Monday, August 30, 2010

Ancient Greek Sculptures NOT Monochromatic!

[caption id="attachment_556" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Elgin Marbles"]Elgin Marbles[/caption]

Actually art-historians suspected this a long time ago from the paint flecks buried in the cracks of ancient sculptures, but orthodoxies die hard. Now the notion that Greek antiquities were polychromatic to the point of gaudiness is gaining acceptance.
The first picture is one that I took in 2004 at the British Museum of the Elgin Marbles taken from the Acropolis, from the running frieze. The next photo is a color rendering of possible coloration.

You can bet that looking up at the Acropolis from the streets below in Athens must have been a delight to see some 2,500 years ago.

And once again a hat tip to,

Imagine what Michelangelo's David or Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa would be had they been modeled on and inspired by full color antiquities. We'd all be living now in a very different post-Renaissance world.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Call for Papers on Artists' Statements?

This is an interesting thing to me; I certainly mean no disrespect to the serious intentions of the editors of this academic journal, the Special Issue of Forum for Modern Language Studies. It is a call for papers about the Artists' Statements: Origins, Intentions, Exegesis by art historians at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. As a practicing artist I am constantly called upon to produce an artist’s statement. When I am asked to provide one, what I really want to say is as follows:
“It is not my responsibility to tell you, the viewer, what to think when looking at my artwork. It is not my problem. This is not, however, to imply that I’m saying ‘there’s nothing to see here, move along,’ like a Star Wars droid. What I make are maps, signposts, guidance of my journeys into unknown places, into terra incognita, because I never know where my art pieces will take me, let alone you.”

My problems with artists’ statements are many. First and foremost, they slow down and impede the visual process, the important part of actually looking at the artwork. All too often I see art viewers moving along reading title cards and statements with more care than they give to the actual visuals of the art works. Reading and language are so important in our culture that they take primacy of place and thus in an visual art setting, care needs to be taken to emphasize the art over the written verbiage. Another problem is that all too often the artist’s statement doesn’t match the work, or even more confusing the statements are extraordinarily similar but the work is totally different.

Visual art is meant to be looked at, for more than a glancing second. Viewers need to slow down, take their time and stop reading. Reading does not enhance visual art.

I certainly agree with the statement in the call for papers: “For centuries artists have made statements about their work in order to explain and promote it or to construct narratives about its origins and their intentions. The artist’s statement is now an integral – and taught - component of contemporary practice, and a seemingly incontrovertible primary source for art and cultural historians, literary critics, anthropologists and philosophers. However, artists have written about themselves and their work in many contexts and formats, both public and private, including correspondence, manifestoes and interviews. In some cases, such statements may overshadow, displace, or even constitute, the artwork itself.”

This is a result of the academization of art practice, with the massive numbers of MFAs justifying their work to academic committees, so that theses can be produced, copied and then put on shelves in the libraries and the graduate offices. I know, I’ve done it myself, written a totally useless thesis to go with the slides from the thesis exhibit.

Just for grins, this is my current statement that goes out to my public:

My function as an artist is not to tell the truth—it is to captivate viewers for as long as I can hold their attention. It is not necessary for the artwork to be any more than what it is. What is necessary is for the art to flow from inside and to allow the paintings and drawings to spring from my entire set of experiences and sensibilities as an artist.

My current favorite giants, to name just the women, are Agnes Martin and Joan Mitchell for the purity of their thought and action on the canvas as well as Linda Karshan, Sandra Blow, Vija Celmins, and Katherina Grosse. Whether what they do is lyrical, expository or just plain brash, to my way of thinking they are all pure abstract expressionists who make marks, lines, shapes, colors on paper, canvas, even buildings, and say to us, "here look at this, make of it what you will."