Sunday, November 28, 2010

Appropriate Subject for Work of Art

The Stacks digital photography

I went to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, VA to see "London Calling: Victorian Paintings from the Royal Holloway Collection."  It was a wonderful treat to see the paintings in the collection -most by painters who were unfamiliar to me.  Here is what the website said:  "The collection on display at the Chrysler ranges from wall-spanning masterpieces to contemporary street life scenes; from landscapes or marine studies to great historical events. It's an exhibition of great depth and scope, and it's the first time it has been on display outside of England."  

Some of the sixty or so paintings touched my heart more than the others.  'Applicants for Admission to casual Ward ' 1874 -(oil  95.8" x 53.9")  by Sir Luke Fildes is about  poverty that was the result of Industrial Revolution in Britain. I was taken aback when I read the curator's notes next to the painting : "Although Filde's painting created a popular sensation at the Royal Academy in 1874, critics were divided as to whether so direct a confrontation with human misery was an appropriate subject for work of Art."  I am glad artists don't think so and Goya, Picasso and many many others felt a moral obligation to record the atrocities big and small.  Paintings by Sir John Everett Millais of  very young princes and princess caught in the middle of fierce politics or of the young girl being punished in Sympathy by Briton Riverie are indeed gems that evoke a strong reaction from the viewer.

I also became aware of the dark periods in history that I had not come  across in my readings until now: in John Baghold Burgess's  Licensing of Beggars in Spain, Edwin Longsden Long's The Supplicants: Expulsion of Gypsies from Spain  and other paintings by various artists about prison life, of Babylonian marriage market, of kidnappings of young males for the army etc.! It was interesting to read about another painting An Anxious Moment  that critics of Briton Riverie accused him of 'anthropomorphizing' the animals in his works! There were a also few stunning landscapes and marine paintings. I wish I could write about each of sixty paintings in the show because of how they opened my eyes to history, hardships, beauty and nature. My knowledge about artists and critics is surely much broader than before.

On lighter note, as I was leaving the museum just before closing, the Court area near the entrance was being transformed to host a wedding. The setting sun was streaming over the chairs stacked up high ready to be taken down and lined up for the guests. Of course, I couldn't resist whipping out my camera.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Aspen on Asphalt  color pencils sketch

Giving thanks for the moment is the only way to glimpse eternity.

-Meditation from Seville, Spain

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Moral Function of Art

                                  Last off the Vine  watermedia sketch

Artists make pictorial records of events, emotions, feelings. Some of us try to sketch the simple beauty of mundane, everyday things. But today, I read an article and saw a slide show of something that moved me beyond words. "When he was only in his 20s Ernest Cole, a black photographer who stood barely five feet tall, created one of the most harrowing pictorial records of what it was like to be black in apartheid South Africa. He went into exile in 1966, and the next year his work was published in the United States in a book, “House of Bondage,” but his photographs were banned in his homeland where he and his work have remained little known." Thus began a article in New York Times :  Homecoming For Stark Record of Apartheid.  The accompanying slide show of Mr. Cole's black and white photographs are so very powerful- they  shock, anger  and deeply distress the viewer.  And as the author Celia W Dugger writes, 'Mr. Cole’s captions and photographs are imbued with wrenching emotions.'  On checking his biography I discovered that he  dedicated his life to record and show the world the injustices and exploitation of segregation. But he paid a heavy price for his work and died young, a homeless man and in exile.  

If and when there is an American tour of Cole's photographs, I hope to be able to view it in person.    Coincidentally, over at Katherine A Cartwright's blog, there is a lively debate going on the 'moral function of art.'  She has been reviewing John Dewey's 1934 book "Art as Experience."  She writes that 'it all began with a statement by John Dewey: the moral function of art itself is to remove prejudice, do away with the scales that keep the eye from seeing, tear away the veils due to wont and custom, and perfect the power to perceive.'  I think Ernest Cole's photographs do all that and much more.  

Friday, November 12, 2010

Giving Thanks

To Friendship Digital Photography

On Nov 18, I will mark the second anniversary of my blog - two years of sharing my art.  Posting my art this way has forced me to paint & sketch more often and much more regularly than before. But the unexpected benefit has been the friendships I have formed. A big heartfelt  'Thank you' to all who have visited the blog, to all who have taken the time to leave comments, to everyone for giving me encouragement, support and inspiration :) - I am grateful!

And a special thanks to Patricia Torres, who today has featured my artwork in her blog Colours Dekor.  I am happy to be a small part of her wonderful efforts. I was truly flattered when she asked :) Please click on her name or the blog for a look at how she seeks out color, beauty and creativity from all corners of the world.

"I can no other answer make, but thanks and thanks! " -William Shakespeare 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Matters Next

Color Burst watercolor 12x9"

Last thursday was TEDxNASA at Newport News, VA which I attended- thanks to good friends who helped us get the tickets. It was  such an inspiration to hear speaker after speaker with all the wonderful ideas. I came back charged with enthusiasm and motivation.  But, having not painted for close to a month because of trips, Deepavali Celebrations, mundane catch-ups, etc.. I realized my painting muscle memory was missing! This is my third attempt at painting the same flower in one day - the flower that had graced our garden this summer and gave me so much pleasure.  I was frustrated by the difficulty I was having in moving paint. The montval paper I usually enjoy painting on was not behaving in its usual way - I found the paper tearing very easily. I am wondering if it is the temperature fluctuations in my over the garage studio or if I had purchased a bad lot.  At the end of the day I was glad to have persevered and put in a few solid hours of playing with my brushes, paint and water. In a way, the theme of the TEDxNASA - 'What matters Next'  seemed to  resonate- what matters is that I keep painting, sketching and doing art :) 
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