Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Obit: Ruth Bernhard

Click picture for article.

Classic Torso with Hands. 1952
Gelatin Silver Print

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Exhibition Highly Recommended

The exhibit of Eudora Welty's photographs at the Walton Arts Center is exquisite. Check it out.

On display from December 4, 2006 to February 17, 2007.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Possible New Crystal Bridges Museum Acquisition
Generates Controversy Once More

Last time, New York didn't want to give up Asher Durand's Kindred Spirits painting to the new (will be completed in 2009) Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. Check out the articles on Philadelphia not wanting to give up Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic. What do you think? Is it just me, or do the writers have something against sending art/culture to Arkansas?

The painting in question....

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Oration as Art

Last Thursday, I attended the Iraq for Sale showing on campus. Aside from being a very well made film about the non-partisan topic of war profiteering and its effects, it was introduced by a wonderful speech by student Tate Marble. He has given me permission to distribute it as I see fit, so I decided to put it here in my art blog:

"I would like to welcome all of you here tonight. I would also like to thank the Honors Committee and The Omni Center of Fayetteville for helping us create this forum. Also, before I begin, I need to thank a few individuals who helped make this event happen.

Dr. Vervack was instrumental in seeing that this gathering would create a learning environment that NWACC, the community, and anyone attending would be proud of. His work is tireless, his mind one of the sharpest I have met in all my travels, his character, commitment, kindness, and integrity are a tremendous asset to this school and we, quite frankly, are lucky to have him.

Professor Laughton, one of the better teachers I have ever encountered, never dismissed or endorsed this program but, instead, understood that I was a student who had a need to share a point of view and encouraged this from day one. His quick conversations with me outside the classroom encouraged me not to fold the dream of presenting this film to all of you tonight. His remark was simple but strong when he said,” That I must follow my passion”.

Professor Mckay, is an instrumental part of what we see here tonight. Her desire to see students learn and react to information takes this institution to the next level of learning. Her guidance, encouragement, and desire for our group to realize that “One small act can change the world” has taught me alot about myself and what it takes to really create change. She is the definition of an educator; a definition that anyone entering the profession should try to emulate.

All of these individuals deserve a round of applause for making this event possible.

By being here, amidst long work days, children, and a myriad of other possible scenarios you have shown your willingness to sacrifice for this country and your concern about the direction we are headed.

This concern is what has created this event. In fact, this event began some time ago with a simple telephone call and has grown to what you see here today. I realized this and other revelations for the first time tonight as I made my way through the I-540 traffic. For me, these epiphanies are rare. Rare in that it is so very uncommon to see something so clearly, in it’s purest form, that I usually grab for the nearest pen or pencil, regardless of where I am, to jot it down. In this case, that was while I was crawling along amidst most of the rest of North West Arkansas, and my only source of paper was the extra McDonald’s napkin that, I think for everyone, ends up in the middle console of our vehicles. Mosses had his burning bush, Mohammed had his vision in a cave, and I had my napkin. However, on it I think I captured the essence of why we are all sitting here, why this topic causes so much debate and controversy, and why, myself included, many of us lay our heads at night fearful of what the next day will bring for this great nation.

As mentioned before, we are here because we are seeking answers. Simply, we, as American’s, need all the facts in order to fully understand, contemplate, digest, form a well thought out opinion, and to feel as though we have done our due-diligence and have come to an intelligent decision about whether our country is progressing in a direction we are comfortable with. Simple enough. Scary also, because we only get one shot at this. We can’t simply click the “do-over” button once the game has ended. Within this mindset, we are here because we know, inherently, that this country is changing at a rapid pace and any information that helps us to obtain a clearer picture is worthy of one evening away from home and out of our normal routines.

So, you all are to be applauded for being here and caring as much as you do.

As my napkin got fuller I also realized that the movie you see tonight will shock you. It shouldn’t, but it certainly will. It became clear to me that we, as a people, have become lazy. We want express mail, overnight service, 3 minute McDonald’s lines, and our world news in 30 minutes or less.

We have gotten so entranced in our daily lives; lives that could use more than twenty-four hours to accomplish all we need and want with our children, family, friends, and anything else you can think of that we do nothing to further our understanding of the world, investigate other sources of information, or question or verify what we are told nightly……In essence, we simply don’t do our homework. We are, without question, the least savvy nation in the world when it comes to understanding America’s global identity.

Instead, we grasp tightly to half-truths and the belief that the ken or Barbie doll force feeding us a strict diet of Government censored news would never lie to us. They wouldn’t do that…..we have watched them for years!

The fact is, America will never know because we haven’t made knowledge of world issues a priority in our lives since the 60’s and early 70’s. Look how many people showed up at the opening of the new mall and how many are seated here tonight. I don’t think the numbers are greatly exaggerated because Wayne Newton was there. This is what we have become and I believe that has done more harm to the stability of this country than anything I can think of. The simple truth is: we are lazy and the men and women at the big corporations you are going to learn about understand this fully. Simply, they are getting rich while we are trying desperately to jot down the recipe on Rachel Ray’s thirty minute meals. Some of the CEO’s and Presidents you witness here tonight made more money in a year, which our country will go broke trying to repay, than we will make in our lifetimes. The numbers are staggering.

This is a much longer summation of the short sentence I was able to scribble on my napkin. It read, simply, “We need to make understanding a priority.”

Finally, on the final two inches of space remaining on that old napkin, I simply wrote: That we can parish through patriotism. That is a loaded statement but one that needs to be voiced.

What I, and others are doing here tonight, might be seen as un-patriotic. Many in this country and community, I’m sure, would agree with that. Some, within this school have, and I am paraphrasing, voiced strong opposition. Why? I asked?

Why do I, and many of you, see this picture of our country so vividly while others struggle to see anything remotely similar? How can that be?

While answering this…and writing over the McDonalds logo I think I figured it out. It may be hard to swallow for some but it seems to be the only reason we get such a split in opinion when the public is tallied.

In simple terms: they (many within this society) have been sold. They have bought the speeches hook line and sinker, they have never demanded sufficient evidence to back up any claims they would gladly go to blows over, they believe that every cars bumper is strictly reserved for a yellow ribbon or an American flag and that any deviation of said bumper warrants the customary yell “If you don’t like it then get the @!*** out!”

They have bought the lie and I have no personal animosity towards them. I do, however, feel sad for them.

Sadness because their intentions are good; their opinions are just cultivated from bad information, from a lack of personal motivation to seek the truth, from believing that the good ole boy president would never do anything like that, from believing that those bastards came here and hit us; so we are hitting em’ back, from the criminally censored outlets that serve us our news nightly, from the daily rise and fall of the greatest scare tactic ever invented…..the terror meter, from not understanding that our Imperialistic regime in Washington cares very little about democracy anywhere in the world; instead it foams at the mouth at the thought of helping old fraternity brother, old friends, and old co-workers( running some of the most powerful corporations on the planet) make a killing, from the propaganda we are fed daily, from the committees of hand-picked supposed truth seekers that never find any wrong doing ( that stems from JFK until present day), from pulpits around the country that mistake the notion of “support our troops” ( which we all should do) with “support our President”, from the financers and money-changers who have strapped us so tightly with debt we simply don’t have time to breath, working 10-12 hour days to support our families, from believing that “If your not with us, your with the terrorists” are really the only two options we have, From casting off the unimaginable to protect the little sense of truth we yearn to hold on too, from not allowing ourselves to view death as more than numbers scrolling across the Fox news ticker, From not seeking all possible information and opinions; instead we settle nightly for what allows us to lay our heads on the pillow and feel “just” about the days events, and on and on it goes.

Their canned remarks and rebuttals are easy. They require nothing more than acceptance and very little of the “personal journey” that would allow them to comment based on “hard work” and “time spent”. They are, in my opinion, the transcript of what was aired the night before; yet they can only paraphrase and quote because nothing they say belongs to them…nothing is unique.

Within the aforementioned mindset I see the individuals I fear the most. I see them waving their flags, cooking their apple pie, and hanging their commander-and-chief’s picture above the mantle……at the same time they see not the constitution that has been eroded, the manipulation of the justice system that has occurred, and the permanent changes (to our country) that have altered who we are and how we will be viewed from here on out.

These individuals, who have chugged the proverbial Bush kool-aid need our help. Without the awakening of America from it’s long slumber we may eventually wake to find ourselves, our children, and our loved ones living in a frail shell of what once was a country “For the people, by the people”. Those days, I fear, are growing short.

As I mentioned above….we only get one chance to get this right. This night will mark the a change (for some) and an end of a long journey for others; their last stand to try to right this ship. The wheelhouse will sit empty and our ship will float lifeless and vulnerable unless we all step up and grasp firmly to the wheel, muscle it back against the forces imparting their will upon it, and save it from the deep dark abyss.

We are all captains here tonight. Together we can navigate the roughest of seas, master the winds, and, together, set a steady course.

This is our ship! I stand here tonight to save her. I know she can still sail, still remains the greatest ever built! The name on her stern is colored in the famous red, white, and blue. It is a bold writing, meant to represent the strength of this great nation. Her name simply reads: America!

Grab the wheel tonight and decide, here and now, to never let it be pried from your hands again. This country will continue to prosper if we do so."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Puns and Other Dimensions

An English instructor and I were talking about the oft misunderstood, unappreciated, and even ignored form of humor--the pun. While they can be cheesy, they are often instructive and can even be used as mnemonic devices. Discuss.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Review:
"The Origin of Satan" by Elaine Pagels

I finally finished this book. It took me so long because it is a lot to chew on, especially when you don't have a lot of time to enjoy a good book. As the title implies, this book gives us the chronicle of the life, history, character, and personality of the being called "Satan." Elaine Pagels does a thorough job as always elucidating complex theology and theological history for the lay person. The entity of Satan has changed numerous times over Judeo-Christian history. This is the history she focuses on and does not address other religions' evil entities.

Satan starts out as part of God's world, employed by him as an obstructor or adversary to human events. He is meant as a challenger as well as a stumbling block:

"Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century BCE occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity. The root (of the word) means "one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as adversary." (The Greek term "diabolos," later translated "devil," literally means "one who throws something across one's path.")"

In this version of Satan, he is not necessarily malevolent, "as the literary scholar Neil Forsyth says of the satan, "if the path is bad, an obstruction is good.""

So, here begins the character history of Satan. Even his name is lowercase as if it is a job description and not a reflection of the entity's character. Gradually, as Pagels explains through the book, Satan began to take on personhood, became prideful, fell, became malevolent, was an outsider ("other"), took on a spiritual dimension, then was someone on the inside of a group or a person, and ultimately is engaged in cosmic battle with God and his angels. This does not really contradict the religious story that much. What's interesting to observe is what corresponds with these changes in the character of Satan.

When he is an adversary or stumbling block, the ancient Jews are struggling. He is the satan, not Satan. He is the person who works for God who keeps them from accomplishing their goals and guides them in the correct direction, even if it is painful. During the Maccabean wars, some Jews were dissatisfied with the breakdown of their community. It is this period in which Satan falls from grace, becomes a spiritual being, and is defined as an enemy -- during a time of war. The first time a spiritual battle between Satan and God is explored is when the Essenes divide from the mainstream Jewish people and try to follow their own legalistic precepts. Their personal battle is moralistic -- so a battle in heaven must be going on. During early Christianity, Satan vacillates from being the enemy without and within at the same time the Jews are being taught as outside God's plan unless they accept Christ. The Jews, to Christians, are at once, brothers of early Christians (since a lot were Jewish), and outsiders because they won't become Christian. This builds up the idea of a spiritual battle even more. Then, Satan is portrayed as an outsider during the persecution of the early church--which comes as no surprise as the Pagan government was responsible, and they were not like the early Christians--they were "other (outside)". After the early church is established, heretics rise in the ranks to question official church doctrine. It is then that Satan moves within again. The spiritual battle is in full force within the church. After the various protestant sects emerge and the world is proliferated with dozens of Christian denominations, Satan becomes the leader of a COSMIC battle without and within--determined to destroy the church and all believers (indeed, the world) in a final apocalyptic battle.

This is a crude summary, but hopefully, the reader will get the pattern I got. Satan starts out as a minor annoyance and teacher at worst to the future destroyer of mankind. That's quite a change in character over the span of about 2000 years. It seemed to me, after reading Pagels' book that we humans, who have a tendency to make God in OUR image, have done the same with Satan. If we are just struggling, Satan is a pain. If our families are disintegrating, Satan is in spiritual battle within the unit. If our cherished institutions are threatened, Satan is in battle with us. If the nature of our beliefs or faith are attacked, he is apocalyptic in his goals. When he was an adversary, his scale was personal and tribal in scope. When the institutional church perceives an attack and other competiting interpretations of faith abound, he becomes COSMIC and destructive.

So, we have over the brief amount of historical time, projected our darker selves onto either a real or imagined being. I've always found it interesting that people blame God or Satan about equally for their behavior or circumstances, and rarely take their own responsibility for these things. Hmmm. Discuss.

Elaine Pagels

© Stephanie Lewis, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I Found a Funny Blog

This blog is hilarious! It's not huge, but it's some guy who records what his wife says in her sleep. I don't know which is more hilarious--what she says, the pictures he posts with them, or his commentary. Enjoy.

Great Street Art at Wooster Collective

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I've been preparing for my Art History II class, looking particularly at 15th century Florentine early Renaissance art. I decided to check into a historical figure a little more deeply. His name is Girolamo Savonarola. When I was younger, I was taught that he was a great early pre-Luther reformer. Turns out, he was an ignorant dictator.

From wikipedia...."They sent boys from door to door collecting items associated with moral laxity: mirrors, cosmetics, lewd pictures, pagan books, gaming tables, fine dresses, and the works of immoral poets, and burnt them all in a large pile in the Piazza della Signoria of Florence. Fine Florentine Renaissance artwork was lost in Savonarola's notorious bonfires, including paintings by Sandro Botticelli thrown on the pyres by the artist himself."

That last line makes me sad. Reformer? I think not.

My Favorite Pro Firework Shot of the Season

Bold Move by Greece

They want their art back.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Fireworks as Art

We kicked off the season at home with some fireworks tonight. Here they are with commentary. Click on the images for larger views.

I especially like the warm, orange glow at the bottom and little tracers coming off the spark.

The red streamers are nice in this one.

Again, the red streamers are good, but also the strange glow of the cinderblock in the firelight.

The prickly light at the top of this firework is beautiful.

This one was just blazing!

This one went up in the air and I caught the trail in my camera. It's strangly feathery.

I caught this one during its white-hot phase.

I actually got some color in this shot.

This one looks like the end of a blowtorch.

Crazy colored hairy spider legs.

I think this is my favorite shot, because I caught the fiery launch AND the puffs of smoke.

Whenever I look at fireworks, I think of James Whistler's Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket
(1875). It is considered to be one of the first steps toward pure abstraction. It is often compared to Turner's landscapes and is considered the beginning of Whistler's influence on modern art....

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Naked World

I watched this HBO documentary the other night. It was really quite beautiful seeing the artist's process behind the scenes. He took his camera and his crew to seven continents. It was intriguing learning about the different mores regarding nudity in the models as well as the spectators in the various cultures. Some were quite surprising in this regard. Let's just say France's mores aren't what you think and neither are England's when it comes to nudity. Some people, like the Russians, put a political spin on their nudity.

Spencer Tunick is not considered a photographer or an artist by some, but rather a megalomaniac who is just trying to be famous for doing something big. One does not get that impression from the meek man you see in the film. Whether he is an artist or a photographer or not, he is doing something extremely significant and wonderful. His art exists on three major levels. 1) He makes images that possess poetic expression. 2) He brings people together in large groups for the sake of art. And most importantly, 3) he brings healing to many by emboldening the afraid, the wounded, the overweight, and the scarred by bringing them into community with others who have shed their facades. They all express "transformation" after participating -- some in respect for their bodies, some in respect for other people, and some in terms of reclaiming the ownership of their own bodies. Tunick isn't just making art or photography, he is a healer.

One of the scenes that sticks in my mind in the documentary is when a Christian fundamentalist in Melbourne interrupts a pose involving 3000+ people by getting in front of Tunick's camera with a sign urging people to repent for their sins. The police dragged him off because the city had made the event legal for the sake of art. At first I was exasperated by this man--how could he NOT see the beautiful forest of flesh and healing before him and only see the individual trees? Then, I realized he only saw himself, and that made me sad. Then, I realized the irony of the situation: I assumed he came from a faith that involved an all-nude rapture. Maybe it's wrong on the ground, but not in the air? Then I laughed.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Omen

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching horror films. I like them for entertainment value, but mainly, I like them as an act of defiance. I DARE them to scare me. I've always believed that real life terror eclipses whatever Hollywood can come up with in terms of fear, and most horror films come off as dark or tragic comedies.

I saw the remake of this film last week. It was definitely a faithful adaptation of the original (which is important to me as a purist). It's a great piece of American lore and is particularly poignant at this time with all the strife, disasters, and political upheaval--and the popularity of "end times" theology. It really is good timing to come out with this one.

The film uses the traditional horror devices without a lot of bells and whistles. Gore is really unnecessary and you don't have to MTV-up everything, if you ask me. The filmmaker uses the subtlety of light, sound, music, color, and the element of surprise. One of the most notable features is that the filmmaker puts a hint of one particular shade of blood red in some item in every single shot--thereby unifying the film's "look". The red is in stark contrast with earth colors and grays. It really is a nice aesthetic device for this particular story.

Mia Farrow returns to the Satanic horror genre with gusto. She plays the nanny and the insane devotee of Damien and insane, she is. She's hardly the mousy Rosemary in this film. Liev Schrieber amply fills the shoes of Gregory Peck (which is hard to do), but it is Julia Stiles who virtually reincarnates Lee Remick's performance, but with her own personalized style. Lest I forget the anti-Christ himself, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is a boy of few words who chillingly plays the role once made famous by Harvey Stephens. This Damien is probably scarier than the original to me, but the reader will have to see for him/herself.

Overall, I would say it was a decent horror film. Mostly, it was a well-done remake. Did it scare me? No. Well, maybe when the Satanic rottweilers jumped at me. ; )

The Omen's official website

Famous Mural Mysteriously Painted Over

This is an outrage. I hope someone figures out who did it. There is a photogallery of the artist's other works on this article's page.


Here's an interesting article at the New Yorker on Picasso's famous painting.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lascaux Cave Paintings in Danger

I'm Starting to NOT like Dale Chihuly

This is ridiculous. Can you imagine if Caravaggio sued his various copiers-of-style, or Rembrandt, or Rubens? You can definitely tell we are living in the 21st century. People can be such babies. Chihuly could just step down from his ivory tower for just a minute and make BETTER work than anybody if he is the 'master' that he proclaims to be. Whatever happened to just being happy with being better and flattered that people wanted to copy you? Now artists have to sue each other? It's very unbecoming. A house divided against itself cannot stand--and we artists have to stick together. Sad.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Guilty Pleasure: "The Master of Disaster"

I heard this commentary this morning on Morning Edition on NPR. It discusses the remake of The Poseidon Adventure, Poseidon. The producer of the original is one of my personal favorites--Irwin Allen, the Master of Disaster. I would say it's a guilty pleasure of mine because watching disaster flicks appeals to my sense of morbid fascination. I have seen such notable films as The Poseidon Adventure, The Swarm, Fire!, Flood!, and of course, The Towering Inferno (my personal favorite) countless times. There's just something alluring about a film with big budget effects and watching Oscar winning celebrities in survival situations--far more interesting that today's "reality" television.

Internet Movie Database's file on Irwin Allen.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Charles Sheeler

I was reminded of one of my favorite artists today. He is Charles Sheeler, an American artist who coined the term for his own art movement, "Precisionism." And precise is precisely what he is. I have always been a big admirer of draftsmanship, especially in drawing, and he is the Master. Here is a small collection of some of his works. I could not find my favorite drawing of his. It is "Feline Felicity," a gorgeous drawing of a tabby cat on a rattan chair. Some of his architectural paintings are often confused with some of friend and fellow Precisionist Charles Demuth's architectural paintings.

Charles Sheeler, Chartres Cathedral, charcoal, 1929

Charles Sheeler, Nude, graphite pencil on paper, 1920

Monday, May 08, 2006

Setting Things Straight About Art Education

NOTE: Before you read this KNOW that I love and read comics and am a huge fan of the superhero genre (particularly drawn to the misfit or mutant themes).

This article discusses the premise behind the new film Art School Confidential. I have no doubt the film relies on stereotypes as a lot of comedies do, but I would like to discuss something other than that. The article brings up the chasm between art schools and comic book artists. To be honest, I have had friends who are comic book artists who went to art school and left with bad tastes in their mouths. I have also had comic book artists as students. As I have said, I love comics and always have. The reason why a lot of comic book artists leave art schools with numerous complaints, is that they are simply in the wrong place; that is, if that's all they want to do and nothing else--and some people know what they want to do at very young ages.

Often, art school is a bad experience for some comic book artists because of their expectations. Did they really expect to go to art school and be taught such a finite area of art, at the expense of everyone else's needs? Some actually do and did. Comic book illustration is illustration. It is an area of art--among many. It would be like if I wanted only to paint still lifes in oil and attended a school of figural art and expected them to change their curriculum to suit me. Art school is an experience. Its purpose is to make an artist well-rounded in the field of art. An artist has experiences in: drawing/painting still lifes, drawing/painting figures, 2-D design, 3-D design, printmaking, assemblage, mixed media, idea development, technique, conceptual art--you name it. An artist goes to art school for THESE experiences. An artist who draws comics CAN go to art school and BENEFIT from it--IF they are open to it. Being open to it is critical--as with any education.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on what you believe, some comic book artists tend to be very fixed in their path, and ONLY want to do what THEY want to do. I personally admire such focus and determination, but I'd like to pass on some advice. If ALL you want to do is draw comics and are not at all interested in the art school path, you should at least choose the right place to be. If you feel misunderstood, it's because you KNOW what you want to do, and the rest of your fellow students are EXPLORING (especially at the undergraduate level). When I went through art education, I couldn't get enough of all the different media, subjects, and ideas, but that's just my experience. Because illustration is a subcategory of the arts (and comic book art, an even more finite subcategory of illustration), and more related to graphic art, fine art school probably isn't the place for you. While comics can be artful, I wouldn't expect it to be considered fine art any time soon. It is what it is and there is nothing wrong with that. I would highly recommend, if you aren't interested in benefiting from instruction that flexes your creative, technical, and conceptual muscle in a fine art school, that you look into the numerous illustration schools available to practice your craft. If you are interested in animation or video game design, there are schools for that too. You simply need to consider what you want to do, choose the right place to be, cultivate your art/craft, be the best you can be, and try not to nurture a persecution complex because your art teacher doesn't understand your desire to draw comics. It's more likely that he or she just wants you to expand your horizons--because that is his or her job where HE/SHE works (i.e. what he/she gets paid for). It's just that simple.

Excellent Quote

I heard this this weekend on PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (one of my favorite PBS programs)....

"What's lost is nothing to what's found, and all the death that ever was set next to life would scarcely fill a cup." -- Reverend Frederick Buechner

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Short Film Review: Mirrormask

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

This review is necessarily short, for words would fail me to express the utter visual sumptuousness of this movie. It is the movie Tim Burton wished he had made (in my words). And I do love Tim. There is a richness of artistic knowledge in this film as well as an acute awareness of the dynamics of the writing of a "modern" faerie tale in the intriguing writing of Neil Gaiman. It is the story of a girl named Helena who was raised in a circus family and who loves to draw quirky characters and environments. When her mother falls ill, she has a dream in which she embarks on a quest to find a "mirrormask"--something she has no idea the appearance or purpose of--but it is nonetheless important. The word itself sounds like a word in dreams--the hybrid words that we hear or say that have tremendous meaning about our identities. I'm sure if you think hard enough, you'll remember that one dream in which a word was uttered, and upon waking, you thought--'what in the world does that mean?' In this case it reveals her waking life's struggle with teen angst and becoming an adult. The world of the dream is derived from her waking life's drawings. She discovers that an evil version of her mother (in the dream) has sought to get her daughter back (an evil one), but that daughter has disguised herself as the Helena in waking life. Her real mother in the dream takes on the archetypal role of the sleeping queen/princess. Helena must look through a window onto the world the evil changeling is in while wearing the mirrormask -- a mask that has a reflective outer surface that merges with the glass and changes the position of the heroine with the "bad daughter"-- who is reflective of Helena's negative behavior toward her mother before she took ill and Helena's subsequent guilt.

While watching the film, J. noted the esoteric quality of the film and wondered what audience it would be made for. So I came up with a list: The people who like this film are people who like(d):

Jim Henson (his company made some of the puppets)
Tim Burton
Neil Gaiman
Salvador Dali
Yves Tanguy
Hans Bellmer
Lovers of modern comics
Alice and Wonderland
The Wizard of Oz
Rembrandt's ink drawings
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Max Ernst
Odilon Redon
The Dark Crystal
H.R. Giger
I could go on and basically not that esoteric at all.

As a visual artist, of course, the visuals are what appeal most to me. The story is an archetypal faerie tale with a basic plot that has hints of Alice and Dorothy, but has still holds onto its own distinct voice. The visuals are unparalleled in recent years, in my opinion. I highly recommend it for that reason.

© Stephanie Lewis, 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

You're Only Hurt By the Ones You Love

I've long been a fan of Emil Nolde's work--but not his politics. Why would I be? He was a member of the Nazi party for 16 years until he was the most represented artist at Hitler's "Degenerate Art" exhibit (which was held to mock modern art--particularly German Expressionism), and was then forced to quit making art (to the point where the government put armed guards around him to prevent him from doing so). One of his most famous pieces, Crucifixion (1912) was one of the exhibit's centerpieces.

Emil Nolde, Crucifixion, oil on canvas, 1912

It seems at first glance, that to be a Nazi/Fascist is antithetical to being an artist. But, paraphrasing the famous art critic Robert Hughes in the PBS Home Video "Degenerate Art," every artist is a fascist. Personally, I don't put in with lock-step, goose-stepping yes men and women (who generally don't have original thoughts of their own), but Hughes is right about artists (in general) in their individual lives and work. I think what he was saying in the film is that while artists generally don't strive to control others or the world (and this is a good thing, because we know where that goes), they tend to be control freaks over the destiny of their own lives and their creative vision and can grind their heels in like any Nazi in that regard.

One of Nolde's Unpainted Pictures

About a month and a half ago, I checked out "Unpainted Pictures" from the school library. The book contains the work Nolde was forced to do, basically under house arrest. He called these tiny watercolors unpainted pictures. They are mostly landscape and figural paintings that possess the intensity of Chagall's colors. The figural paintings almost always seem to be representing people acting furtively in body language or with their gazes in very tiny formats that accentuate the message they send that is obviously Nolde's message of confinement. The last time I checked out this book, I didn't notice one little tidbit: a copy of the letter from August 23, 1941 from the president of Reichsknunstkammer, Adolf Ziegler, to Emil Nolde, prohibiting him to practice art. I probably didn't notice it the first time because it is in German (which I don't read or speak) and because the caption is in such small type. Well, I found it this time. Luckily, I have a friend and colleague whose mother is German. Recently, she translated it and I thought I'd share it here.... (special thanks to Cindy's mom, and to Cindy)

The President Berlin, August 23, 1941
of the Reichsknunstkammer

(Governmental Chamber)

of Art

Reference number: II B/ M2603/1236

Emil Nolde
Berlin-Charlottenburg 9 Registered Mail!

Bayernallee 10

Following the Fuhrer's order to eliminate works of "Entartete Kunst" (degenerate art) found in museums, we had to seize 1052 works by you alone. Many of these had been part of the exhibit "Entartete Kunst" in Munchen, Dortmund and Berlin.

These facts demonstrate that your works do not meet the standard expected from all artists active in Germany since 1933. These include the artists residing here of other nationalities and from other countries. You should be familiar with repeatedly voiced instruction as for the direction and goals of future artistic endeavors that show responsibility towards land and people. Speeches relative to this were given by the Fuhrer at the openings of the "Grossen D.K." ("Important German Exhibits of Art") in Munchen.

By looking at your original works of late we received, we believed that even now you do not follow these cultural principles necessary for your artistic activity in this country and for membership in any governmental chamber ("Kammer").

Based on the First Decree of .... re: "Acts of Governmental Chamber (Reichs....) of 11/1/33 (RGB1.I, S.797) we have to exclude you from the Governmental Chamber of Art since you don't display necessary responsibility. We also won't permit you to -- as of this day -- pursue any professional and extra-professional activities in the field of art.

The membership book of my chamber ("Kammer") M2603 is now invalid in your name. Return it to me by return of post.

Signed Ziegler

Notarized: Dohmling


So, how's that for unmitigated gall? Even though Nolde originally subscribed to the Nazi party platform, I do feel very sorry for him. This was a painful pill to swallow--wrapped in Karma. Ouch.

Still, if I were Nolde, I would have taken the letter, ripped it up and rearranged it in some aesthetic way, painted over it in my usual prohibited style, framed it, and written my own little letter on the back before mailing it back to Ziegler. My letter would have gone a little like this:

Dear Ziegler,

So, you are going to kick me out of the club and tell me to quit making art? Are you going to take my toys and kick sand in my face too? Maybe you'll bully me for my lunch money too? I triple-dog-dare you! That's right, the dreaded triple-dog-dare! You're not the boss of me! So take that!


Then, I would have wrapped it like a present and mailed it back to him.

What would you have done?

Of course, Nazi-approved art was absurd as fine art. At best, the 2-D stuff was decent illustration reminiscent of comic book styles. Both the 2-D and the 3-D stuff had a hint of classical style. Can someone explain to me why Fascist movements gravitate toward neo- or pseudo-classicism in the visual vocabulary of their art and propaganda? I would love to know. It's almost entirely consistent across the board. If you'd like to read an interesting book and view some of the Nazi-approved art, Peter Adam's book "Art of the Third Reich" is a disturbing page turner. Most of the work looked like a Stepford Wife drew some comics. The rest is homoerotic art in the language (on the surface) of classicism. Very bizarre.

Here's another great link for additional information.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nigerian Artist -- El Anatsui

Many Came Back, by El Anatsui, aluminum bottle caps
and copper wire, 84" x 109", 2005

El Anatsui is an interesting contemporary artist. There is an article about him in the May 2006 Art in America. He makes "tapestries" out of cast-off materials and native African wood. The pieces made from liquor bottle caps have an African sensibility about pattern and abstraction, but they also seem to dazzle like a Klimt.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Workin' on the 'Day of the Worker'

What am I doing for my birthday today? I'm at school teaching on my longest day of the week. I thought it might be interesting to share the nebulous history of this holiday-- Mayday. Here is a concise history on a site written a few years ago. I wonder why this holiday never fully caught on in the United States? It seems so fun--maypole dancing, delivering flowers to strangers, fertility rites? Hmmmmm

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Classic Poem: Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Pictured above is a little item I found on my bedroom floor. At first I thought it was a leaf. I swear my house is not a pit, so it is strange that something like this would appear. We looked it up on the computer and it is, in fact, a dried baby mouse carcass. I have no idea where it came from or how it avoided be swallowed whole by one of my two cats, if it came in on some thrift items we bought, or whether it had been hiding all along and been there since before I moved in. It is a mystery. Still, as disturbing as it is, there's something aesthetic about it. Don't you think?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This Does Not Give Me Hope

Feel like ending women's suffrage? These ladies do.

suffrage: def. the right to vote in a political election or the exercise of this right.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Slides and Prejudice

Richard Estes

Click on the title of this entry to read the article referenced in this blog entry.

Just so you know my thoughts up front, photorealism is a legitimate art movement. It is not the ONLY art movement, however. PhotoREALISM is also a misnomer. There is no more reality in a photograph than there is in my dreams at night (but that's a philosophical discussion for another time).

This article addresses the 100+ year old debate about whether it is kosher to use photographs to make paintings. Some artists are called photorealists because their whole purpose is to mimic the vestige of a photograph. Other artists use photographs as points of departure (which I personally prefer when I use them) for compositional experimentation and abstraction.

It always fascinates me how people will mislabel their emotions about things. Under every presenting or stated emotion is the REAL emotion. Some people in this article referred to "guilt" about "cheating" with using photographs as source material for their paintings. Perhaps what they are really feeling is a certain malaise over the limitations of the human imagination, or the West's obsession of "realism" in art, which is shared by almost no other cultures who are not afraid to explore pattern and invention and abstraction. Those things have always been at the bedrock of those cultures' histories of art-making. Those cultures' artistic expressions have also pushed themselves into the West's awareness as the world has shrunk to the present day. Maybe what today's artists are feeling is a certain redundancy and irrelevance and Sisyphian-like cycle of pushing the rock of "copying" up that hill, only to do it over and over and over again -- to the oooohs and aaaaahs of the intoxicating accolades of people who are wowed by what is perceived as sterling perfection of technique.

No, I don't think photorealists or people who use photographs should feel guilty. I adore photorealists like Richard Estes and Audrey Flack, amongst others. Artists have used "optics," as the article stated, for a very long time. Artists have "tricks of the trade" and tools and aren't afraid to use them. Perhaps it is just that photorealism itself has worn out its welcome in the age of Photoshop. Perhaps the artists themselves are tired of it and are afraid to change for fear of losing popular acclaim. Perhaps they are becoming more aware of the inventive movements exploding on the art scene right now and they feel a little backward. Guilt? No.

What do you think?

Friday, March 31, 2006

Kinkade Watch: Apparently He's an "Idol" to the Women Who Sell His Work

...amongst other things.

Here are some notable quotes in the article from the critics. I agree 100%.

The critics on Kinkade

"A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent cosiness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire. The cottages had thatched roofs, and resembled gingerbread houses. The houses were Victorian and resembled idealised bed-and-breakfasts ... "
Joan Didion

"[One painting] features mountains and quiet shadows and the purple cloak of sunset, but it could just as easily have featured a lavishly blooming garden at twilight, or maybe a babbling brook spanned by a quaint stone bridge, or a lighthouse after a storm; it's hard to distinguish one Kinkade from the next because their effect is so unvarying - smooth and warm and romantic, not quite fantastical but not quite real, more of a wishful and inaccurate rendering of what the world looks like, as if painted by someone who hadn't been outside in a long time."
Susan Orlean, the New Yorker

"There's always been starter art, but Kinkade is the lowest form of starter art I've ever seen."
San Francisco gallery owner


What I find most entertaining about Kinkade is his insane ego. These quotes are quite revelatory:

-- "He denied the harassment allegation, but said in a deposition: "You've got to remember, I'm the idol to these women who were there. They sell my work every day, you know. They're enamoured with any attention I would give them. I don't know what kind of flirting they were trying to do with me. I don't recall what was going on that night."

In his email he said that long after "this absurd negativity" had subsided, "I will still be here, sitting in front of my easel, trying my best to share the light."

-- "The No 1 quote critics give me is, 'Thom, your work is irrelevant.' Now, that's a fascinating, fascinating comment. Yes, irrelevant to the little subculture, this microculture, of modern art. But here's the point: My art is relevant because it's relevant to 10 million people. That makes me the most relevant artist in this culture."

Hey Thom, I have a newsflash for you. Modern art is not a subculture NOR a microculture, that is, unless your ego is astronomically big enough to transcend the present time and space and the world revolves around you. Modern art began with Manet (middle of the 1860s), and incidentally, we've been in the Postmodern Art age for almost 40 years now. You might want to catch up. You sell sentimentality and manipulate with false comfort. Art isn't art because it's popular. Art is art because it's significantly reveals the depths of the people of a culture of a specific time and place. People love Precious Moments figurines, Beanie Babies, and paintings-by-numbers, but that doesn't make those things art.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fox News Faux Pas

The morally righteous and upstanding Fox News made yet another among a myriad of communication errors with a recent report on a serial killer--lest we forget that visual art and media are a form of visual COMMUNICATION. Just what is Fox News communicating with this video clip that is lambasted on The Daily Show? They usually offend me on a political level; now I am once again offended on a moral and aesthetic level. Could they have possibly showed a sketch of the suspected killer, pictures of the victims asking if anyone can identify them, crime scene shots of yellow tape, a written verbal description of the man or written, verbal instructions on how to avoid encountering him, or any other possibly related information to the subject at hand? Instead, Fox News chose to show the flesh fair that is Daytona Beach during spring break. I don't think I have to tell anyone the millions of things wrong with this. Someone should explain the concept of juxtaposition to their video editor. Thumbs way down, Fox News--you bastion of innacuracy and moral bankruptcy.

(incidentally, while Fox News pretends to come off morally righteous, they NEVER miss an opportunity to show flesh--it's the typical hypocrisy of the people who show you the flesh and then say, 'look! isn't this disgusting!' It is a ridiculous channel and barely above Star magazine, The National Enquirer, or Inside Edition in terms of being defined as news and possessing any truth whatsoever -- yellow journalism and the tackiest of aesthetics indeed)

Hilarious Commercials

No one dislikes television commercials more than I, but I do appreciate good ones when I see them. Volkswagon has some new ads in which Peter Stormare "unpimps" these hipsters' "rides" and replaces them with Volkswagon GTIs. Watch some of the commercials here.