Archive for the ‘On Beauty & Art’ Category

Beauty and the Nude

Is this art? Is it beauty? Certainly it is, and is meant to be, erotic, but is it beautiful?


beauty and the nude1

Do women find this beautiful? And if it possesses beauty, what is it? The curves, the healthy form and skin, the delicate yet lush, expansive femininity, the positive swellings and negative hollows and the interplay between them? Or is it simply that man finds and has always found beauty in the female form, (excepting of course that time of the early 20th century when art was hijacked by misogynist gay male intellectuals).

What about the thong? Do they contribute or detract?  By classical standards, I suspect, they are completely out of place and relegate the otherwise attractive image to the realm of pornography. But what of this picture, a painting by Boucher of a nude woman.

I’ve taken this from the 20th century’s most accessible and most respected  art critic, Kenneth Clark’s book, The Nude. Surely there is no more lewd a painting in all of ‘classical’ art, yet this has found its way into the most esteemed art galleries of the world. Lord Clark tells us that Boucher has painted this in such a way that we may enjoy her with as little shame as she seems to have  enjoying herself. But is this beautiful? And is the photo of the nude woman above beautiful?

I am inclined to think that the photo is better for not showing the woman’s face, which would have made it all to personal, to subjective and for this same reason, the underwear make the photo less beautiful. It could have been classically beautiful simply by the form and lighting itself. I am also inclined to think Boucher’s painting is not beautiful, but decorative (and erotic, as we contemplate Miss O’Murphy’s opened legs).

And what is all this leading to? Nothing. It’s Design & Wine time and I’m just thinking out loud.  And enjoying these images of woman naked. In my view the highest life form on the planet is woman. A marked improvement on man. More subtle, delicate, sublime and sensible. The history of man is the history of war, conquest, suffering, destruction. Had women been in charge I suspect it would have been a history of bridges, bonds and nourished relations. Idealistic? Probably. I’d be very interested to know what women think about all this.

This is Titian’s Venus. Titian, I’m sure you know, was a high-water mark of the Italian Renaissance and in my view, a great and noble man. Mark Twain, for whom I’ve never cared and in fact, positively dislike, couldn’t denigrate this painting enough. He called it “the foulest, vilest, obscenest picture the world possesses”. He particularly seems to dislike what she is doing with her hand. Giorgione did a painting of Venus in the exact same posture, only with closed eyes. So much for Mark Twain. I doubt he’ll be remembered 500 years from now. I sure hope not. Will we ever get over our stupidity about glorious sex and the glorious body? Not in America. Not in the next hundred years or so. Here’s a self portrait of Titian. Look pretty randy to you?

Below is another image, not intended, I’m sure, as art. I wonder what Twain would have said of this.

This isn’t intended as art, it is intended as sexual stimulation for men, and I suppose, gay women. The idea here is, come and get me.  She isn’t even really attractive – bleached hair, breasts too large, and kind of seedy looking. Pretty, in a hard way.  Ah well. I’m sure she’s a nice lady to know. Not my cuppa.


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I am often surprised when people balk at the notion of higher consciousness yet use words like Joy, Love, Compassion – as if those words don’t refer to experiences which are only possible from a higher state of consciousness. The greatest beauty we possess, the highest art the world knows issued from elevated states and can help produce those states in us. That is why we value them so much.

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That Illusive Muse

Below is another (temporary) failure of a fountain. It isn’t bad, and it does work well technically in that the water does flow from flower to flower and into the bowl, it just isn’t beautiful. And it could have been. (The photo makes it look as if the flowers extend over the edge of the vessel but they don’t. Water falls into the center of the bowl from the bottom flower.)


failed fountain

Hard to see in this photo. There are some more below but the basic problem is that I was unable to create a harmony with the copper leaves.

I specifically attempted to do so – to create a balance and a flow by placement, shape and direction of the leaves but once I soldered them on and replaced the waterflowers into the bowl, where they fit into a ceramic thing I make, the whole just sort of fell apart, aesthetically.  That’s about 5 hours of work lost.

But the point here isn’t to whimper and whine. It is to explore that illusive thing called the Creative Process and the concept of invoking one’s Muse and what happens when a work fails.

The good news is that, if you can see that something doesn’t work, you do possess the faculty by which you are able to make something work – emotional perception – the mind of the artist.

The photo below makes more clear the problem – It just isn’t even attractive and the whole point is that it should be.

So what went wrong here? Well, to start, my state wasn’t particularly elevated. In fact, I was not in a very good state at all but was trying to stay productive and to rise above it.

Goethe, whose best friend was  Schiller (author of William Tell and many other book, teacher, and who said that “People need to be taught that art is a necessity”, etc.) said of Schiller that he would have his muse sing for him at any time he required and attempting to do so was why some parts of his work were inferior to other pats. In other words, Goethe’s thinking on this was that one had, at times, to wait for inspiration, for a higher level of energy or consciousness or sensibility – something – before one would be able to produce truly good work – to create something that might be called Beautiful, or Art. One had to have a respect for the creative process and not assume one could command it. – That ancient concept of ‘invoking one’s Muse.

ceramic fountain

lack of harmony

I think most of we who create, (and, really, who doesn’t?) realize that our creativity is not always at full force or even necessarily available but we force ourselves to create when the right energy just isn’t there and then, because we have put so much time and effort into it we justify to ourselves that it is worth keeping.

(And by the way, just because I have not put decades of training into making fountains (as do for example, fine art painters into painting)  does not mean that these fountains  have no possibility of being beautiful works of art. I have put decades into designing and evaluating and analyzing design and I am, in fact, good at it.

Sometimes I am a little uncomfortable having my work in a gallery alongside paintings and sculptures that sell for many thousands but I shouldn’t be. The principles I work with are the same as those other artists  and the difference – that painting or sculpture takes many years of practice to learn the technical aspects –  is the very basis of discrimination that fine artists use to denigrate such things as pottery – the craft side of it.)

Art is vision, from one point of view and it can be brought to, or left out of, anything.) (Often is left out, in fact, even in ‘Fine Art’.

I’ll try to re-use these waterflowers (enameled copper) and I will certainly find another way to use this vessel  but this particular incarnation is going to be short lived. Below are more photos.

fountain with waterflowers

enameled copper 'waterflowers'

ceramic fountain with enameled copper waterflowers

Enamel is glass fused to metal

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Design purpose I

Three tulips by Loren McIver

Three tulips by Loren McIver

Design may be said to be the art of evoking specific states within the beholder through the nature and relationship of independent components in the creation of a unified composition. Working upon the mind, the emotions and, in the case of landscape design,  the bodily experiences, design generates within the participant a state of  being, similar to that experienced by the designer in the act of creation.  It is a state which approaches, or indeed, enters into the joyous. High art is enduring precisely for this reason; it issues from genius and elevates anyone who perceives it.  Witness the works of Bach, Da Vinci, or Shakespeare.

Even the designs of we mere mortals, regardless of our medium, must abide by the same principles as high art. Our designs must be directed toward a specific effect with each of the design elements contributing to that effect. The work must comprise a unity having a variety of independent yet interrelated components.

Is that achieved in this pastel by Loren McIver? I was enjoying a glass of wine recently, looking at this drawing, as I have countless times where it hangs on my living room wall and suddenly I saw it had a dancing quality to it – a quality of happy exuberance I had not previously seen. I said to Jackie, “They’re dancing.”

Jackie knew Loren well before she passed away several years ago  and said to me that she would often ask of her work, “does it dance?” I hadn’t known that but apparently that was a quality which was important to her and she tried to instill it into much of her work.  (Among the countless paintings of the 20th century Loren’s work was for me the most beautiful I have encountered, at least within her style, which is hard to place.)

It would seem in this pastel that Loren was attempting to and succeeded in creating a lively, robust yet sensitive joy of living – evident in the color scheme, the positioning of the flowers, their delicate details, their relation to one another and the harmony they form with the leaves. She created a unified work of art with a specific emotional/psychological intent which will effect everyone who sees it, at least once they really look. The glass of wine I was drinking helped.

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Another view of art

Perhaps art is simply the capacity or means of evoking specific emotions through the demonstration of specific values. I just saw a video showing a beautiful woman in a darkened, candle-lit room doing a series of what I guess are sand paintings projected onto a large screen, to music.

Her ability to express specific values having emotional impact was uncanny.

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On Beauty & Art

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