Artistic Identity

Scattered Notes on Notre-Dame

My heart splintered watching Notre-Dame go up in flames. The disorder of my own responses—a jumble of dismay, anger, and foreboding—permits no tidy structure. What follows is a series of thoughts in no strict sequence. Bear with me. •    •    •    • “Somebody did something” on 9/11. Taking a cue from Ilhan Omar, can we wonder if somebody did something to Notre-Dame? It is a rational conjecture. Watching the cathedral tower burn, it was impossible for the mind’s eye not to go directly to the burning towers of the World Trade Center. Continue Reading
The Conversion of Artists?

The website of the Catholic Artists Society offers an audio download of its sponsored lectures. In return, it asks only for the courtesy of a small voluntary donation. When I went to the site after Gregory Wolfe’s talk, there was an addendum to the donation button. If you preferred prayer to cash, you could make good by saying a decade of the Rosary for the conversion of artists. That codicil is now gone, thank goodness. The conversion of artists. Given the unlovely, preparatory landfill turned out in carloads by MFA programs, it might have seemed a humane objective. Continue Reading
What is Beauty?

What is beauty ? The question is better left to philosophers. It is a bootless one for artists to brood over. It does nothing to enhance the work of an artist’s hand. It is the experience of beauty—sensory, emotional, psychological—not any definition that makes an artist’s work intelligible to himself. Herself. Creators of the greatest beauty possess it by instinct. Yet, the question has become a species of branding device among Christian, particularly Catholic, artists. It is the asking that matters more than the answer. Continue Reading
Tu Belleza, Tu Misericordia

VII. Tu belleza se llamará también misericordia, y consolará el corazón de los hombres. —Gabriela Mistral, Decálogo del Artista The beauty that you create shall also be called compassion, and shall console the hearts of men. I painted that seventh commandment of Gabriela’s “Decalogue of the Artist” across the old built-in china cabinets that line one dining room wall. I sketched it first in pencil to get the spacing right, then brushed over the sketch with ivory black in a version of chancery hand. Continue Reading
Intermezzo

We will come back to idolatry next time. This is Friday, a good day for a small palate cleanser between courses. There a moral to this one. No one needs me to draw it. You will do it yourselves. How many times have you read an Artist Statement that mentions—oh, so casually—that the artist listens to jazz while working? It has been more than half a century since Jackson Pollock wrapped himself around a tree in a drunken accident. Still, artists draw around themselves the mantle of inspiration-by-jazz—proxy for any number of awakening muses—that cloaks Pollock’s legacy. Continue Reading