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Relationship in art


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#1 jfutral

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 10:07 AM

I recently read an article in the Atlanta edition of Creative Loafing called "Sudden Impact" (http://atlanta.creat...?oid=oid:145492) (sorry I don't know how to make this a link. If one of the moderators can, I would appreciate the help). The topic of the article is what is it that makes someone cry or otherwise react emotionally to a work of art (the syndrome actually has a name).

I started to think about different works that have affected me. I remember visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and crying when I walked up the stairs and saw the 4 protraits of Van Gogh at the top. I felt like crying as I viewed most of the work there. I do think one of the things that affected this was my intense interest over recent years in Van Gogh personally. I've always like his work, but I don't think I would have had the same reaction if I hadn't studied his life as much.

Contrastingly, I never thought much of Pollock's work until I saw Ed Harris portray him in _Pollock_. So I studied Pollock's life some more and since have been drawn more and more to his work.

However, I loved Rothko's work first and now am drawn to learn more of him as a person.

While I enjoy art without knowing the artist, I am finding it more and more difficult to view work without wanting to know the artist behind the work. From one perspective I think this is contrary to how art should be approached. I've felt for a long time if art is valid it should be able to stand outside of the artist on its own. But now I feel more and more that this is not enough for me.

I used to tell students (and still do, though I am not affiliated with a school) that they should not confuse who they are with what they do. Art is what they do. Art should come from who they are, but they are not their art. I felt this was particularly relevant to them since they were mostly studying to be actors. Pretending to be other people for most of your life can start to confuse you about who _you_ are after a while. I would also tell them if art is about life, then get a life! How can you have art if you don't have a life?

Should art be able to be separated from the artist and to what extent? Or am I simply experienceing what we were created for and this is simply a natural progression of appreciating art, wanting to have a relationship with the artist?

Joe Futral

#2 Greg Wright

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 10:34 AM

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 28 2006, 10:07 AM) View Post
Should art be able to be separated from the artist and to what extent?

I can't speak for all artists, but I think in general an artist is very gratified when a critic or "consumer" "gets" what the artist was trying for; an artist is also somewhat disappointed when it's clear that no one "gets it"; and outright incensed when it's clear that a critic wasn't even interested in "getting it," but rather more interested in his or her own agenda. Art is a personal expression of ideas, and when we lose the "person" in "personal" we do the art an injustice. At the same time, as one critic said, a work of art can accomplish certain things whether the artist intended them or not.

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 28 2006, 10:07 AM) View Post
Or am I simply experienceing what we were created for and this is simply a natural progression of appreciating art, wanting to have a relationship with the artist?

Yes. In that same way that the original Artist draws us to Him through His creation.


#3 techne

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 03:36 PM

well, it's always nice to know something about the artist's life and circumstances - sometimes it even gives us some [possible] explanations for the work they did. it enriches our experience. then again, sometimes it can poison it - i hate the fact that when klimt died people said 'the great pornographer is dead'. but it can also be deceiving if we are always trying to connect pieces with specific events i.e. this piece was inspired by this event.

however (and for me this is a big however) i do think that if the artist has done their best to be responsible for the object they've created - if they've considered their decisions and they feel that the work has an inherent integrity and coherence - then i think it should be able to stand on its own. the viewer then begins the dance of interpretation. i'm not saying that we shouldn't take into account aspects of the artist's life but we shouldn't think that knowledge explains everything. after all, great art isn't about personal therapy, it's about communicating something larger. if art were simple [self]expression, why should we care? shouldn't art be able to tell us something about the human condition - our hopes, fears, failures, successes? now i recognise that not all art hits on all cylinders, but i think when art does it moves us.

and what of work like dekooning's after he was living with alzheimer's? what do you do with that blank slate? or outsider art like adolf wolffli? a cultural context and personal history may help us understand the artist, but are we necessarily able to create any direct correlations to the work? what do you do if the work is about assuming a persona, or different personas a la ilya kabakov, cindy sherman or sophie calle? do we engage with the individual work (yes) and then ignore the larger body of work (no)? what insights would we gain about the work if we looked at more than a biography. let's not forget that they can be as much a fiction as the news. and as full of gaps. would knowing more about vermeer or bosch truly affect the richness of the work? do the cultural context, the individual work and the larger ouvre tell us enough? or is it a matter of trusting our critical ability? why do we need to know that personal history? so we know we are close to getting it right? i love the sensibility of cornell's work regardless of his obsessive-compulsive hermit mythology.

i guess i just think that the work had better be able to communicate something on its own. if it doesn't it's not good work. if no one 'gets it', maybe it's because the communication was muddled. i think there is a responsibility for the artist to do their best in deciding how best to communicate their ideas (and to which audience), and i think there is a responsibility for the viewer/reader to look at the work and what is there and engage in that conversation. learn more about the artist, but don't depend on that for the meaning of the work.

i mean, personally, i like it when people get it - but they will never get it all. and maybe only my perfect viewer can. i just try to give as many clues as possible as to what i am trying to communicate. i have to trust the viewer/reader to do some of the work. and i'm okay with that.

Edited by techne, 28 October 2006 - 03:39 PM.


#4 Greg Wright

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Posted 28 October 2006 - 05:00 PM

QUOTE(techne @ Oct 28 2006, 03:36 PM) View Post
it can also be deceiving if we are always trying to connect pieces with specific events i.e. this piece was inspired by this event.

Oh, absolutely. I wasn't advocating the kind of slavish "motivation" dissection that the New Criticism railed against. As Wimsatt and Beardsley observed in "The Intentional Fallacy," a work succeeds only if its capable of standing on its own. As I think Flannery O'Connor observed, you do the work to the best of your ability, and then it's in God's hands.

QUOTE(techne @ Oct 28 2006, 03:36 PM) View Post
i guess i just think that the work had better be able to communicate something on its own. if it doesn't it's not good work. if no one 'gets it', maybe it's because the communication was muddled.

Yes. And a legitimate critical function is to dissect that muddledness.

QUOTE(techne @ Oct 28 2006, 03:36 PM) View Post
i think there is a responsibility for the artist to do their best in deciding how best to communicate their ideas (and to which audience), and i think there is a responsibility for the viewer/reader to look at the work and what is there and engage in that conversation. learn more about the artist, but don't depend on that for the meaning of the work.

Excellent summation.

#5 jfutral

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 09:46 AM

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Oct 28 2006, 10:34 AM) View Post

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 28 2006, 10:07 AM) View Post
Should art be able to be separated from the artist and to what extent?

I can't speak for all artists, but I think in general an artist is very gratified when a critic or "consumer" "gets" what the artist was trying for; an artist is also somewhat disappointed when it's clear that no one "gets it"; and outright incensed when it's clear that a critic wasn't even interested in "getting it," but rather more interested in his or her own agenda. Art is a personal expression of ideas, and when we lose the "person" in "personal" we do the art an injustice. At the same time, as one critic said, a work of art can accomplish certain things whether the artist intended them or not.

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 28 2006, 10:07 AM) View Post
Or am I simply experienceing what we were created for and this is simply a natural progression of appreciating art, wanting to have a relationship with the artist?

Yes. In that same way that the original Artist draws us to Him through His creation.

What I fear as an artist is being unnoticed or disinterest. I dislike that more than being "disagreed" with, hated, or ignored.

I suppose each individual work of an artist is not unlike, maybe, each book of the bible. There is much each has to say on its own, but when taken together gives us a greater story to be revealed.

So every artist has three stories to tell. First is the story of the one work. Then there is the story of their body of work. Then there is the story of their life. And to ignore how each story affects the other, while possible and possibly still fruitful, is to only know part of a greater story.

And as Francis Schaeffer (and porbably others) have said, our greatest work of art should be our lives. And maybe by extension, our greatest work of art as the body of Christ should be our lives as a community. Sometimes it seems we are not doing so well with that one.

Joe

#6 Greg Wright

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 10:02 AM

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 30 2006, 09:46 AM) View Post
What I fear as an artist is being unnoticed or disinterest. I dislike that more than being "disagreed" with, hated, or ignored.

Yes. It's rare to read criticism that says, "I disagree with this artist's point of view, but wow! What artistry!" Worldview critique seems to trump artistic critique, and I think that's really sad.

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 30 2006, 09:46 AM) View Post
I suppose each individual work of an artist is not unlike, maybe, each book of the bible. There is much each has to say on its own, but when taken together gives us a greater story to be revealed.

That's an excellent comparison. And criticism is very often based on a perceived need for each work of art to tell all of the three stories you describe. In reality, a work of art can only tell part of the story; and it should be judged for how well it tells the part is either tries or manages to tell.

Excellent thoughts, Joe!

#7 jfutral

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 10:02 AM

QUOTE(techne @ Oct 28 2006, 03:36 PM) View Post

then again, sometimes it can poison it - i hate the fact that when klimt died people said 'the great pornographer is dead'. but it can also be deceiving if we are always trying to connect pieces with specific events i.e. this piece was inspired by this event.

I understand this. For instance, I have developed a huge lack of respect for Gauguin after learning how (supposedly) disrespectful he was of Van Gogh. Those stories have since tainted my viewing of his work.

QUOTE

i mean, personally, i like it when people get it - but they will never get it all. and maybe only my perfect viewer can. i just try to give as many clues as possible as to what i am trying to communicate. i have to trust the viewer/reader to do some of the work. and i'm okay with that.

To a certain degree, isn't that part of what makes a great work great, there is always something more to get? If a work can be completely "gotten" then it potentially becomes kitsch, right? Or an extreme example would be pronography. The meaning is already spelled out, there is nothing more to get.

So what works of art (of any discipline) have moved you guys to cry, if any?

Joe

#8 Greg Wright

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 03:00 PM

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 30 2006, 10:02 AM) View Post
So what works of art (of any discipline) have moved you guys to cry, if any?


Babette's Feast makes me weep, every time, particularly because it's about fulfillment as an artist.

The original Cotton Patch Gospel production made me weep, which is rare for theatre, and particularly for musical theatre.

I wept during a performance of Dvorak's 8th Symphony in Seattle, guest conducted by a Hungarian who really connected to the composer's subtleties.

Six Degrees of Separation moves me profoundly. I'm not sure why.

In Mindwalk, John Heard's delivery of Pablo Neruda's "The Enigmas" completely destroys me.

And the sentimentalist that I am, several moments in It's a Wonderful Life make me cry -- the drugstore scene, shouting Potter down in the board room, those awful domestic moments when Stewart's character becomes abusive...

Booth Tarkington's Conquest of Canaan and The Guest of Quesnay both made me cry, which is exceedingly rare for novels, and his Kate Fennigate came close.

So there's a sample of what gets to me... So far, no sculptures or paintings. Not surprisingly, lots of films and a smattering of other things.

#9 Chashab

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 06:00 PM

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 30 2006, 09:02 AM) View Post
So what works of art (of any discipline) have moved you guys to cry, if any?

Wonderful thread. Haven't chimed in because, well, don't feel like I have anything to add.

I can't say that much moves me to tears (although I do have to choke back a few sniffles during certain films — I can't give any titles or even recall the circumstances. Just know that it happens from time to time.). But there are certain things that completely fill me with awe, or sometimes make me giddy.

Thunderstorms, while I know they aren't art, make me giddy and are extraordinarly beautiful when viewed from across the prairie.

Amy Smith's ceramics leave me in awe, as do some of Keith Jacobshagen's paintings (of clouds over the prairie wink.gif ).

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 30 2006, 04:54 PM) View Post

Knowing about Gaughin's personal life (including his relationships with some of the very young Tahitian girls he painted) has really put me off him. I still appreciate his use of color, etc. but he was so horrible to his wife - and to other people as well - that it's hard for me to feel anything other than disdain. (Though I've never been a big fan of his Tahitian paintings, anyway...)


I almost mentioned this about him, but then, I don't really like his painting too much one way or the other.

Edited by Chashab, 30 October 2006 - 06:02 PM.


#10 Greg Wright

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 06:33 PM

QUOTE(Chashab @ Oct 30 2006, 06:00 PM) View Post
Thunderstorms, while I know they aren't art, make me giddy and are extraordinarly beautiful when viewed from across the prairie.


I recently spent a week at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and the flight back to Las Vegas from Marble Canyon (the transit center of the area) was extremely choppy -- so I just put on the headphones with the piped-in music, closed my eyes, and pretended I was back on the raft in the canyon. No airsickness. As the plan approached Vegas, they started playing Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World"; I opened my eyes for the first time since leaving the ground -- and behold, there was Vegas in all of its blight. I immediately started to bawl like a small child. Beauty had just been ripped from my heart.

So when art moves me, it's like an approximation of (or analog to) the way in which the "Real World" moves me.

And as Nardis asks, how relevant is being moved emotionally, really? To my mind, the most effective art is that which moves me to action, to change, regardless of how "perfect" or emotionally involving the artistic experience is. A flawed work that does that is far superior to a perfect work that does nothing.

There, now. I guess that's why Six Degrees of Separation appeals to me, because that's one of the things the movie/play is trying to say.

#11 jfutral

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 06:36 PM

QUOTE(Greg Wright @ Oct 30 2006, 03:00 PM) View Post

Six Degrees of Separation moves me profoundly. I'm not sure why.

I know this feeling, too. When I was working at Ohio Ballet we mounted Anthony Tudor's Dark Elegies. I never could figure out why I always felt so depressed or filled with despair while watching.

Then I learned the music is Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and the ballet reflects the story of the grieving parents after the death of all the children in the village. I have no doubt that the piece is performed with a baritone singing on stage had an impact as well.

To this day this is one of my all time favourite ballets, and works of art in general.

Joe

#12 Andy Whitman

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 07:34 PM

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 30 2006, 06:11 PM) View Post

As for being moved to tears by music, visual art, etc. - well, it happens to me on a fairly regular basis, so it's hard to fix on one particular instance. And, in my case, i wonder how important that is in the overall scheme of things wink.gif

Not to be a spoilsport, but I wonder that, too.

I am moved to tears, oh, about five times per day. I'm only slightly exaggerating. Watching the evening news usually does it to me at least once. I am easily manipulated by films. Movies such as Terms of Endearment or Million Dollar Baby, which I genuinely loathe for philosophical reasons, can nevertheless work their magic and reach me emotionally; I'm merely teary-eyed when I watch them some days, outright bawling on others. So maybe I'm a wimp.

A better barometer for me is those works of arts that result in joy; sadly a far more rare phenomenon for this depressive personality. Nevertheless, the reason I know it's real, and not some figment of the apostle Paul's imagination, is because of art, and specifically music. Early Van Morrison makes me want to do cartwheels, a dangerously sprightly activity for someone who is 51. Same with early Dylan, Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and, moving out of my '60s timewarp, most of the music of Sigur Ros. This stuff is hotwired to my soul.

When I am feeling dull and apathetic, out of touch with the concerns of others, that is where I turn. It wakes me up and makes me feel alive. I don't know where that fits in the Schaefferian taxonomy of art, but I know it's true.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 30 October 2006 - 07:58 PM.


#13 M. Leary

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 08:39 AM

I am having a hard time pinning down the central question of this thread. It is heading somewhere interesting, just can't tell where yet.

"Should art be able to be separated from the artist and to what extent? Or am I simply experienceing what we were created for and this is simply a natural progression of appreciating art, wanting to have a relationship with the artist?"

These are such loaded questions. It is so unpopular to espouse any sort of theory based in "authorial intention" these days. But as time goes on I am finding that, contrary to expectation and discourse, some of the fundamental post-modern theorists think highly of such a notion (Gadamer, Schleiermacher, Heidegger, Eco as opposed to Barthes, Fish, etc...). I am also becoming more and more convinced that the only truly "Christian" approach to art, film, music, etc... is through some sort of theory based specifically in authorial intention. Otherwise, there is nothing Christian about it, as it won't allow culture to converse with concepts like Creation and incarnation.

That being said, I like the way you have posed the second question. I always experience art as a tetherball in which the artist is the pole and the ball a particular work of art. My comprehension of both is a centrifugal movement of one around the other until they become virtually indistinguishable (which is why I am such an avid Chagall, Cornell, and Close fan, all artists who invested their work with biography). On the other hand, it seems that we need to maintain a sort of asymptotic relationship between a work and an artist, letting one stand in for the other is a mistake.

Just musing here...

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 30 2006, 07:11 PM) View Post

As for being moved to tears by music, visual art, etc. - well, it happens to me on a fairly regular basis, so it's hard to fix on one particular instance. And, in my case, i wonder how important that is in the overall scheme of things wink.gif


And why should we prize tears as the most profound response to art? Tarkovsky moves us to a profound, meditative boredom. Warhol moves us to a shallow ecstasy, Michelangelo to a richer one. Bontecou's later playful work always makes me happy. Cornell makes one wistful. I can only think of two times I have actually cried in a gallery or theater: seeing the Matisse Dancers and Musicians at the Hermitage and during United 93. How completely random is that? (Oh, and I came really close at the end of Whale Rider. What on earth was that all about? It would have been much cooler if I always cried at the end of Pale Rider)

QUOTE(Andy Whitman @ Oct 30 2006, 08:34 PM) View Post

A better barometer for me is those works of arts that result in joy


Right on. What a fantastic critical principle this can lead to. The Sugarcubes Stick Around for Joy has always been one of my favorite album titles.

Edited by MLeary, 31 October 2006 - 08:48 AM.


#14 jfutral

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 09:16 AM

QUOTE(MLeary @ Oct 31 2006, 08:39 AM) View Post

I am having a hard time pinning down the central question of this thread. It is heading somewhere interesting, just can't tell where yet.


There is probably more a central theme than a central question. I would say (and not to constrict the discussion at all) the theme is something along the lines of how we each are affected by art.

My wife pointed the referenced article out to me, which I found most interesting. That there was actually a "syndrome" for reacting strongly emotionally to art struck me odd, but made me ask myself several questions all at once. So I thought I would pass some of those questions on and see what other people thought.

The article's author did discuss knowing an artist's (Hannah Wilke) personal circumstances and how it affected her viewing of her work. But the overall gist of the article is why art can seemingly without apparent cause trigger a strong emotional response.

In myself, I was questioning why I become so drawn to know more about an artist after viewing much of their work and then the further deepening of my appreciation of the work as a result. Why does it seem so necessary or such a logical result to me? Shouldn't being moved by the work be enough? And would I have reacted so strongly to seeing those portraits of Van Gogh had I not been so interested in him as a person, too?

A friend mentioned (not sure if it is true, but sounded interesting) that there are some cultures that will refuse to listen to what someone has to say until they know more about the person's history and family.

As for joy in art. Tears can be the result of experiencing joy and beauty, too. But that aside, Kandinsky always brings a bit of joy to my life. The dance company I work for, Pilobolus, much of their work strikes me as filled with joy, which is one reason why I think they are so popular. Paul Klee's _Twittering Machine_ always makes me laugh. And Al Jarreau's vocals always seem to be able to lift me out or carry me through dark times.

But I think people remember the meloncholy or sorrow that art provokes more than the joy because joy often seems more ephemeral in our lives. Yet the sadness seems to always be close by. Even in Christianity, there is the philosophy that there is no resurrection without death.

And I think this is also driven by the need to understand the existance of suffering. Joy makes sense, but suffering? Sort of "Joy and delight, I can understand how that is good, but the suffering...I struggle with that."

Just some thoughts,
Joe

#15 Andy Whitman

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 09:46 AM

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 30 2006, 05:54 PM) View Post

Knowing about Gaughin's personal life (including his relationships with some of the very young Tahitian girls he painted) has really put me off him. I still appreciate his use of color, etc. but he was so horrible to his wife - and to other people as well - that it's hard for me to feel anything other than disdain. (Though I've never been a big fan of his Tahitian paintings, anyway...)

I've also gone through this re. jazz trumpter Miles Davis, as he was notorious for many things - the one that got to me was his abusive behavior toward women. I literally had difficult listening to his work until after he died, though that was partly because a lot of it was out of print - still...

Pearl Cleage wrote a book titled Mad at Miles. Can't say I blame her!!!

Although I understand your reaction, Ellen, I can't say I've ever reached the point where I will avoid particular works of art because of the behavior of the artist.

It's a bit of a cliche, but artists are known for being selfish, self-destructive (and other-destructive) a**holes. I don't know if I would go quite so far, but I suspect that some would even argue that selfishness and a towering ego are necessary preconditions to producing great art. And although they exist, it's unusual to find great artists who are also models of Christian grace and charity. So I appreciate the art while recognizing that I wouldn't necessarily want to spend a lot of time with the artist.

Not that horrid behavior is ever justified, but I also find that I have great sympathy for artists who were fairly terrible human beings. The jazz pianist Bill Evans, whose work I'm sure you're familiar with, was a heroin addict who lied and cheated to keep his habit alive. He used to inject his wife, for God's sake, and not surprisingly she developed her own habit, which led to her suicide at a young age. At one point in the late '50s Evans was strung out, broke, and his wife had left him. The electricity and heat had been turned off in his apartment because he was unable to pay his bills. He was at rock bottom. And he went into the studio with no greater motivation than to earn some cash to keep his habit alive, sat down at the piano, and improvised for seven minutes while the tape rolled and ended up with something called "Peace Piece," one of the most moving, hymnlike, and transparently beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard. And I love him for that.

Who can understand this? Where does that come from? The nice, neat theological explanation is that it's common grace, and that God bestows his gifts on the righteous and the unrighteous. But the explanation that I prefer is that it's a miracle, a little shard of God's goodness and beauty that shines forth all the more starkly when surrounded by the muck and the mire.

I don't think I would have liked Bill Evans. I surely wouldn't have liked Miles Davis, for the reasons you mentioned, and for many others. Or Mozart. Or Gaughin. I don't excuse their often horrendous behavior. But they created great art. And I've never reached the point where the weight of their personal sins offsets the glory of their art. I might have felt differently if I was married to one of them. But it's all a matter of degrees anyway. Some are more broken than others, but we're all broken. The miracle is that incredible beauty shines forth from the cracks.





#16 Andy Whitman

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 10:06 AM

QUOTE(jfutral @ Oct 31 2006, 09:16 AM) View Post

And I think this is also driven by the need to understand the existance of suffering. Joy makes sense, but suffering? Sort of "Joy and delight, I can understand how that is good, but the suffering...I struggle with that."

Maybe it's because I'm a depressive type, but I would reverse those statements. In the past few weeks I've related with people who are dealing with dysfunctional parents and dysfunctional children, addiction, and marital infidelity. There is perversion, twistedness, and brokenness everywhere I turn. And that's in the church. Sorrow makes perfect sense to me.

It is joy that is the aberration. And when I encounter it in art, it is all the more powerful because it testifies to God's breaking into lives that are weighed down and weary. Including mine. I don't struggle with joy, and, like most people, I do struggle with suffering. But I'm always surprised by it. Art is the conduit through which I'm surprised most frequently.

#17 jfutral

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 11:23 AM

QUOTE(Andy Whitman @ Oct 31 2006, 10:06 AM) View Post

Maybe it's because I'm a depressive type, but I would reverse those statements. In the past few weeks I've related with people who are dealing with dysfunctional parents and dysfunctional children, addiction, and marital infidelity. There is perversion, twistedness, and brokenness everywhere I turn. And that's in the church. Sorrow makes perfect sense to me.

It is joy that is the aberration. And when I encounter it in art, it is all the more powerful because it testifies to God's breaking into lives that are weighed down and weary. Including mine. I don't struggle with joy, and, like most people, I do struggle with suffering. But I'm always surprised by it. Art is the conduit through which I'm surprised most frequently.

I think I understand what you are saying. Kind of two sides to the same coin to a certain degree. But is it really that you understand the why to suffering, or is it more that you can relate?

Or maybe philosophers are asking the wrong question. Not "Why is there suffering?" or theologians' attempts to answer "Why does a good God allow suffering?" but "Why should there be joy instead of suffering?"

Joe

#18 Andy Whitman

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 04:10 PM

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 31 2006, 01:28 PM) View Post

QUOTE
...Shouldn't being moved by the work be enough? And would I have reacted so strongly to seeing those portraits of Van Gogh had I not been so interested in him as a person, too?

A friend mentioned (not sure if it is true, but sounded interesting) that there are some cultures that will refuse to listen to what someone has to say until they know more about the person's history and family.


As for what jfutral is saying here, maybe part of the essence is that human beings like stories and narrative. Wanting to know something about an artist/composer/author's *personal* narrative (their bio.) seems to be ingrained in all of us.

I don't know. I'm not sure if this is implied in what either of you are saying, but I want to push back a little on the notion that the artist's personal life should inform our opinion of his or her art.

I don't believe this. Note that I don't have a problem with wanting to know about the artist's personal life. That's fine, and if it helps you understand the context in which his or her art is created, then more power to you. To that end, I can see why knowing that Gauguin had a fairly perverse relationship with those young Tahitian girls he painted could inform one's overall reaction to the paintings. But in that case there is a direct relationship between the artist and the work of art.

I do have a problem, however, if one's reaction to art is informed by the artist's personal life when that personal life has no discernible relationship to the work of art. Take the case of Miles Davis, who has also come up in this thread. Nardis is quite correct that Miles was not a nice man and that he was abusive toward women. Is this deplorable? Of course it is. But Miles is the quintessential ballad player, and he could play a tender love song better than anybody. And my appreciation for what Miles does with, say, "'Round About Midnight" is neither enhanced nor hindered by the knowledge that he was an abusive jerk. It's greatly material to the women who happened to be a part of Miles' life. But it's immaterial to the music he created, which should be evaluated on its own terms.

And, of course, it works the other way, too, where "Christian" art is somehow given a special dispensation because of the people who create it. I probably react strongly to this idea because it's deeply ingrained in the evangelical ghetto -- primarily in the CCM industry, but also in the relatively new realm of "Christian movies." This is the notion that a Christian musician, or a Christian director, simply by virtue of his or her faith, is somehow immune from the critical criteria that are used to evaluate any other musician or director, that he or she is "anointed" and "a minister" and all the other terminology that is used to deflect the fact that these are people trying to string D, A, and E chords together or point a camera in new and interesting ways. And if you don't think that attitude is alive and well, check the Letters to the Editor section of CT Movies, where our very own Josh Hurst is ripped because he dared to write a negative review of the new movie Facing the Giants.

The bottom line is that I can think of few instances where knowing the history of an artist directly impacts my ability to appreciate what he or she creates. And even when there is good reason to link them together, I still think the work of art itself should take primacy over the life/philosophy of the artist.

Again, I'm not sure if this is where this discussion if heading, but I'm detecting overtones. I could be way off, and if I am, I apologize. But I wanted to at least explain my own reaction in more detail.



#19 jfutral

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 11:10 PM

QUOTE(nardis @ Oct 31 2006, 06:52 PM) View Post

But this is all off the main topic - my apologies for the hijack, also for the repetition, but I thought maybe a clarification would help....

QUOTE(Andy Whitman @ Oct 31 2006, 04:10 PM) View Post

Again, I'm not sure if this is where this discussion if heading, but I'm detecting overtones. I could be way off, and if I am, I apologize. But I wanted to at least explain my own reaction in more detail.

I don't know how this could not be in some way related to the topic and I tend to be open to/prefer an organic nature of conversation. Certainly seems to me to pertain to the question about separating an artist from his work.

If it means anything, I've heard Wynton Marsalis speak similarly to nardis about Miles. But Wynton also seemed to think, IIRC, that Miles did eventually come around full circle. Or maybe he was talking about John Coltrane, I don't remember exactly. It was a long conversation. Maybe both.

What might be interesting is seeing if there IS a correlation of his art to his life. Wynton seemed to think so. I wish I could remember everything he said. Wynton Marsalis is very much into the spiritual nature of music, particulalry jazz. I think he would validate the notion of attaching an artist to an understanding of his work while at the same time still explore the universal truths the music communicates. But this is based on what I remember him saying and is poorly second hand at that.

QUOTE(Andy Whitman @ Oct 31 2006, 04:10 PM) View Post

when that personal life has no discernible relationship to the work of art.


But is this really possible? Would art by its nature need to rely on the person creating the work in order to even be valid as art--their point of view, their understanding of truth, their nature, etc.? Is the artist not always reflected in their work to some degree?

Joe

Edited by jfutral, 31 October 2006 - 11:11 PM.


#20 Greg Wright

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 08:53 AM

QUOTE(nardis @ Nov 1 2006, 12:02 AM) View Post
all art is made by fallible, sinful men and women

The beauty of that is twofold: first, that art can transcend the artist, or even at times the artist's intentions; and second, that the glory of God, which manifests itself in art, reflects back onto the humanness of the artist in redemptive ways (as Andy eloquently described).

I'm with MLeary in "becoming more and more convinced that the only truly 'Christian' approach to art, film, music, etc... is through some sort of theory based specifically in authorial intention. Otherwise, there is nothing Christian about it, as it won't allow culture to converse with concepts like Creation and incarnation."

The title of this thread is "Relationship in Art" -- and in that vein, I am also becoming more committed to honing a critical approach that at least addresses authorial intent (while certainly not allowing it to trump what a work of art actually accomplishes). Critical approaches that alienate or ignore the artist do not bring artists into community; and that can hardly be meritorious from a Christian perspective.

Can the cult of personality often get in the way? Yes. But so can I. And none of that should keep us from trying. "To the same extent that we care to be understood, we care to understand" seems to me to be a thoroughly Christ-like motto.

"Egoistic instinct is subtle and glamorous. It can even mistake itself for authoritative judgment upon works of art; but if we avoid being carried away by its eloquence we needn’t share in its error. That is, by making ourselves a little hard-headed we can escape the confusion of mind that damns an ostrich for not being a giraffe." —Booth Tarkington

"I have investigated the dust-heaps of humanity, and found a treasure in all of them. I have found that humanity is not incidentally engaged, but eternally and systematically engaged, in throwing gold into the gutter and diamonds into the sea." —G. K. Chesterton

(I'm enjoying following this discussion immensely, btw. In itself, it's accomplishing the relational thing, as I'm finding out so much about everyone -- and wanting to know more, checking out home pages and whatnot.)

Edited by Greg Wright, 01 November 2006 - 08:55 AM.