Learning about Art

I’m not a naturally talented person. You should know that going in. I have often described myself as being a jack of all trades when it comes to crafts of various kinds. I am expert at none, but can do most passably well. I have no artistic talent at all. I’m a stick figure kinda girl. I paint from time to time, but it is abstract in nature, and concentrates on what I do love, which is the blending of color. My paintings are attractive only to me, perhaps, but that is okay. I use as much a Spackle putty knife as I do a brush.

I used to watch those guys on PBS who taught painting of landscapes. You know the ones I mean, producing a finished product in 30 minutes. Happy little trees, grew quickly on the canvas from the older German guy. The red-headed afro dude continued. I kinda can do that, but it all seems so false to me, like cheating. I prefer my abstractions as it were.

One of my goals this year was to read a coffee table behemoth call “The History of Art,” by H.W. Janson. It has tons of photos of famous art, and strong writing that I am finding fascinating.  I ‘m actually learning something!

Let me illustrate if I can what exactly I mean. One painting I have seen in various books and online is a Vermeer called “Woman Holding a Balance.” It is an intriguing work for me I so very much enjoy paintings that emphasize light and it’s play on objects.It is located, should you be interested, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.


It is, as you can see, a dark painting, and sadly this representation is darker than most.

If you look carefully, you can see white pearls on the table, and there are also coins upon it. The woman is holding a scale, which is just barely visible in this photograph.

Below you can see a closeup of the hand and the table:

a00011e7The scales are still barely visible, but you can see the light reflecting on the edges and the pearls, and coins stacked next to them. A painting is on the wall behind her. It is a bit more discernible in this photo:

balanceNow, if you were to see this painting in a gallery, you might like it, or not, you might stop and enjoy the beauty of the girl, her serenity, the perfect talent of the painter in painting a beautiful replication of reality.

And like me, you would miss the point of the painting entirely. Which is not to say that what you have discerned is unimportant, but how much more rich is the experience when you understand what is going on here.

The key is the painting in the background. It is a painting of the Last Judgment. Christ is pictured at the top and mankind is below, awaiting individually their fate.

We are told the woman is wealthy. Experts tell us that, by the clothing she is wearing. Fur trimming was not the clothing of the poor. Before her on the table are what most of us would consider wealthy reminders–pearls and money. Rich material in blue,  is also laying to the extreme left, which can barely be seen.

Art experts seem more or less in agreement that the woman is contemplating the state of wealth versus the chance of salvation. Storing up riches on earth we all understand gets us no where with God. The serenity of the woman seems to suggest that she is aware of the temptation and is not impressed with the wealth. She is confident of her place and future.

Thus, the painting serves to remind us that we must weigh carefully our accumulation of riches against what will come at the end, the Final Judgment. We should, it urges live lives of moderation and be sure that we are in “balance.”

My point here is only that there is a wealth of information that we don’t have when we visit most museums. We scurry through the various galleries, hoping to see as much as possible during our limited stay. In truth, we gain little from the exercise since the background of most works of art are simply unknown to us.

Surely it doesn’t mean that we must conduct an Internet investigation of every piece of art we see to understand the details and meaning. And truth be told, critics are not always in agreement, nor are they always right. In the end, one’s own opinion is what matters. Yet it is inescapable that we can appreciate the art much more deeply if we know these details.

If you have pieces of art that you return to again and again at a gallery or museum that you visit, I would suggest that it would be worth your while to do some research on it. You may find that there is a good deal more to the piece than you thought. If nothing else, it will definitely impress your co-workers and friends!

It’s just something I learned the other day and thought I’d pass along.

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Herreeee’s Brandy!

I thought I would submit a picture of our intrepid Brandy today with a caption that fits her well. Next to riding in her truck, sleeping is her favorite. Oh, well next to eating of course. Since she is getting a bit older, we cover the loveseat and let them enjoy a softer bed than they would get lying on the floor. Her and Bear trade off sleeping on the loveseat with sleeping on a double sized pillow on the floor.

The process for doing the captions is from http://icanhascheezburger.com/. You can recaption any photo there, take any you like as is, or download any picture you wish and caption it. All you need do is sign up and login. I submitted this for their site, but I have no idea whether they will think it worthy of posting to their blog. It’s a fun place with some hysterical pics though.

Sky Watch #4

I just really loved this picture taken by the Contrarian. He really got a great shot and I love the raying out at the bottom. The red was vibrant. This next one was taken a bit later after the sun had departed over the horizon.

I hope you enjoy these, and I’m off to visit some more of yours too! If you would like to see more great photos,  please visit Sky Watch  today!

Sky Watch #3

I took this facing East down the lane, kneeling and tilting up a bit through some newly flowering goldenrod, harbinger of late summer. I really liked the raying of the sun and the distortion in light to the right. I’m sure a professional would think it quite a lousy picture, but I have the joy of being a total amateur and can find beautiful what I wish!

This was taken almost exactly twelve hours later facing West. I love the colors, especially the deep purpling of the higher sky. Hope you enjoyed them.

If you would like to see a lot more great pics, many from people who are really professional in their abilities, please go to SkyWatch.

Some People Just Stay in Your Head

Janis Joplin 1960's by F. Scavullo

Janis Joplin 1960

The 1960 is wrong here, for some reason the upload cut off the rest which was 1960’s by F. Scavullo.

I don’t know why Janis always stays with me. I still feel sad when I see a picture of her. Her voice was magic to me, so gravely and so real. I loved her music. I feel sad about her life. So much was wasted in the excess of drug usage in the 60’s. So many lost.

I fill similarly about Freddie Mercury from Queen. He died of AIDS back when most everyone did. I thought him so enormously talented and I loved Queen’s music. So very different from most others.

I recall she was an outcast in her teen years in high school. She got her revenge is some sense by her mercurial rise to fame. Yet in the end, she lost, because she lost her life to drugs and alcohol.

I guess mostly I respect those who are different and don’t care what anyone thinks. Not all of course. I like Madonna and like her “in your face” style. Yet I think she is probably a good mother, at least it appears that way. But then, how can I possibly know. She may be horrid.

That’s often the case, as we learn after the fact, after the fall, the disgrace or the death. The “good” were actually horrid, the bad, perhaps not as bad as we imagined. In the Hollywood days, much of this was covered up, the drugs, the drinking, the homosexuality. Pretense ruled the day. And these folks were not pretenders whatever else they may have been.

Oh, hypocrisy still reigns of course. And we are captured by all the glitz and money and bling. And we do our part to perpetuate their need to lie and pretend all the more. The English seem to get this better than we do. Actors and actresses there don’t seem to be overly adored or followed. They are treated as regular folks which they are. Only here do we turn entertainers, whatever the craft, into supermen and women, beings that don’t breathe and eat and sleep as we do.

It’s a shame all right. We destroy them. If we treated them as humans, they might act humanly. Instead we treat them as alien super beings. They end up believing they are, and self-destruct all to often. Why do we destroy what we put up on pedestals?

Worse are the ones we elevate while young. We are a pesky, flighty people, and we tire quickly. We discard these kids and many spend years in therapy trying to figure out why nobody cares any more, and more money and years trying to figure out a way to recapture the audience. But we have moved on. We always do. We do it faster and faster. Britney Spears is old news. Her fleeting moment has come and probably gone for good. American Idol tells us that new pop singers are only a audition away. A new one always waiting in the wings.

That was not so, so much in Janis’s time. Our rock icons were solidly in place and her untimely death froze her for all time as just that, icon of the 60’s. No demotion for her, no getting pushed aside for the new kid on the block. Perhaps that is her final victory. She will always be remembered, while Britney and Paris and those of that ilk fade by 30, pushed aside by the latest crop of phenoms.

It’s rather nice to remember that Janis was unique, a not replaceable rocker. Tina Turner, Diana Ross, a whole cadre of others were just something special. I’m not sure if anyone can be special any more today. Special that is for more than a few years. I’m not sure. Something to ponder I guess. Are our heroes and icons nothing but paper today? Is the stage simply too crowded for anyone to become that unique one-of-a-kind STAR?  Who knows, I surely don’t. I just know that I still feel sad when I think of Janis.

Sky Watch #2

Well, yesterday the sun was mostly absent in the sky, and toward evening, the sky darkened quite badly and a thunder boomer sounded now and again and at least one sharp lightening stab arced through the sky.

This first photo was taken facing southeast across the fields, part way down our lane to the road. I found it odd that the pink would be present here where there was no light at all to the north and west.

Going north back up to the top of the hill, I faced to the west and a bit south and captured these lovely storm clouds.

Your looking a the skies over East Central Iowa a bit after 8 pm. If you would like to see more pictures of the sky worldwide, please drop by: SkyWatch.

Of Beauty and Neglect

This breathtaking photograph was done by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1947 and is named “Trees in Snow, St. Moritz.”

I know it’s out of season, but I couldn’t resist it. It is the type of photo and the type of landscape that simply mesmerizes me. The starkness of the black on white, the wonderful whorled angles of the branches, and the sharp contrast between shadow and light all play together in a beauty that only a God could create.

Why is it that trees are more dramatic when leafless? They seem that way to me anyway, I guess because only in the winter can you see the incredible play of nature on the shape and twining of the branches. Each was shaped along it’s length by wind and weather. A brush against a limb here, and a branch recoils and goes around, up or away from the other. I can’t tell from this photo whether this was an unexpected snow or not. The tree seems to have some foliage, albeit it is covered.

Not apropos of this certainly, but as I was sitting at the top of my hill this morning, nearing the end of my walk, I pondered the insects traveling around me. I can get quite immersed in them some days. They seem entirely purposeful, yet if you watch, they often retrace, double back and otherwise move in ways that suggest random movement. I wonder as I watch the many centipedal ones, are they the ones I saw yesterday?

This always brings me to the remembrance of times I have laid flat on the ground, (even as a an adult, I might say) and looked at the world of the small. It is a busy place indeed. Lots of ants and other small insects too small to be seen from a standing or sitting position, suddenly appear and you realize that another world is going on here, one that we barely know of. A similar experience occurs in later summer, now approaching, when the night is a cacophony of sound. Another whole living is going on at night while we sleep.

What always seems incongruous to me is that for their size, most of these little animals seem to move great distances in a short time. I wish I could. And of course, I realize that I must every day, kill so many just walking around. Of this I am largely unaware. I am aware of course of killing mosquitoes with a vengeance and I have a war on flies too. I kill them quite gleefully and with great satisfaction. “There you go, you torturer!” I exclaim, as I deal the coup de grace with swatter or hand. And I don’t feel the least bit merciful either. But the little ones, who don’t bother me and I kill inadvertently, those I feel bad about.

The same is true to one degree or another about other reptilian things. I mourn not the frog or toad, the snake or other “other” animal that dies at the hands of my dogs or cats. I mourn the rabbit and squirrel, the coon and woodchuck that does however. Furriness makes a difference, and I don’t know why that is so, but I know that it is. I carry this over to nature shows. I don’t mind seeing the fish being eaten by a larger predator, but I bemoan the poor seal killed by the orca. I turn away as the lioness takes down the gazelle.

It has something to do with big eyes I think, which remind us of human babies? Is that a good enough reason to make this distinction in my empathy? I think not, but I do it anyhow. I have only so much energy to expend in improving myself as a human. Better to keep working on not wanting to physically throttle fundamentalists or other “wrong” thinking people, no time to reform my attitude about reptiles today.

If you are wondering what this has to do with the tree pictured above, the answer is nothing. It’s my blog and I’ll digress if I want to. So there. I can neglect logic if I choose, and you can just reform your attitude if you don’t like it!! Well, I’m having a lovely day, and I hope you are too. See ya!