Category Archives: Art

The National Gallery Has Been Invaded by Suspicious Unclothed Foreign Art

This Washington Post story begins “Washington is a town filled with boobs.” This sentence refers to unclothed statuary. However, it is true in other ways. Authors Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts must have enjoyed writing it.

Robert Hurt, visited the National Gallery of Art ten years ago while in town for a Promise Keepers meeting. He was extremely surprised to find our nation’s gallery liberally stocked with naked statues. Nearly 20 percent of the art in America’s National Gallery–nekkid! Why, he’d never heard of such a thing.

Luckily Hurt is a delegate to the Texas GOP convention. He knew what to do: Give this suspicious foreign statuary a hard smackdown in the party platform. “You don’t have nude art on your front porch,” he argued. “You possibly don’t have nude art in your living rooms. So why is it important to have that in the common places of Washington, D.C.?”

Good point. The National Gallery is the front porch of America. Why should that sacred place contain anything more than a porch swing, a welcome mat, and maybe a couple of potted plants? Note that I do say “maybe.” We must be careful about those plants. They should be familiar plants. It would be a terrible shame if the National Gallery of Art contained anything at all to shock or surprise the uneducated, who are the most purely American of us all.

Alas, Mr. Hurt’s proposal did not make it in. He was similarly unsuccessful with his suggestion that Presidential spouses should have term limits. I think this was a mistake. No one should be forced to be married to a President for more than eight years.

(Via Making Light.)

Harpies and Peanuts

Wilde attributes this joke to Carlyle: a biography of Michelangelo that would make no mention of the works of Michelangelo. So complex is reality, and so fragmentary and simplified is history, that an omniscient observer could write an indefinite, almost infinite, number of biographies of a man, each emphasizing different facts; we would have to read many of them before we realized that the protagonist was the same.

—Jorge Luis Borges, “On William Beckford’s Vathek

In the early 16th century, aspiring artist Bartolomeo Torri was thrown out of his teacher’s home after he got a little too absorbed in his anatomy lessons: “for he kept so many limbs and pieces of corpses under his bed and all over his rooms, that they poisoned the whole house,” wrote Giorgio Vasari. Cherubino Alberti fixated on medieval siege engines and filled his home with model catapults. Later, Franz Xavier Messerschmidt believed he was pinched and abused by a “Spirit of Proportion” who could be warded off by pulling grotesque contorted expressions, which Messerschmidt recorded in sculpture.

The cover of Born Under Saturn

Margot & Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn is a history of “the Character and Conduct of Artists,” as the subtitle puts it. And, yeah, a lot of these guys are characters. Others were normal, well-behaved types, but, honestly, you’re not going to read this book for Rubens or Bernini. But Born Under Saturn isn’t a freak show. The Wittkowers are analyzing popular ideas about artists, and although stories of eccentricities, feuds, and crimes make this book more readable than a straight academic treatise they also serve a purpose: the varied mass of biography breaks down cultural stereotypes about artists.

Continue reading Harpies and Peanuts

Doorknob Maze

It’s been a while since I posted any drawings. Actually, it’s been a while since I posted much of anything. I’ll try to fix that in the weeks ahead.

This is an idle sketch I drew a while back, probably while watching TV. Recently I’ve been inking some of these things to keep in practice.

Candy-Colored Animism

[This is a brilliant exegesis on Jim Woodring’s _Frank_ stories] [mo], viewed as a détournement of the conventional anthropomorphic, mutable world of classic cartoons.

It gets right to the heart of what makes these stories so beautiful and unsettling. In Jim Woodring’s world everything is potentially alive, and alien; anything might in an instant become a sudden threat or a transcendent miracle, or both.

>The frowning, peering, waterspout. The gawping foliage… I’m not sure I’d describe any of this stuff as friendly, and I’m certainly not sure its apparent intelligence is in any way human. We might find something of who we are scattered across the million masks of God that form Frank’s home – this place is anthropoland, after all – but that doesn’t mean we’ll happen upon ourselves offered back up to us in an easily recognizable form. In Frank the singing trees may possess the operating system of a shark, and the houses all the winning charm of the octopus. We’re out of the comfort zone of simple anthropomorphism and entering the realm of primal animism.

[Read the whole thing] [mo] at [Mindless Ones] [mo2].

(Link via [Journalista] [j]. And everyone knows [Jim Woodring has a blog] [wm], right?)


George W. Bush: Art Lover

So apparently President Bush has a favorite painting. It’s buy an early 20th century illustrator named W. H. D. Koerner, titled _A Charge to Keep_. He says it shows one of the Methodist missionaries who travelled the American west during the 19th century.

According to Slate (and a book by Jacob Weisberg, apparently), he doesn’t *quite* have that correct:

>The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”

(Seen via Pharyngula and Jeff VanderMeer.)