Thursday, January 18, 2007

More on art

In a couple of previous posts, I seem to have stirred up a bit of controversy regarding the art world. Perhaps I should clear things up a bit; I am not against art in general, or even modern art. I've spent many a happy hour in art museums, and even have a few original pieces in my own home.

What I was getting at is simple; meaningful, significant art represents something, and our appreciation (or rejection) of it ought to depend upon our knowledge of what it represents. Is it David, or Eros? The girl next door, or Aphrodite, or Picasso's soon-to-be ex-girlfriend? A landscape of London, or Kabul? Culinary art, or cannibalism? Talent, or the scribblings of a two year old?

I would suggest, moreover, that when art involves nudity, the Aphrodite/Eros hypothesis should not be discarded lightly. Again, that is the way nudity returned to art in the western world after a hiatus of over a millenium--it shouldn't be controversial among those who know art history, really.

Can it become pure? Well, that's not the conclusion of most historic Christian and Jewish theologians, for whom to "uncover one's nakedness" meant to instigate sexual relations--as is hinted in Leviticus 18. Not a direct argument, but a strong hint from Scripture that there is something amiss.

A stronger question derives from the nature of art; what is its message? What are we supposed to carry away from the painting or sculpture? Is that a message we need to be carrying around in our minds?

I won't presume to answer for everyone, but I must admit that I'm having trouble figuring out pure and holy messages that would be communicated in this regard. Maybe it's just me.


Marklark said...

My eyes saw "More on art," but my mind heard "Moron art" - which is quite appropriate, in most cases. :^)

Angel said...

Hi Bert,
Thanks for this post-- I saw it as a sort of attempt to make peace w/those of us who are avid lovers of art in all its splendor (nudity, clothed, whatever). You are certainly entitled to your opinion, and I did not mean to make it sound like I was stomping all over your arguments. Mainly, I was getting frustrated that you weren't responding to my questions and comments (for ex- you make the claim that most historic Christian and Jewish theologians wouldn't consider nude art "pure," yet disregard/fail to acknowledge or respond to the fact that the Catholic church has commissioned and celebrated art w/nudity in it for centuries. Do you see the discrepancy there? Granted, there are differences in Catholic/Protestant thought, but many Catholics really believe the Gospel, and so you can't just dismiss their involvement w/art altogether when considering the historic "Christian" opinion on this matter). I also was getting frustrated b/c I felt like you weren't respecting my opinions, and were approaching the matter in a very simplistic manner. I appreciated this post b/c it sounded like there was more humility in it, and that makes me feel more invited to engage in the discussion.

And "Marklark"-- what do you do? What if someone said that your profession was largely associated w/morons? Would you feel respected? No, probably not. Neither do the art historians who just read your post.

Bike Bubba said...

Angel--yes, it's true that the Catholic Church did sponsor such art, but don't forget that the general mood in Vatican City at the time was one of war, rampant immorality, and such. Put gently, it's not an accident that Savonarola and the Reformation came hard on the heels of the disrobing of "David."

Because of this, I'm reluctant to derive "moral" authority from the behavior of the Popes of this time. It's also worth noting that the Catholic Church also isn't commissioning this kind of art anymore, for the most part.

Bike Bubba said...

Mark, methinks thou hast indulged a bit of a "hasty generalization," no? While certainly there are fools in the art world--Mapplethorpe and the guy who made meatballs out of his own fat come to mind--would we, say, do this to Cranach or many of the "Dutch" masters?