Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vanitas II - Etiquette - Finished

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."  - Oscar Wilde.


I get an idea and tend to just run with it, focus on the process and let the concepts evolve as I go. When working in a series, one piece will feed into another and things will lead in interesting directions, if you let them. This awareness of the painting experience is directing your decision making and aesthetic choices. The process is always asking questions as you answer them, what hue, value, chroma, shape, edges, scale and on and on, and hopefully with experience you are doing all of this intuitively. I find a lot meaning, energy and satisfaction within this chain of events.

Media – Popular Culture and Dumbing Down

It seems that where ever you go today there is someone staring at some little device lost in a vortex of texting or in some loud authoritative one-sided conversation. I wonder how much of their life is spent with their head down and eyes glued to a screen. People have become so dependent on these devices, if not addicted, starring and constantly checking their smartphone. Having a conversation with someone while they are texting is not multitasking, it’s just bad manners. When my earliest cell phone rang it was usually a client or art director in a panic about some deadline, commission or change needed. Silence was a good thing…

I am very supportive of the technology, but I wonder what it says about society and its direction. With all this conversing we actually seem to be becoming more anti-social, less tolerant and self-absorbed…the synonym for Narcissism is Vanity. (We just had the most narcissistic/egotistical public display in history the 2016 Presidential election.)

We always study the culture of past civilizations by the artifacts they leave behind, we analyze their art, literature and music in hopes of getting a glimpse into the conscious of that society. I wonder what a future archaeologist will think of a society in which a dead shark formaldehyde preserved or a real-life bed strewn with empty liquor bottles, soiled underwear, and stained sheets is considered high culture? Does it take the absurd and obnoxious to get us to look up from our cell phones? With great interest and at times contempt I’ve watched the “official” art establishments join the conceptual art carnival where ruder and cruder is worth more. I mean what does an 18-karat golden toilet installed in a Guggenheim Museum bathroom, by Maurizio Cattelan’s titled “America”— yes an actual functioning gold toilet – says? Conceit, arrogance and snobbery, more synonyms for Vanity.

Ugly – is easy.

I try to be open minded and tolerant, but I don’t get the joke, postmodernist art seems to me to be elitist and exclusive, a system in which mediocrity is rewarded and validated by a self-contained circle of critics and promoters. And it’s no secret that the real value is its importance in monetary exchange and more its utility as an unregulated commodity.

When we approach art from the oppose end, that of beauty. We are judging it by a different set of metrics. We look at art through our human experience, a personal, truthful and honest view of the world. Great art transcends time and subject matter, not because of the artist’s technical prowess, but because it embraces universal ideas. It has an intrinsic power, some sensation of perfection that bypasses the intellect, in the same way that we receive sensual pleasure from the scent of a rose. John Ruskin referred to this as Simple Beauty, but also spoke about Ideal Beauty which he calls Relation. The artistic idea of relation goes a step beyond Truth, Beauty, Power and Imitation, into a realm that requires intellect. This is art that produces expression, sentiment and character. I see that as the gateway to understanding/creating artistic beauty- it is to see with the mind (intellect) and heart (emotion) These are the core universal ideas.

I enjoy writing/blogging about art but it truly is more for me than you. Writing is my way to work out some of my thoughts and concepts, engage in a bit of exchange and learn something new.  I hope you take my opinions with a grain of salt, for they may change. I believe it is very important for artists to give insights into their ideas, share those opinions, explore and conduct critical thinking about the world around us.

Who better to speak about art then those who make it.  That seems to me to be the proper etiquette.

Vanitas II - Etiquette, oil on panel, 11 x 14 inches, Jim Serrett

In the Vanitas genre people look at the skull imagery as macabre and morbid symbolism peppered with some moral instruction. That is one of the obvious interpretation, but I see it more as a cautioning reminder that life is precious, so they better not waste it on frivolous and meaningless things. Often included in the Vanitas or memento mori images is the phrase Memento vivere - Remember to live.

Live in the present moment. And recognize how we spend our time is important, what are we really cultivating? Is it improving our lives? Does binge watching hours of junk TV (which I am painfully guilty of) enrich your intellect or cultivate a skill? We need to have a balance, things we do that are frivolous or fun and those which are worthwhile.


Explore - Question - Learn - Enjoy, Jim 

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