoid schools that shape their curriculum around students who come to school to feel "validated."

In fairness, I should note that this phenomenon is not limited to illustration schools. During the recent Ferguson unrest in the US, students at Harvard Law School demanded that exams be canceled (not postponed) because of the trauma students felt about the shooting in Ferguson. The faculty seemed to think that students who truly cared about social injustice would be better served by working hard to master the legal tools of social change. I happened to be visiting the law school around that time, and encountered a roving band of HLS students in the hallway looking for classes to invade and shut down. I chatted with them and found their strategies to be, for the most part, depressingly simple minded and self-destructive.

chris bennett said...

Well said David, and I agree.

Wanda said...

Do you see any way out of this downward spiral we are in? Every day brings worse news. Our civilization seems intent on committing suicide, and I can't understand why. And I don't know what to do about it.
Thanks, anyway for the inspiring stories of artists who defied adversity to achieve their goals and those who toughened them up so that they could.
Tennyson wrote in "Ulysses" what I always thought was the credo of the West: To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.
Whatever happened to that way of thinking?

chris bennett said...

Wanda,

I think an explanation as to why this is happening was that the far left noticed how victim politics was showing success as an effective disruptor of Western values and realised it could be used as a Trojan Horse under a banner of righteousness to carry the poisonous ideology through the gates of the institutions. Thus it became the central tactic to use against its opponents. As the institutions were captured in this way so the ideology was increasingly legitimatized and the mass brainwashing by insidious propaganda could truly begin.

David Apatoff said...

Wanda-- I think the answers you seek can be found in the poets you write that you admire. I'd refer you to Walt Whitman's perspective-restoring "This Compost" in Autumn Rivulets. And Loren Eisley has laced some of his lovely essays with wisdom on this subject. The questions you ask are painful ones and warrant more space-- perhaps an upcoming post?

chris bennett-- it probably won't surprise you to hear that my diagnosis is a little different. I think the "far left" is no more responsible than the far right, and that both extremes wield banners of righteousness that disrupt western values. I agree with Nietzsche that "no one lies as much as an indignant man," and the level of fevered indignation today doesn't bode well for empiricism, science, tolerance or enlightenment.

We shouldn't forget, to state the obvious, that there are western values that sorely need to be disrupted.

chris bennett said...

I agree David that the far right are as dangerous as the far left - they are both of course the result of extreme ideologies. I mentioned the far left because they are the most pressing problem, and if continued to go unchecked will increase a far right reaction. I think we would both agree that this would just make things worse.

All systems need service, repair, modifying, updating and improving. But what we have going on here is a desire to disrupt to weaken in order to destroy. A large proportion of people are unwittingly supporting this, deluded by the righteous banner under which it flies, having neither the time or inclination to look under the hood of what they are being sold. That is what I speak out against as best I can when it becomes appropriate to do so. I feel it is a moral duty as a citizen of the free world.

Anonymous said...

Come on the right is far worse. Add up more murders. More guns. More attempts to stop American democracy. More hatred of free press. You're crazy fascism is the real danger today.


JSL

chris bennett said...

Q.E.D.

Chris James said...

The left are steering the ship of art and entertainment, what is relevant to this blog. Not murders, which Democrat run, "gun tough" urban centers have more than their fair share of

David Apatoff said...

chris bennett-- Q.E.D indeed.

As long as we're drawing upon the wisdom of the ancients, here are two other Latin maxims for your consideration:

Principiis obsta. A dozen years ago when Donald Trump was lying about Barack Obama being born in Africa, people weren't overly alarmed because they assumed the western value of empiricism would eventually prevail. Ten years later, 40% of Republicans had hardened into Trump's lie and were immune to factual evidence. Perhaps rather than rely upon western values we should take a lesson from Ovid and "resist the beginnings."

Summis desiderantes affectibus. Pope Innocent VII felt so passionately about defending the Catholic faith that he waived western values of civil and legal protections that had restrained two determined witch hunters, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenges, from torturing and burning enough women at the stake. The Pope felt his higher moral goal (ridding the world of witches, which he desired "with supreme ardor") justified any means.

Anonymous said...

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/promotional-booklet/

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous-- exactly, and Snopes was only one of the many fact-checking organizations that debunked the "birther" lie on the mistaken assumption that facts mattered.

"Western values" in art have resulted in significant accomplishments but I suspect the western values of empiricism, scientific rationalism and enlightenment thinking have commanded more respect internationally than western art. Would the art of ancient Greece have been so esteemed were it not paired with the tangible greatness of Aristotle and Pythagoras? Would Greek art be so admired around the world today if the Greek culture hadn't also led to the scientific revolution, which led to the industrial revolution, which led to the technological revolution? Artists in different cultures may think more or less of western art, but everyone envied the material success of western science. Everyone wanted an atom bomb. Those who drift from empiricism are probably headed for a world of hurt.

Tom said...

David wrote

"Western values" in art have resulted in significant accomplishments but I suspect the western values of empiricism, scientific rationalism and enlightenment thinking have commanded more respect internationally than western art."

That may be true. But the art is a product of the same thought, it falls from the same tree. Your proposition makes no sense you can't have "Greek art," without the rest of Greece.

Eugène Carrière explicitly understood the nature of western thought when he said, "the straight line, the flat plane, the volume of space, all is architecture."

How you think about things is how you produce things!

sojourner said...

As always, fantastic information about all these artists and their process. Fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyable. I am very sorry to ask this here, as I could not find any way to contact you via e-mail Mr. Apatoff -- but would you ever consider a reprint of your book "The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs"? The only copies I could even locate were on Amazon for prices well beyond my means as a struggling artist. The fruitless search has been really, really disappointing so I thought I would come straight to the source; I'm not expecting a positive response, as I already inquired with the publisher a while ago and it was clear he was not interested in doing any additional prints for that book -- but I thought I would try with you just in case.

Regardless, as a silent reader and otherwise non-contributing commentator, thank you for shining light on all these brilliant illustrators and draughtsmen.

David Apatoff said...

Sojourner-- You can write me at David.Apatoff@gmail.com

sojourner said...

Thank you so much Mr. Apatoff! I sent along a message, very much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

>>there are western values that sorely need to be disrupted.

Haven't your thuggish socialist comrades already disrupted enough?

Burned streets, destroyed towns, vandalized buildings and statues, billions in damages, DAs who selectively prosecute*, “defund the police”, FISA abuses*, "Antifa doesn't exist"*, "cancel culture doesn't exist"*, "CRT isn't being taught"*, "Cops have declared open season on black people"* (endlessly lying media*), using the public school system and academia to indoctrinate children and young adults into America-hatred, Marxist ideology and Gender and Queer Theory*, (formerly) secret Democratic communications with online social media platforms, late night talk shows, and Hollywood to slander and deplatform opponents, blackout inconvenient facts, and push leftist narratives*, using mainstream media domination and demographic dominance in D.C. to cover up for the corruption and influence peddling of your leaders (Clintons, Obama, Biden)* etc. What else is left of our civic and creative culture for the left to spit on?

And re: The Birther Movement, why should anybody believe any documents a leftist produces as proof after Dan Rather's hoax memos about W? What won't you lie about or forge?

*I realize you live in the most impervious cult-like information bubble in history. Where you're told what to know and what to think by the Liberal Establishment: DNC, MSNBC, the NYT and WaPo editorial staffs, and the Atlantic Council. So you may be entirely ignorant of anything contrary to your political fantasy world of moral purity. Wouldn't be surprised.

Great blog, by the way.

Marc Rich

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous / Marc Rich-- Are you suggesting that there are no western values that should be improved? Wow, that's pretty impressive.

PS-- I actually had some legal dealing involving the real Marc Rich, back when he made his first fortune as a crude oil trader, fraudulently selling price regulated crude at unregulated prices. Hiya Marc!

Anonymous said...

Fucking neoNazis have to bring their racist politics into everything. You lost the civil war you pathetic shit. This is about art.

chris bennett said...

David,

I re-read my opening reply to your post and realised it needed some reformulating to make it clearer.
So I did.
Just for you.
And everybody else. 🙂

When the transcendental ideal is believed to be a delusion, so the self and its imagined identity stands in that space as its own private Deity. And with that fragile construct comes the need for constant validation.
But when a transcendental ideal is seen to be a sign pointing towards a greater value, the fragile construct of identity becomes the delusion.
Without a sense of a value greater than oneself, the purpose of life is reduced to protecting our selfhood from suffering, hardship and criticism. So blessed are those who see the difficulties of life as a path paved with the very meaning to which it leads.

Anonymous said...

>>Fucking neoNazis have to bring their racist politics into everything. You lost the civil war you pathetic shit. This is about art.

Another resentful, mentally ill commie develops tourettes. Everybody's a nazi, everything's white supremacy, everything's bigotry, the civil war is still going on and you're the hero. Stupid psycho. You're being played by elites who cannot win elections and keep power unless they scare out the black vote and create moral terror in idiots like you. And they use their media to do it. That's what's going on. You're a pawn, a dupe.

Anonymous said...

>> Are you suggesting that there are no western values that should be improved? Wow, that's pretty impressive.

Are you suggesting that you have no values that can be improved? That you and the left are not only superior to the Founding Fathers, but without sin? Are you nuts?

And what substitute values will your high holy Left instantiate? Certainly not the pretty sounding fantasies leftists always use to fool people. I’d bet on the values we’ve seen recently. The values of negativity, group think, mob behavior, constant accusations, catastrophism, and authoritarian control. The creation of a climate of fear by mass media lying, sowing resentment and hatred. Tearing down the past and traditions. Orwellian language control and word games, deception.

No thanks. We didn’t ask for new Founding Fathers. And you’re not qualified anyway. You’re not morally qualified. You’re not intellectually qualified. You’re gullible. You don’t have the leadership experience and you don’t have the emotional stability. Most of all our Founding Fathers had humility. Which the left has none of. Most people on the left have all the answers, read all the ideological books, check the websites daily, and they’ve barely run a hot dog stand. And then when their plans don’t work out, they just walk away and try to control what people say about it, call them names, try to get them cancelled, so it all goes down the memory hole. The lust for information control consumes the leftist because they cannot tolerate reality or responsibility. Only their dreams.

The left doesn’t have values. They just want to destroy the current values, demoralizing people, thereby putting themselves in control of a great power built by other, better, more honorable and diligent people. Thereafter criminalizing dissent. Just like in Russia. Just like in China.

Anonymous said...

The civil war is still going on cuz the confederate states are the Republican base. They denied they were racist then, they denied they were racist during civil rights and they still deny they're racist. Trumps whole thing is white rage for sick fucks like you.

Anonymous said...

>>The civil war is still going on cuz the confederate states are the Republican base. They denied they were racist then, they denied they were racist during civil rights and they still deny they're racist. Trumps whole thing is white rage for sick fucks like you.

Dear "Sick Fuck", you're the perfect bigoteering grunt of the current left; an angry raging idiot who believes whatever divisive slanderous horsecrap you get from your corporate media masters by way of the core DNC cabal. Anti-American slash and burn propaganda for power and profit. While you go back to your miserable little job, and miserable little life, the Gods of your party will be in Davos, drinking champagne at a ski lodge with Raytheon executives. Ignorant child.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Marc is a racist but I do know Donald Trump is repulsive and anyone who supports him is disgusting.

David Apatoff said...

chris bennett-- I thought your first version was clear, true and excellent but I like your second version too.

I agree that the "transcendental ideal" is necessary but at the same time I believe it can be dangerous. Who speaks for the transcendental ideal? Should we believe those who use that ideal to squelch new or critical thinking? We're all familiar with Yeats' line, "the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity." I think much of that intensity comes from the (mistaken) belief that some of us have the transcendental ideal (or god) on our side. That seems to justify any means to their end.


Marc Rich / Anonymous wrote: "Are you suggesting that [the left has] no values that can be improved?"

Apparently you haven't read this post.

I've never deleted any comments here and I never will (other than spam from bots). However, I'd suggest that there are plenty of other places on the web where you and your new playmates might find it more satisfying to conduct the kind of discussion that you seem intent on having.

chris bennett said...

I agree that the "transcendental ideal" is necessary but at the same time I believe it can be dangerous.

I agree, up to a point. But the danger comes not from the transcendental ideal but from the dogma that re-presents it for abusive purposes. Danger comes not from the knife but from the motives of those who use it.

Who speaks for the transcendental ideal?

Your conscience. I believe our conscience, in its unalloyed state, to be the voice of the transcendental within each of us. Whenever we act against it, or try to compromise or manipulate it, we pay the price, either immediately or over time. But we will certainly pay. Dostoyevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' is a fully realized example of what happens to a man who tries to do just this.

I think much of that intensity comes from the (mistaken) belief that some of us have the transcendental ideal (or god) on our side. That seems to justify any means to their end.

Our conscience is always new born to every situation and turn we encounter in life. It doesn't seem to be 'ours'. And I would say for this reason it is, in its purest form, immune from being turned into a dogma.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe teachers need to strike fear into their students or constantly berate them , but there is a place for a "tough love" approach and being completely honest in critiquing the work , so the student doesn't fall into false expectations of what they can expect to encounter when they seek employment.

I am currently teaching part-time at an institution where most of the other instructors only comments on their student's work is some variant of "oh, that's so awesome!". I shake my head . If everything is "awesome" , then nothing is awesome. Instructors who try to give practical critiques and specific steps to take for improvement are cast as the bad guys. (and I'm not talking about the type of instructor who berates the student's work as crap and tells them they'll never get a job ... I mean offering constructive criticism and being specific about what needs improvement) But of course most students prefer to to hear "oh, that's so awesome" . The students who don't settle for that false praise and seek out real critiques so they can improve their work are the ones I try to focus on , but unfortunately the mediocre students (who have been told their work is "awesome") take up way too much class time , just to get them up to a level of barely competent.

kev ferrara said...

"From 20 years of experience hiring artists out of the schools, I know-they get worse every year. They're absolutely ridiculously retarded now." - John Kricfalusi