Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Although I cannot say that I get that sort of Grand Canyon "O" from this (as an aside, to paraphrase the poet Robert Hass: "Oh" is what you say when you find out something bad happened and "O" is what you say when you are in the presence of something awe-inspiring, and the latter sounds more like an "uh" than an "oh"), I find myself thinking about this American Apparel spoof often. This woman is secure enough in her body and sexuality to get disrobed just like those "amateur" American Apparel models do. She is being both funny, critical, and sexy all at once, and I find that ridiculously beautiful.
I found that Amy Schakleton's artwork complements our class discussion on beautiful artwork and how the individual need not have an exact concept in mind to create a stunning work of art. With Schakleton paints without a paintbrush and uses a "calculated yet spontaneous technique," to drip paint down her canvases. Her artwork reminds me of the tall painting posted earlier on the blog, and how both works of art rely on skill, gravity, and coincidence, which I find particularly admirable and daring. I think her artwork is a testimony to how the form of the artwork is not constrained to arbitrary rules, but acts as if it were a result of nature.
This is Tissot's painting of Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, "the strongest man in England" and, by all accounts, a generally sporting guy. A few anecdotal remarks will serve: he once carried two ponies into Windsor castle, one under each arm, as a prank; at parties, he used to vault billiard tables and tie fire-pokers into knots with his bare hands; he made a 1,000 mile journey alone into Russia on horseback. You get the picture, I'm sure. Does all this, fascinating as it may be, have anything to do with the success of Tissot's painting? Is the painting beautiful, or have I been charmed? More broadly, to what extent should this kind of information factor in to an evaluation of Beauty?
This photo is in William Eggleston’s collection Los Alamos. In many of his photos, the faces of the subjects are hidden or cut off. The interesting thing is that the hairstyle, the pearls, and the cigarettes are used to show the character of the faceless subject. The head, which is blocking another head, stands out against the red brick wall in the background.
I won't go into great detail about the plot of The Piano, but I find this scene in particular very charming. After the main character is sold into a marriage, she is shipped with her daughter and all of their belongings to the coast of New Zealand where she is to meet her husband, a frontiersman. The one possession that can't (in the beginning, at least) be taken is her piano, as it's too heavy for his crew to carry inland to where they've settled. To me, what is beautiful about this moment is the urgent desire to be reunited with an object that allows her to be able to produce her art. She spends hours at a time playing and eventually goes to extreme measures to win her piano back. I can't help but admire the fact that this scene contests the notion that art is a complete waste of time. No one needs to paint a painting, take a photograph, or play the piano, but there is still something necessary about the production of art to the subsistence of the artist.
Sitting around a fire is something people have been doing for almost as long as there have been people. I find this impressive, though it may not necessarily add to the beauty of a fire, which I will elaborate here. I find that I am enchanted by the way the flames change color and shape, how they seem to dance and then send up sparks like hundreds of fireflies, and then disappear. I love the sound a fire makes when it crackles, and I adore the smell of wood smoke (most wood smoke). It's not just the fire itself that is beautiful, but the moments that happen around the fire, be it in a fireplace, or a pit outside. When you sit around it with your friends and you're so close you feel as though your eyelashes must have singed off by now, and then you lean back or look up and it feels as though you're now facing an Arctic breeze (and you realize that your eyelashes are indeed still there). There is just so much fun that accompanies sitting socially around a fire: singing, laughing, and even s'mores! And who can object to the idea of sitting around a fireplace, huddled up in an especially warm blanket, reading a good book and sipping hot cocoa? I am attaching a picture of a small fire to enhance my post, but I would like to point out once more that it is more than just the look of the fire (especially in one single moment) that I find beautiful.
is they spear filets
of tiny fish from their bowls
and laugh at the ceiling
how lonely this is, the night
has already fallen on the hills
and the vineyards where
the night is bottled but
the light won't go out
the family of man gathers
at the river to drink in
the dusk and accordions
kicking up the dust, the girls
pop champagne into the trees
and the heaviness parts
the waves--oh this is why
the Romans gave up
and died--the lamp
of hope burns even
though I cannot move
my arms and legs, the sun
is gone but not the day
This is a part of the poem "At the Deux Magots" by Matthew Rohrer. I could attempt to dissect what the poem is doing and how that contributes to my experience of beauty (perhaps the use of vivid imagery followed by logical yet jarring jumps to general statements about human feeling or condition), but I find the space of understanding just before reaching definable ideas much more beautiful. If I could replicate or express well the experience that the poem produces, I would be accomplishing what the poem does and so the poem couldn't be very successful.
This poem, and others by Rohrer, feel like Kant's notion of genius and ease in production. There are concepts and structure and techniques, but the reader feels as if the poem came effortlessly and none of the mechanics of production are at the forefront, and also as if the poet himself doesn't really know how he did what he did. Each time I read this poem I experience the same thing, something almost palpable, a physical space I occupy dependent on the poem and yet separate--testament to the beauty and enduring power of the lines.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
By Yehuda Amichai
It is not often that I find older poets who speak against religion, especially in such a beautiful way. The last five lines of the middle stanza do not need to be analyzed to be breathtaking, which is what I often find I like about poems. This poem holds up whether I read it for imagery and the play of words or if I read it for deeper meaning. That is why I find it beautiful.
I stumbled upon this artist a couple days ago and I completely admired her work. Usually artists paint their viewpoints or "imitations" of objects onto a canvas. However, Alexa Meade paints directly onto her subject. Her process of accentuating what's already naturally beautiful of that person is something i've never seen before. What's also cool is that her pictures look like 2D paintings, when in reality everything is 3D. Her work makes you think that it's a painting, but in reality it's a photograph of a 3D scene where people or food are her canvas.
This blog has tons of pictures of her artwork (check out specifically the third and second to last pictures if you want to be mind blown :D) http://slices-of-life.com/2011/09/09/alexa-meade-live-acrylic-paintings/
|High waving heather, 'neath stormy blasts bending,|
Midnight and moonlight and bright shining stars;
Darkness and glory rejoicingly blending,
Earth rising to heaven and heaven descending,
Man's spirit away from its drear dongeon sending,
Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.
All down the mountain sides, wild forest lending
Shining and lowering and swelling and dying,
Phoebe - That isn't anything really!
Holden - It is so something really!
Every writer we've read so far has mentioned female beauty (for our purposes, let's say physical beauty generally, without being sex/gender specific). But how do we distinguish between beauty and sexual attraction? This is Jessica Chastain, who I'm inclined to say is beautiful. It may be, however, that my own preferences are at play to a greater extent than I realize. I think it's much harder to determine disinterest in relation to people than works of art or Nature (obviously people are Nature, but you know what I mean).
As a practitioner of the Art Nouveau style, much of Klimt’s work attempts to imitate natural forms, often through asymmetrical lines and flowing curves. The evocative and sensuous quality of Water Serpents II is unmistakable, but is the world of this painting exclusive or inviting? In a way, formal elements can work to promote the content or potential implications of the painting as a whole. What I find most compelling then is the method by which form (especially one originating from nature) is translated to such modes as symbolism and eroticism.
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
This excerpt--the end of Wallace Stevens' "Sunday Morning"--is striking, mysterious, lingering, and beautiful. In a Kantian sense, the reader is gaining pleasure from evaluating the free play of the imagination (with Stevens' metaphors, images, and leaps) in conjunction with understanding. The imagination's representations (attributes and ideas in the poem) extend beyond a single, definable concept or theme, and are ineffable, yet the reader maintains some understanding. There is the notion that one or many concepts are being elaborated upon, and in attempting to follow the poem's network of images and its conflicting pastoral and menacing lines in relation to some concept, the reader experiences beauty. Stevens even said himself in his poem "Man Carrying Thing," "The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully."
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
This poem by James Wright very well condenses and presents the pastoral, sensual experience, slightly askew and renewed by individual perception. However, what I think makes this poem beautiful is not necessarily the natural images or sense of place, but its ability to transport the reader past physicality into the speaker's psychic relation to it. That is primary. This poem is much more about internal movement than external or sensual existence.
While I was at work yesterday, I was lucky enough to watch an open heart surgery. At first, it was a little gross to watch the surgeons cut someone open since there was a lot of blood flowing everywhere, and I could see the actual heart pumping. But after a while, I saw it as very beautiful. Watching this surgery transformed a lot of biology concepts that i've learned from abstract to concrete, and it made me appreciate the human body so much more and find it more beautiful. Also, the surgery's process was so perfectly organized, and it went so smoothly that i found the process to be beautiful in itself. Finally, the fact that humans have the ability to understand how the body works and save one another is another beautiful concept to me.
I would have loved to take a video of the surgery from yesterday, but I wasn't allowed to due to privacy rules. So I found a youtube link that shows about people's opinions of open heart surgery and some footage of doctors performing an open heart surgery. Take a look if you like!
“Those who look for the laws of Nature as a support for their new works collaborate with the creator.”
Gaudi's eye for design reminds me of Kant's notion that humans are drawn towards rounder objects like spheres and cylinders, rather than amazed at sharp geometrical lines. The contours of this building are clearly rounder and more fluid than what we think when we picture balconies or apartment styles. By drawing upon the design and the forms we find in nature, Gaudi captures the beautiful a spectacular way.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
This picture reminds me of creating a childhood tent of couch pillows and sheets and hiding there until I am found. At the same time, this picture potentially speaks of intense poverty, loneliness, and despair. This tension between innocence and sorrow is what I eventually locate as beautiful in this picture, though I think I was originally struck by the light and shadow, the curves and lines, and the child. Like in the last few seconds of a dream when your mind pieces it all together, I think our minds create some sort of instant narrative (even from abstraction) the moment we see something.
I am not one to listen to classical music, usually....because I feel that I lack the understanding that is required to truly appreciate it. However, this is one of my favorite musical pieces of all time. I find that the switches in rhythm and mood are unexpected, yet completely in harmony with the rest of the piece. I think is one of those things that I find incredibly beautiful, but can't quite explain why...it just is. (The skating in the video is pretty amazing, too.)
Joseph Marioni, or self-referentially, “The Painter,” is known for his works that consist of multiple layers of acrylic paint. I like how they offer the possibility of disparate experiences. From a distance, they appear to be solid, monochromatic blocks of color, sometimes with slight shifts or gradations. Moving in closer, cracks and runs due to gravity are apparent, and, more strikingly, coats of colors that differ completely from the collective result become visible. Aside from technicalities, I’m interested in the questions Marioni’s work raises. What do these pieces want, or what kind of responses do they (or should they) provoke? Are they grasping at some unadulterated or fundamental form of what it means for a painting to be a painting? How do we judge a work that has, in its elemental respect, a subject founded on pure incorporeality, simply providing an interaction between colors and light for our eyes?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
I remember coming across this video several months ago, and when I thinking about what is beautiful, I had to return to it. Although this video is quite simplistic with its depiction of a jello cube in slow motion when dropped and flicked, I am awestruck at instances when the cube looks like a dancing curtain of red silk as it takes on different forms. Simply dropping a jello cube in real time probably couldn't conjure the concept of beauty in someone's mind, but a slow-moving, morphing piece of gelatin accompanied to classical music sure could.
This is a still from the show Breaking Bad. Only a moment in one episode of the series, it is able to capture many of the main ideas explored in the show. The men standing in a similar pose forces the viewer to make comparisons between the two characters. They both are focused only on one another, ignoring the natural vastness around them that is highlighted by this long shot. Many elements in this frame are interesting: how we only see a profile of each character, the lightness surrounding them, the way they mirror each other, the slight differences in clothing highlighting their similarities, and the gap that is between them.
This sculpture by Charles Ray strikes me as being a really good example of Kantian Beauty. It's all about internal, formal relations. The obvious antecedent in Rodin's Burghers of Calais, and there is a similar tension between the openness and closed-ness of the figural program. Even the sexuality makes no appeal to the viewer - it's masturbatory, i.e. self-contained.