Friday, August 7, 2009

Wherefore art thou…Art?

Jolie statue by Daniel Edwards As soon as I read one of the AOL headlines this morning about how a nude Angelina Jolie sculpture had created a stir, I thought, "Dan has done it again." Here is a longer article, which includes a video, about his Jolie sculpture.

Sure enough, as soon as I read the article, I saw that the artist was Daniel Edwards. I wrote about Dan way back in May of 2007, when he released his Paris Hilton autopsy sculpture, and I may have written about him even before that, when he did the sculpture of Britney Spears giving birth. I worked with Dan's wife in Indianapolis, and still keep in sporadic touch with them. Of course, when I saw his latest, I had to fire off an email to them. As I wrote in the email, it has to be kind of nice to realize that his work is instantly recognizable!

This got me to thinking. (Uh oh.) What is the nature of Art? Many look at Dan's work and find it obscene or intended to provoke. Personally, I think one of the goals of art is to provoke, but obscenity is in the eye of the beholder. What some would see as obscenity others see as a celebration of life, in which a woman gives birth, or breast feeds her children. My opinion is that a big part of Dan's work is a commentary on our collective obsession with celebrity and the cult of personality. His work does provoke, it does get people talking, and it does get publicity. Seems pretty clever of him to me. He's also an amazing sculptor, isn't he?

Beth art gallery I'm certainly no art connoisseur or art scholar, but I do enjoy reading up on artists and their works, as well as going to galleries. Seeing a work in person has a visual impact that can't be duplicated on the page, and I always enjoy seeing what reaction the artist invokes in me (or in others). I do enjoy modern art, including the colorful chaos of Pollock and Kandinsky, or the commercialism of Warhol. (I think Dan learned a bit about celebrity obsession from Warhol.) Two of my favorites are Edward Hopper and Maxfield Parrish. Parrish for his beautiful art deco-style paintings with that intense blue of evening skies, and Hopper for his vibrant colors contrasting with shadows. Even in the sunniest of Hopper's paintings, there are shadows. Parrish always makes me feel happy, as if I'm one of the women in his paintings, standing on a rock at the edge of a bottomless lake, my thin dress blowing in the gentle wind, looking up at a sky that is rapidly changing from evening to night, the stars shining against the deepening blue. Hopper has the opposite effect on me, inducing a feeling of solitary melancholy. His paintings often show deserted houses and empty chairs; a glimpse into a lighted window; a doorway leading into a house that seems to be unoccupied. Even when there are people in his painting, they are either alone or seem lonely in a crowd. (Think of his most famous painting, Nighthawks, which I'm happy to say I've seen in the Art Institute in Chicago.)

Beth art gallery Warhol Why would anyone want to look at paintings that make them feel melancholy, you ask? It's all part of the human experience. It evokes feelings that are a part of all of us. I also enjoy looking at art that makes me happy, and some that puzzles me. What was the artist thinking when they painted this? What are the people doing in this? If it's a deserted landscape, what happened to the people? Sometimes, especially in modern art, what the hell is that thing? Believe me, I don't see a lot of meaning in Mark Rothko's works, for example, but I do find his techniques and colors interesting.

When I look at art, I don't try to think about what it means; it means different things to different people. I try to think of what it makes me feel. Joy? Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Disgust? Indifference? Of all of those, I would imagine that the latter is the one that most artists never want to induce. All others are fair game.

Congratulations to Dan for never inducing indifference!


  1. I think the phrase, "Beauty is found in the eye of the beholder" works here. Each of us find our own beauty in art. Sadly art and music are the first to be put on the chopping block when they cut school budgets. I often wonder what the next generation would call art, if they were never given the same choices or exposure we had growing up. (Hugs)Indigo

  2. I just finished looking at Daniel's website. I love that he challenges both our senses and sensibilities with his art. Although it's not entirely my style, I applaud his creativity.

  3. Isn't it interesting that the subject isn't the issue (at least with me) but the execution of the work of art- I would like to see more of the children- I do not mind adoption of babies- I was one

  4. I remember seeing this this morning, and it did make me think of the baby poop sculpture. Like you said, recognizable :o)

  5. Beth I think you're in the exact place art is meant to put people. Your art, my art, anyone's. I don't even know what "an artist" truly is, but if something sickens a person viscerally, we look at what doesn't, don't we? Then again, because it's all someone's individual talent (who's to say it isn't) then it all deserves a platform. So I say "Look and let look" ..or not lol. Good post.

  6. P.S> I just realized when clicking for biggery, it has a very Old Kingdom Egyptian look, notice? Interesting, since I doubt anyone would consider those old priceless pieces as anything BUT art. Odd dichotomy.


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