Monday, December 13, 2010

Dare I ask it...What is GOOD art?

One of my good friends who happens to be an art teacher at a Christian school, recently gave a lecture to her colleagues about how to look at art and judge for yourself whether it is "good or bad" from a strictly Christian viewpoint. The lecture was given at the request of her colleagues, as many of them had little or no background in art, art history, or art criticism of any kind. The questions being raised were, "How does one define 'good art' or 'bad art?'" and, "How can I as a Christian protect myself from 'bad' art while uplifting and supporting that which is 'good'?"

Truthfully, many Christians either buy into the attitude that all art is subjective, and it's really up to the viewer to decide whether it's good or bad, OR they steer clear of art altogether, seeking shelter in self-imposed gated Christian communities of sorts, and leaving the subject of art to the world, which seems to have firm possession of the arts as a whole.

Now, I could get a lot of flack for this post, but I was very moved by my friend's exploration of this topic, and realized that without advertently saying the words, I too have been on a mission to discover ways for truth and beauty to be once again manifested in art, to be shared for the common good and benefit of all.

Even from a secular viewpoint, I'm not alone in this. A well-known group of painters in California, including Jeremy Lipking, Tony Pro, Ignat Ignatov, and Alexey Steele, have started a movement they call "Novorealism," a style of realism that is attempting to userp Modernism's power in the contemporary art world. Another of my favorite painters, Scott Burdick (who is an atheist),  recently gave a slideshow lecture for American Artist's "Weekend with the Masters", appealing for the return of beauty in the arts. You can view the video on his YouTube Channel by clicking below:


I'm not going to attempt to answer the above questions in a single blog post; instead, I will explore these questions, and more, over the next couple of months. In the mean time, I will say one thing: good art, from a Christian perspective, MUST do two things. It must (1) glorify God, and (2) manifest beauty. The interpretations of these conditions are vast and diverse. To be continued... 

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Music and Color

Since the inception of "Twin Arts," I have realized what a powerful hold the theme of music and art, or art in music, have upon me, and how I wish to continue exploring them in my work. Actually, these themes were fascinating to me and vital to who I was, long before I became a professional painter.

I grew up playing piano, and often found musical instruments to be aesthetic wonders, not just for the sounds they produced, but for their graceful forms and shapes. To take it a step further, a human being playing an instrument is a joyous thing to watch, as though that instrument were an extension of the person's own self. Translating that connection to a painting is both a challenge and a joy.

Countless artists have been inspired by music in their work; countless musicians are often inspired by art. During my junior year of college, I wrote a paper about one such musician, Olivier Messiaen. I felt a connection to this great 20th-century composer because he was heavily influenced by color and nature in his work. You can read the paper here.

I often found that "coloring" directly onto my musical scores helped me understand the music on a much deeper level. Musical tones, like colors, can have their own "temperature", "value", or "hue." It's a little hard to explain, but perhaps if you look at these copies of my score, you'll see what I mean...

Here is a page from Debussy's prelude, "Bruyeres (Heather)." I indicated its overall feeling by using pastel colors in warm and cool.

Page from Anna's Debussy Preludes

Here is another page, this time from my old score of Rachmaninoff's Prelude in G# minor - a much more intense piece. I only used two colors, but indicated how the piece "heats up" and "cools down" throughout in varying degrees.

Page from Anna's Rachmaninoff Preludes

I'm not sure my brain interprets musical chords in the form of color to the extent that Messiaen's did, but there is definitely a connection. I would love to hear from other artists out there whether or not they experience a similar sensory reaction to music. Comments are welcome!
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Enter the Christmas Season

Painting most certainly isn't the only kind of art I appreciate...

I was flipping through one of my most beloved college textbooks last night, an anthology of English literature, and I happened to stumble across a favorite poem by the early 20th-century poet, T.S. Eliot. I couldn't help but think, "What a great way to welcome in the Christmas season!" I love his poetry because it's filled with flashing imagery and astounding truths. I find something new and profound to dwell upon every time I read it. The poem is thoughtful, and a little sad, but oh, so beautiful! Here it is, T.S. Eliot's, "Journey of the Magi."

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times when we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities dirty and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wineskins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

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