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April 30, 2010

Decency

ShrinkWrapped has some interesting observations on the current state of "Art-with-a-capital-A":

The "artist" used her mother's body for her own purposes, to help herself feel better. In our idiotically therapeutic age, such an excuse allows anything, no matter how foolish or misguided. This is the use of a body as a commodity.

In a purely material sense, there can be nothing so immanent as a soul, so there is minimal distinction between the animate and inanimate body. (Note that the painting gave her "something to do ... and a reason to be with her.") The "artist's" denial only breaks down when the decomposition advances far enough to be "uncomfortable."

Art has long since become decadent. We celebrate those artists who shock and "transgress." The aim of art is no longer to bring beauty or illuminate the presence of the divine but has become purely hedonic and visceral.

This is what bothered me so deeply about the Dover debate (not to mention the serial brouhahas over photojournalists "capturing" a dying soldier's or Marine's final moments on film). Those who saw nothing wrong with this often voiced what to me is an incredibly disturbing idea: "The military gets paid with our tax dollars, so we have a 'right' to watch them die."

Excuse me, but no you do not. You don't have a 'right' to see them shower or defecate when they're on duty either. There are some things that ought to be private.

None of us exists for the benefit of others. That's an important point.

One of the most disturbing aspects of having your husband leave for a long deployment is The Talk. Most of us have had it more than once. The Talk is when you sit your spouse down and say, "Damnitall, I know you don't want to talk about this and frankly neither do I. But I need to know what your wishes are in the case of death/dismemberment/coma/brain damage." I need to know what to do if all that is left of you is a hollow shell - if what makes you, "you" goes away?

Yes, I realize that if any of these things happen, you won't be conscious enough - or even aware of anything at all - to care what I decide. And it would be so easy just do what I want: keep you alive and bedridden for years. Make myself feel better at your expense.

But the thing is, it isn't about me. I made a promise and I will abide by it no matter what. But I need to know what you want. What your wishes are.

I wonder what this woman's mother would have said if she'd known her daughter was going to turn her death into an art project? It's hard to believe that that is how she would wish to be remembered by the world: as a discarded wrapper. But who knows? Maybe she would have been OK with it. But if there's any doubt - any doubt at all - shouldn't we err on the side of caution?

Years ago I sat in a silent room once and watched someone die.

I heard his last breath. It was a very long time before the images stopped haunting me. I always felt that perhaps I should not have witnessed that. It seemed such a trespass against his dignity - an offense against the man I had known. I felt as though I had invaded his privacy when he was helpless.

I can't imagine painting a picture of his body as it slowly began to decay. There aren't many things that shock me anymore. This does.

Posted by Cassandra at April 30, 2010 04:54 PM

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Comments

Death is a sacred thing. I know it doesn't always get the dignity it should have, but even the manner of passing is not a cause for a feeding frenzy by the media or artists.

It happens as a part of life. It is a birth. When we finally got to see 'Taking Chance,' I cried my eyes out. It wasn't the pomp or the circumstance of the military, but an escort, taking the remains of a Marine to his parents.

Someone to be with them. When he bedded down in the hangar, I lost it. This was not some morbid thing, but a noble task. I thought of the knights who held all night vigils...this was no different to me.

Cassandra, who better than someone who knew him and would treat him with dignity? You robbed him of nothing.

But I agree with you about the shock factor. That is....sick.

Posted by: Cricket at April 30, 2010 05:40 PM

"The military gets paid with our tax dollars, so we have a 'right' to watch them die."

Those tax dollars give the right to be protected from the enemy -- period.

No one has the *right* to watch someone die -- it is, if anything, a privilege. You have the honor to be present at the ultimate, private meeting of Created with Creator.

Posted by: BillT at April 30, 2010 06:02 PM

I wonder what this woman's mother would have said if she'd known her daughter was going to turn her death into an art project? It's hard to believe that that is how she would wish to be remembered by the world: as a discarded wrapper. But who knows? Maybe she would have been OK with it. But if there's any doubt - any doubt at all - shouldn't we err on the side of caution?

Point (1): The artist had painted a series of portraits of her mother throughout her life, and with respect to this particular portrait, it was expressly reported that it was done with the mother's permission.
Point (2): "Art" has long been done for many reasons, and among the effects that have been intended by artists is that of "shocking". This is not particularly a contemporary phenomenon.
Point (3): Would that BP be in the news solely because of this competition. Talk about "shocking", and true decadence worth writing about. Our poor, poor Gulf.

Posted by: pond at April 30, 2010 07:53 PM

...with respect to this particular portrait, it was expressly reported that it was done with the mother's permission.

I read the entire article, pond. It is not exactly unknown for people not to be themselves when they are dying. What I wondered was whether she understood what she was agreeing to, or the effect on other family members.

She essentially starved herself to death:

The artist admitted that her daughter and brother – he has never seen the picture and is unlikely to do so – were "upset" and "uncomfortable" at the work.

And what does BP have to do with Art?

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 10:34 PM

Bizarre.


I've helped at a birth, held hands at deaths. Didn't take pictures of either. Just didn't seem appropriate (at some of the deaths, I had a camera with me, and was even a news person.) There's a part of me that says the artist was "just doing a final image", and another part that says "insane!"

Posted by: htom at April 30, 2010 10:44 PM

There is another way of looking at this.

We might ask ourselves whether this strong desire to cloak death with privacy is about protecting ourselves, rather than the dying -- who are, after all, at the point beyond which such vanities no longer matter to them; where all will soon be laid bare, and judgment may follow.

It may be, in other words, that we are afraid to look at the thing. The shock of seeing death is the shock of being forced outside the walls we build inside which we are comfortable; but the world lives outside those walls. At the last, someone will knock on the door to those walls, and lead us also outside them whether we wish to go or not.

There is a tradition in Zen Buddhism of writing a death poem, and I own a collection of such poems by Samurai and Zen monks. They are remarkable reading, and ought to engender a deep sympathy for our fellow man. There was also an artistic tradition in Medieval Europe under the heading memento mori, "Remember Death!", which was thought to have spiritual benefits. This artist, too, is treating death as a part of the human condition: and it is part, as much as we might wish it away.

I certainly understand the sharp reaction people may have to this artist, but she is doing what artist are supposed to do: walking beyond the walls. I don't blame you for not wanting to follow her; but there are reasons for an artist to do what she is doing. Indeed, if she is a good artist, she may even be driven to do it whether she wants to or not. The death of her mother, whom she plainly loved, may be a truth she cannot turn away from until she has grasped it according to her art.

If so, you might pity her. It is not an easy thing to be driven in such a way.

Posted by: Grim at April 30, 2010 10:50 PM

I read the entire article, pond. It is not exactly unknown for people not to be themselves when they are dying. What I wondered was whether she understood what she was agreeing to, or the effect on other family members.

You gave no indication in your initial post of having read it closely. Nor do you now.

Indeed, your presently enunciated position is rather astonishing. You seriously would have me and others believe that in your initial post you were taking it as given that the mother had (nominally) granted her permission for the portrait? Without mentioning that fact? And in using the language that you did? And that what you were really musing on about was "whether she understood what she was agreeing to . . ." ?

Astonishing. In and of itself, but particularly so when the Independent piece also reported that the mother was compos mentis up til the end.

As to your final question (and further on the subject of your "reading" skills, as it turns out), the competition in question is called the "BP Portrait Award".

Posted by: pond at April 30, 2010 11:03 PM

I closed my father's eyes. I'll never be afraid of seeing a dead body again. But I won't be exploiting one for an edgy thrill, either. He was my father, not my toy.

A death vigil makes sense to me. The moment shouldn't go unmarked, if we have some warning and can be there.

Posted by: Texan99 at April 30, 2010 11:03 PM

Grim, I don't see any similarity between writing a death poem and painting a picture of a woman's body after her spirit has left her body.

I suppose one could write a poem about a corpse but don't you think it more common that one would write about the person - that intangible spirit rather than the outer shell?

Writing a death poem doesn't seem the same - at least in ones I've seen the author writes about how the death has affected him - about loss - or he writes about the person who has died. Both involve contemplation of who the person was, while alive. After all, we are less likely to write a death poem about someone we have no attachment to.

I don't have a problem with "death being part of the human condition" - of course it is. As a matter of fact, I've always thought that sometimes we try too hard to stay alive at any cost. That is, of course, the decision of the person who is dying (or it should be). It doesn't seem odd to me that a person might - especially at the end of life, when everyone one knew as a young person has gone ahead - simply decide it is time to go. It seems sensible and natural to me.

I don't condemn this woman for painting her mother.

I do have trouble understanding why such a person couldn't understand how upsetting such a thing might be for other family members? This is tied to the journalism thing. I don't think these folks understand the natural reaction, when you've lost someone, to look everywhere for reminders: signs that person once walked the earth, or that others remember him or her.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 11:15 PM

Well, I don't know if she has trouble understanding that it's upsetting for her family members; but she clearly was going to do it whether or not it was upsetting for them. That's why I wonder if she is driven, as artists can be.

Some time ago, I posted a piece about an artist who had gone to a hospice, where she had photographed and interviewed dying patients. After they died, she came back and photographed them again. All this was with their permission, and she told their stories: this one joyful in spite of death, this one furious and bitter, that one tired.

I found the photo essay, accompanied by the interviews, to be illuminating and respectful. But when I posted it, many of my readers were deeply upset and furious about it. They felt that photographing the deceased was unacceptable, even though it was done with complete permission and what struck me as great respect for their lives and stories. Indeed, none of them were treated otherwise than as people struck by the tragedy of death; sometimes it was terrible to consider, given their relative youth.

Yet the world made this, not us; the artist was only asking us to look at it full in the face. I can understand why people would not want to do that. It's harder for me to see it as wrong.

Truth and beauty are what art is for. Death is true, but not beautiful. Perhaps that is why it is so troubling in art: it fully satisfies the one directive, but can do nothing to satisfy the other.

Posted by: Grim at April 30, 2010 11:24 PM

pond:

I assure you I do know how to read :p

The artist said her mother was compos mentis up until the end. But according to the article, she wasn't with her mother the last two weeks - she had to "rush to her bedside" when word came that she was going. So how does she know?

You seriously would have me and others believe that in your initial post you were taking it as given that the mother had (nominally) granted her permission for the portrait? Without mentioning that fact? And in using the language that you did?

No, that is not what I said at all. I asked a question. Asking a question is not "taking something as given". It is asking a question.

You are free to believe whatever you wish. It seems important to you to prove that I am lying. I am not going to try to convince you otherwise because it appears you have already made up your mind on that score. I do wonder why you would bother reading anything I write if you think that, but that's your lookout. I read people I disagree with all the time, but if I think they are dishonest then there's no point in reading what they have to say.

As to the "BP part", I simply did not make the connection. You can choose to be nasty and insulting, or you might possibly reflect on the fact that the name of the competition didn't seem important to me. It doesn't touch on anything in the post.

And so I didn't pick up on it.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 11:29 PM

One other thing I found illuminating about the photo essay: it reminded me of the degree to which death leaves the body empty.

It is not merely that the body does not work any more. It is not, in other words, as if the body could have its power restored by some miracle of medicine, and the person arise anew. The photographs show that the body has been vacated; the spirit is gone.

This is one of our oldest intuitions, and one most under attack by modern neuropsychology. Yet, if you read the Iliad, you find that the ancient Greeks felt as we do: that the spirit leaves the body at death, that they are not the same.

I believe that in time science will discover that its current lines of inquiry are wrong. That intuition is rooted, not on science, but on art: and on experience, alas, of looking things full in the face.

Posted by: Grim at April 30, 2010 11:29 PM

Well, I don't know if she has trouble understanding that it's upsetting for her family members; but she clearly was going to do it whether or not it was upsetting for them.

I think that's what I find incomprehensible, Grim. The only way I can explain it to myself is to think she didn't really understand (and that her mother didn't understand). But maybe I'm substituting my values for theirs. I just know I couldn't do something like that.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 11:30 PM

I could agree with you Grim, and do in the more general sense. But in this particular instance, not so much. She lost that Zen quality, for lack of a better definition, as reasoning when she entered the picture into a competion. She didn't do it for any altruistic reason. She did it for profit, whether it be financial or attention.

If she was really there for the emotional reasoning, she could have done that picture in any of the weeks or days leading up to her mother's death.

Posted by: tankerswife at April 30, 2010 11:31 PM

I think I would have found it easier to understand if she had painted the picture for herself and kept it private.

I'm not saying she had to do so because of course I have no control over her actions, nor should I. I'm just saying I would have found it easier to understand, and less troubling.

It does seem very weird to me to enter such a private thing into a competition, but a lot of people don't consider anything private. I just can't help feeling for the rest of the family.

Grief is a difficult enough thing to get through. I just cannot fathom doing something that might inflict additional pain on others at such a time.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 11:38 PM

A death vigil makes sense to me. The moment shouldn't go unmarked, if we have some warning and can be there.

That is why I stayed. I think I might have felt less conflicted about it if the person in question hadn't been such a private person. I don't know that I would feel that way if it had been someone I was very close to. Anyway, that's as much as I can talk about it.

I was surprised at the way it affected me. That's part of my discomfort here - we don't know how grief will affect us.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 11:41 PM

One other thing I found illuminating about the photo essay: it reminded me of the degree to which death leaves the body empty.

The vet let me hold Sausage when he put him to sleep. Maybe my mind was playing tricks on me, but one moment he was there in my arms and suddenly I knew that he was gone. Nothing really changed, but I knew I wasn't holding him anymore but only what was left behind.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 30, 2010 11:45 PM

There you are.

You need a new dog, I can see. I have one I'd give away cheap...

...no, that's not true. My knucklehead dog is the best dog I've ever owned, in terms of behavior. Not the smartest dog I've owned, but he really wants to be good. He just isn't quite smart enough.

Posted by: Grim at April 30, 2010 11:55 PM

Cassandra wrote:

pond:

I assure you I do know how to read :p

The artist said her mother was compos mentis up until the end. But according to the article, she wasn't with her mother the last two weeks - she had to "rush to her bedside" when word came that she was going. So how does she know?

First off, I agree that it is unlikely to be profitable to speak more on the subject of your "lying" vel non. The facts are pretty clear, whatever conclusions they may naturally lead to.

As to your reading abilities (and the italicized material, above) the facts are likewise pretty clear. And you are manifestly wrong in stating that the article has the artist being away from her mother for two weeks prior to the latter's death. Now, it may be the case that that state of affairs is true, but (from what one can gather from the article) one is no more justified in concluding that than one would be to conclude that the daughter and her mother last visited together at 4:17 p.m., the day before the mother died. (Indeed, given that the daughter recounted that her mom was fully possessed until the end, the available evidence probably favors the latter over the former, as being closer to the truth of the matter - i.e. assuming the daughter wasn't lying or speaking rubbish(ly).)

Posted by: pond at April 30, 2010 11:56 PM

In my last post above, the following was meant to be italicized, at the outset of the post (it was in the preview, but not the post itself)

pond:I assure you I do know how to read :p
The artist said her mother was compos mentis up until the end. But according to the article, she wasn't with her mother the last two weeks - she had to "rush to her bedside" when word came that she was going. So how does she know?

[Hopefully it is italicized here!}

Posted by: pond at May 1, 2010 12:01 AM

When I lost my Cat, Sophia, three years ago, I knew she wasn't doing well. I had taken her to the vet for a sore that had developed on her side. They did surgery to remove it - cancer from the injected vaccines all those years - and she was doing better for a few days. Then, she stopped eating. I took her to the vet again. They gave her an IV to hydrate her and prescribed something to stimulate her appetite. What they didn't say is that it was also a sedative. She died in my arms, as I had her next to me in my bed. Her death woke me - something had changed, and I knew she was gone. It broke my heart: Sophia wasn't "just a cat", she was family. Mom took me to the vet with her. I'm not one to keep my dead pet's ashes, but they also offered to do a paw print in clay. Once I am settled in someplace on a more permanent basis, I will display that memento along with my favorite image of her: lounging the the evening primrose on a sunny day in the backyard.

As for human death, I don't deal well with it. I've not lost anyone particularly close to me. My grandfather passed when I was in college. I couldn't go up to the open casket at the funeral. My Oma was more recently, in 2003. I did manage to go up to the casket, but I couldn't linger. When my aunt was dying of cancer, I couldn't go see her. I know that was - in some people's opinion - a selfish thing to do, but I couldn't bring myself to see what the cancer had done to her. I'm sure there will come a time when I can face death more bravely. All this being said, I couldn't expose something that is so deeply personal - we all deal with it differently - in such a public fashion as an art contest....

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at May 1, 2010 12:09 AM

pond:

There are a number of things we do not know. We do not know if the mother understood how her picture was going to be used (ie., in a competition), for one. And we do not know exactly what the sequence of events was, or when the mother was asked and what her state of mind was at that time.

You have decided to assume that everything was fully understood, and you are certainly within your rights to do so.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2010 12:14 AM

we all deal with it differently

Amen, MLB. Loss evokes some very powerful emotions. I think that is why most people treat death delicately - out of recognition that we can't know what others are experiencing.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2010 12:17 AM

You have decided to assume that everything was fully understood, and you are certainly within your rights to do so.

Again, Cassandra, that is not the point.

The point is that you misrepresented what the article states. That is a factual certainty. Whether you did so because of a reading skills problem, or for other reasons, who knows?

That is the point (at this point), together with your inexplicable inability to simply man up to it.

Posted by: pond at May 1, 2010 12:22 AM

Pond, you're an ass. Man up to that.

Posted by: Grim at May 1, 2010 12:34 AM

And by "an ass," what I mean is that you're the kind of guy who wants to fight on technicalities instead of merit. Landscape, not details. If your demand is that your opponents should produce a word-by-word accounting of how they developed their consciousness of what they've read, you're just wrong.

You had a good point to start with, and you walked away with it to argue about petty details. Who cares if you're right about what paragraph 37, sentence 3 said? The lady said she was shocked; people who are shocked aren't good on details. So what? That's human nature; you don't get to hammer someone for being no better, and no worse, than the rest of us.

I think I'm in technical violation of Lady Cass' rules by saying that you're an ass. Normally she prefers that we argue against ideas, instead of people. However, as she knows that I have no respect for authority, I'll just stand on it. I know she won't think it's unworthy of me, because she knows she can't hope for anything better out of me. :)

Posted by: Grim at May 1, 2010 12:41 AM

pond wants there to be certainty.

In his mind, I have 'misrepresented the facts'. My guess is that he means this:

Mrs Todd had been in hospital in the two weeks before her death. When her condition deteriorated her daughter dashed to be at her bedside but arrived too late.

I don't think that passage is all that clear. Even after reading it several times, it doesn't say that the artist was with her mother in the hospital. It doesn't say she wasn't either :p

Apparently it is very important to pond that he "win". I'm quite happy to admit that this passage doesn't prove anything either way. However, I did interpret it differently than he did.

Hopefully that will allow pond to stop playing "gotcha" and go to sleep :p

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2010 12:42 AM

... as she knows that I have no respect for authority, I'll just stand on it. I know she won't think it's unworthy of me, because she knows she can't hope for anything better out of me. :)

That made me laugh. Goodnight, folks.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 1, 2010 12:58 AM

Pond, you're an ass. Man up to that.

Funny, Grim. You left out the whip SFX though. Yeehaw.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2010 06:21 AM

The Left, the masters of decay and death.

What man can build, the Left can destroy.

Subarashi


Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2010 07:32 AM

Pond, you who tend to write incoherent jokes or political rhetoric, may want to be more careful about going on and on about reading skills.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2010 11:13 AM

Also, in certain cultures, it isn't a good idea to talk about or assume that people involved in a situation are lying. Unless you are willingly and ready to kill or die by those words, right there and then.

Multi culturalism. It's the new Coke.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2010 11:17 AM

I have no trouble with the photo essay Grim is describing. That's a night and day difference from what Cassandra cited, if I'm not misunderstanding the context. But maybe I am.

My co-workers and I were deeply startled once to receive a letter from a man whose mother had owned a claim in the bankruptcy of one of our debtor clients. His mission was simply to tell us that she had died and to ask us to transfer the claim into the name of her heirs. Where we would have sent a copy of the death certificate, however, he sent a formal photograph of her laid out in her coffin. I gather it's not an unusual custom among Latinos in South Texas or Mexico. Taboo in our culture, but respectful in his.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 1, 2010 12:12 PM

I don't know that it is protection. You see, I was present when my son was killed. More than that I will not sa

Allow me to point something out, based entirely on my faith tradition. As Grim sort of knows, I believe we existed before we came here. BillT refers to the Creation returing to the Creator.
Apt and a perfect way to put it. However, it is
more than that for me; that our Almighty knows and loves us. He redeemed us through His son.

So, to me, birth is a departure from one plane of existence to the next. The purpose of our lives here is another discussion, but at the end of that life, we leave this existence to return. Death is another way to describe a birth.

Part of the reason our son had a closed casket was due to me being held in the hospital for a week after the accident; by that time, he had started to change. I saw it and did not want others to see it. Yes, I protected them, but it was more than that. We had about 300 people at his funeral; many of them were kids his age. They were in shock and grief and trying to grapple with the idea of death taking someone their age. There is only so much we can and should handle.

About six weeks ago, another teenager died. He was a friend of my sons. They were not blase about it; their grief was real but quiet. At the funeral, I noticed the other young man's friends sort of followed my sons around in a herd...they needed strength from someone who had experienced the loss. The concept of death seems to be a terrifying one, because of the manner of the passing; violent or not. We are afraid of it.
That is normal. Death is a sacred event, just like a birth. It will happen to everyone in their appointed time. It doesn't need to be documented, only recorded as an event that happened.

Posted by: Cricket at May 1, 2010 12:16 PM

Death is the great equalizer. Whether king or pauper, politician or serf, warrior or urban sheep, death has no favorites.

It is the ultimate guarantee that all humanity was created equal.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 1, 2010 02:19 PM

"We might ask ourselves whether this strong desire to cloak death with privacy is about protecting ourselves, rather than the dying"

Grim, almost certainly this is true, if you will permit the substitution of "respect" for "privacy". It's often said of funerals that they are not for the benefit of the deceased, but of the living. I think that this relates to the "enlightened" view (common across many religions and belief systems) that each and every person is unique and irreplaceable; so one of the main purposes of death rituals is to help the living adjust to the fact that the universe is no longer quite the same place as it was.

Thus, what bothers so many people when the dead are treated cavalierly or used for sensationalism: it implies the Marxist (in the spiritual sense) view that, with the exception of certain elites, there is nothing special about any particular person. If the death of an individual is not a notable event, then it must be because there is no such thing as an individual; humans are interchangeable parts and one is as good as another, so why worry about one that ceases functioning? Just get another one. It's not like there's a shortage.

Of course, most civilized people find such an idea abhorrent. And I think that's what bothers a lot of people about both this artwork and the Dover thing: it's the implied treatment of people as tools to be used and then discarded when they are no longer useful. We all want to think that, when we ourselves leave our boots empty, the world will somehow, to some extent, be a better place for us having lived, and the same goes for the people who precede us in death. If that's not true, if we are but cogs in an unchanging machine, then tomorrow will be no better than yesterday -- and if that's true, then what is the point in living?

There's another factor that plays into this: the irrelevance of art in the average person's life today. Think about it: who do you know that buys original art? Very few people do. Very few people even have any contact with original art. Why? Because the art world has turned up its nose at Everyman. Artists no longer make any attempt to communicate with the "sheeple"; their work consists largely of in-jokes that they tell each other. As long as they maintain the politically correct stance in their art, such that their NEA grants keep coming, they need not make any attempt to communicate anything outside of their inner circle.

Now, this is not true of all artists in America today. But it is true of nearly all of the ones who get press attention and major museum showings. My wife and I have made it a point, the past few years, to seek out original art for our home. We go to fairs and shows and such and seek artists who are not in the NEA loop, who make their living by selling to the public. And we've found some refreshing and surprising works. There's a lot of different viewpoints there too. But one thing you won't find is the snarky/petulant attitude of the grant artists. Why do the NEA-grant-supported artists do the things they do? Because they can. Because it's their way of asserting their superior position over the audience. It's their way of letting us know that they get paid for whatever the hell they want to do, and that they have a claim on our tax money, and that there's not a damn thing we can do about it. It's simply them thumbing their noses at us.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at May 1, 2010 08:08 PM

Original art is often too expensive for the average person to afford from anyone who is making a living as an artist. When I lived in Arkansas, I would sometimes visit Eureka Springs. If you're not familiar, it's a little tourist spot in the Ozarks. It is not longer a "for your health" destination as it was a century ago. I liked going to Beaver Lake, the Crescent Hotel and Ermilio's Italian Restaurant with it's Death By Chocolate Cake. One thing there are a lot of now are art galleries. There are beautiful pieces to be had, but not on my budget. I do have one original piece. My best friend commissioned a piece for me. A work friend of hers was artistically talented. She took that photo of Sophia in the primrose and had him paint it and gave me the framed piece for my birthday or Christmas (don't remember which). Unfortunately, it's currently in a box in storage with most all of my possessions. Maybe I should try digging it out next time I am over there. I may be here a while longer...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at May 1, 2010 10:28 PM

Dave, I found your comment interesting, because that is exactly what I was thinking; if she was close to her mother, why show the decomposition?
All I could think of was that just as her spirit was gone from her body, soon that too would be gone and she would have nothing.

Rather existential; but the purpose of life is not to just exist but to live. I don't collect art because one, I can't afford it, and two,
there is precious little I truly like.

One dear friend of ours did a charcoal of our son.
It is truly stunning. She is a forensic artist for the state (I know KJ knows who she is or has
heard of her), and she got some photographs of him
from us, and did this labor of love.

What I found wonderful about it was the medium. It was as if the charcoal outlined his spirit and
captured the essence of who he was. She used her
fingers to blend (she is not a fan of blending
stumps) the shading. It has dimensional quality about it that hints of where he is and what he is now.

It was so visually powerful to us. People who have been in our home have commented on what a nice piece of work it is. If they ask who it is, we tell them. If they don't, we don't.

What I would feel weird about is saying something like...'Gee, you captured that effect of blood
breaking down just perfectly....' or 'I hardly recognize her.'

I have a few original pieces from my mother and her father. They are total amateurs, but they were done by people I knew and loved, and both of them happen to be landscapes.

Posted by: Cricket at May 2, 2010 04:45 AM

I see all kinds of artistic work. However, the medium has changed from paintings to full music, voice artist, plot, storyboard, and CG background pictures.

Some of the best scenes aren't animated at all. There's a lot you can put into a still frame. It forces the artist to compress different human elements into a single frame rather than animation which allows a full spectrum of multiple frames for multiple facets.

Unfortunately, with the exception of such works as Babylon 5, Firefly, or some various odds and ends here in America, I wouldn't call the majority of modern American works "art".

They're more like manipulation of reality for reality's sake than anything else. More politics than aesthetics.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 2, 2010 04:59 AM

For those that wish to appreciate art from its initial stage to the final stage, check this out.

link

Americans seem to have been taught that technology will replace the soul, thus fancy CGI effects like Lucas Arts produces adequately substitutes for or even becomes superior to the work of human talent and human emotion.

That's not surprising given that even the military and spy networks of America started thinking that technology was the end all and be all solution to daily problems. Paperwork has existed since Sumeria but the idea of a techno-bureaucracy is something Americans can be proud of having helped create.

People tend to forget that regardless of what human inventions human ingenuity comes up with, human nature has not changed and will not change. Otherwise we would cease to be humans and become something more like the Left's Utopian cogs. A new term for a new species. Just like an Obamacan is an American that has been transformed into an anti-American.

CGI, technology, artistic worth for DSM IV and political needs, isn't so much a bypassing of human nature as it is the creation of an opposite, an Adversary, to the status quo. Or what was formerly called the status quo (what the now status quo replaced).

Personally, I don't think humans first came up with art in caves because they thought it would make them money or raise their social status or make them politically more influential. I think they got bored during winter and had to find something to do. Since life was short, brutal, and all too easily eclipsed by the power of mother nature. People wished to imagine a better future, but they had nothing to go on except their imaginations. For the day of tomorrow is still going to be the same as the day of today in the eyes of our primitive ancestors. Human imagination overcame even that, however, in time. It took awhile, with haphazard steps. But art and invention are very closely linked. Just as creative genius and madness are closely linked. And whether art or technology becomes madness or not, is up to humans to decide.

Many political reformers with the imagination, vision, and drive to change their societies were destroyed by the power brokers who did not wish to see things change for the better because their power would automatically decrease should another power group become manifest. This is true of Athens as it is true of Rome, as it is true of us here now and today.

Regardless, in the course of human existence, humans created with art what they deemed most important in their lives. Food, I suppose. Security, although that seems to be a fanciful concept in hunter-gatherer days. To the nomad steppes, security was horses well bred and trained. To the enclosed farming valleys, it was good crops and rain. To the city-state, it was solid walls and fierce defenders (at Marathon). To Athens, it was the wooden wall of their ships. To Sparta it was the courage and strength of individuals, often women as well as men.

Sonzaijo

It is perhaps a good description of the human state in a modern world that people now have begun to value death as much as they once valued food and security. Once death was an irrevocable existence and reality for human tribes. They could not ignore it. They could not buy it off. They could not pretend that it was a rare commodity to be traded for glitz and glamor. But now we can. It is the basic economic truth that by making something scarce, humans value it more.

What more do we need to know given the state of the modern world as considered by the West. We need nothing more to know. Of course, the rest of the world has plenty of death. They don't see as much value in it as Westerners do. Certainly not to the extent of glamorization, artistic worth, and pride. Even the Jihadists value life, the after life that is. How's that going to work for atheists.

The West is either an anomaly in human affairs or it is simply a grand joke upon human existence. Somebody is testing us. Or we are testing ourselves. Either way, human destiny seems, for now, to be in the hands of humans.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 2, 2010 05:21 AM

Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Don't we all remember when that came out? Being better than what you were? To take what you had been born with and to become better? To try to grow beyond the limitations imposed by form, intellect and spirit?

Allegorical indeed.

Posted by: Cricket at May 2, 2010 08:43 AM

I think Cousin Dave has got it right. I respect an artist who transgresses against social mores in pursuit of something more important. I've had it up to here with artists who transgress against social mores out of petulance or grandiosity.

Posted by: Texan99 at May 2, 2010 09:15 AM

People become stronger by living for others. Humanity has been replete with dealt cults that call for self-sacrifice. This wasn't so much to help others as to help the ones advocating it.

When you parse it down to individual actions, there is little hypocrisy. They believe that their own deaths will serve a purpose, the protection of those they value, the society they are respected in, and the nation where they were born.

But there's an important line here between risking your life for an attainable goal achievable only by your death and throwing your life away because you are certain your death will put an end to things.

This is the American philosophy in WWII faced off against the Japanese kamikazes. Where there is life, there is hope. Hope of training more people to fight more battles and win the war. Hope of attaining victory. Hope of returning home, even if in enemy territory. When one is dead, everything then is placed upon the shoulders of the still living. Those that go into death as a seclusion from the hardships of life, while speaking the ideal of self-sacrifice as legitimate justification for their death, are not protecting others so much as they are protecting themselves.

It is a way of not having to deal with things as they stand. Post-modernism shares little in common with WWII American mainstream culture or WWII Japanese shinto or samurai codes. What it does share is the need to have something to retreat to when dealing with life is too hard for people to handle.

Instead of promoting life, or living, or allowing people the fruits of their life's work, one political philosophy says that you get nothing while the state gets everything.

The purpose of your existence is to live or die for others. That is all.


I'm sure Grim would have some things to say on that aspect of ethics and politics.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 2, 2010 09:55 AM

Arbeit Macht Frei in other words. Also known as.

Work makes you free. Your exist to work. You exist to make sure your death brings economic relief and glory to the Great Leader.

That is all you are here for.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 2, 2010 09:57 AM

The logic chain I use for rights when the government tells people that they have no rights when the government deems it useful, is that if rights come from God or a higher power, then that higher power backs the existence of such rights.

However the Christian God does not guarantee a minimum standard of living. Nor Christ guarantee that nobody will suffer or that they won't be made slaves, those without rights of self-determination.

So what is the point of saying God has given us naturally endowed "rights"?

Free will. The Christian God is big on free will. Human evolution on Planet Earth has also been invested with a lot of free will: self-determination.

Nature: Want to not freeze in the winter? Learn fire. Did the fire burn you? Too bad, learn not to be stupid or I'll Darwinize you.

It is human free will and only human free will that can guarantee the rights of anybody on this plane existence. It won't happen unless we do something to make it happen. No free will, no rights.

Which is exactly what wannabe liberal dependence on government is all about in the end.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 2, 2010 11:34 AM

People like Obama view the birth and death of individuals much as he views rust or toothpaste.

It is not living they require you to do. In fact, your life matters not to them. It is the materialistic rewards that they can gain from your death or your birth that they wish for.

If Obama doesn't get any benefit from you being born, he'll leave you out to die, assuming he doesn't kill you in the womb first.

If your death gives Obama more money, he'll be on the Death Board telling you why you shouldn't be a burden on the system.

Your birth and your death exists for one purpose alone in the eyes of the Obamacans.

People don't have to agree with everything Obama proclaims or does. They simply have to follow. To do as they are told. The Dai Fuhrer will take care of things, do not worry.

The shepherd shall tend to his flock.

Everything for the state and the common good it proclaims. Nothing for the individual.

It is the fairest redistribution system in the world. Instead of attempting to balance one group against another, simply eliminate all groups except one of deserving what they need to survive. Instead of haves and have nots, we have the deserved and the undeserved. Those that deserve cash from Obama will get them. Those that don't, get nothing. Fairest redistribution around.

An increasingly pluralistic divide of the next generation of American leaders believe this. They will implement it once the Old Guard has been swept away. Soros and Obama are just priming the pump. Like Social Security and "temporary income taxes".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at May 2, 2010 11:48 AM

I've not added anything to it in a while, but I've posted "art" to my blog. Not all is what is traditionally considered at (you know, painting, sculpture). Crafts are art as well. My favorite of which I've posted is the one at the bottom here. It's no longer in storage, but it's not currently displayed to it's best advantage. My second favorite is the "Mystery Art", which remains a mystery, but is currently hanging on the wall in my bedroom. I need to get around to adding more "art" posts...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at May 2, 2010 12:15 PM

I'm not inclined to condemn the woman that has made a painting of her dead mother into an "art" sensation. Maybe she really meant to honor her mother. Like her siblings, I would raise pluperfect hell about it if somebody tried to do that to my mom. Given that it's not my family, I'm going to pass.

And so should those who surround the families of our fallen soldiers. If some soldier's family wants a picture of his coffin in the paper to honor his (her) sacrifice, it's fine by me. If they object, then their objection should be respected.

And anybody who is not in the family should STFU. There is something horribly graceless about intruding on their grief. The notion that "The military gets paid with our tax dollars, so we have a 'right' to watch them die" is the kind of argument used in bad faith by a person of ill will. People who make that kind of argument should be exposed and shunned.

Posted by: valerie at May 2, 2010 03:44 PM

I know some of you remember the story about Anita Miller and the Marines of Lima Company. In my humble opinion, that is how an artist best expresses honor and respect for those who have "gone west."

I have had friends and family leave this life for whatever is beyond, and sadness is the thing I feel the most. You can't be afraid of it, or you can't go on with life. We must resign ourselves to the fact that death will come and claim us. The best some of us can hope for is that our lives have made a difference, and that our death will register as a loss to the ones we care about. Some would rather just lay down and not wake up; some would hasten their death with weapons, drugs or seemingly careless acts. I think they too want to be noted, but cannot wait for their chance or opportunity to do good.....

I am ready when my time comes. I only hope it makes a difference.

As for the "artist" - that is creepy at best. And "pond" is simply some nattering nabob looking to garner the spotlight for their 10 seconds of fame. Now that it's over, the damp spot under the rock is calling.....

Posted by: kbob in Katy at May 2, 2010 10:46 PM

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at May 2, 2010 11:41 PM

I wonder if part of all this so-called "edgy" and "transgressive art" that floats around today is our reluctance to face dying. Not death, because there is a surfeit of that on TV, in movies and other places. But dying, the process of leaving everything that we know, the physical world, and going somewhere else. I noticed that the mainline churches no longer preach sin and death, no longer sing the hymns about suffering and dying. I'm thinking of "Once to Every Man and Nation" as an example, but there are many others. Our cultural focus on youth and consumption means that age and dying are to be avoided. They make people uncomfortable. So to be "edgy" and "hip" we have desecration, objectifying of people and calls that someone has a "right" to photograph deceased soldiers.

Pardon if this is fuzzy and if I seem to be groping my way towards the big picture - this is something that's been floating at the edges of my mind for a while and I'm still trying to grasp what exactly bothers me so much and why, and what I can do about it.

Posted by: LittleRed1 at May 3, 2010 02:09 PM

Yes, we've got a strong trend toward hiding the dying away in hospitals. I think you're exactly right about hymns, too. The Episcopal Church changed its hymnal in about 1980, keeping some old tunes but often softening the lyrics. "Once to Every Man and Nation" is a perfect example. The tune, Ton-Y-Betel, is still used, but has namby-pamby words now, nothing nearly as controversial as the old focus on the momentous choice each of us faces in life. The newer lyrics in the Hymnal (or, worse, the supplemental hymnals like "Wonder Love & Praise") mostly are about social service or feel-good repetitious sing-alongs of the "You've Gotta Have Joy in Your Heart" variety. 19th century hymns have got some amazing lyrics if you pay close attention. They weren't screwing around!

Posted by: Texan99 at May 6, 2010 04:44 PM

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