Art

Painting, An Impromptu Respite

Painting is meant to be seen, not talked about. Painters are drawn to things, not concepts or doctrines. What counts is what is front of them, the very thing itself—whether an object or a vista—not an idea about the thing. For a painter, the only ideas that count are pictorial ones. Matters of fact are primary. These include the material facts of paint, the cookery of getting it right, manipulation of brushes and color chords—all physical, earth-bound matters. Fairfield Porter was blunt: “An art that finds ideas more real than things is attractive to the unemployed intellectual.” Continue Reading
Advertising poster

“An iPhone is not a robot. It’s a personal assistant. You should be better acquainted with it.” So scolded a tattooed techie at the Apple Store’s Genius Bar. I gave a guilty shrug but did not say anything. There seemed no point in explaining that my only concept of a personal assistant was a living person. Someone to light and guide me—more like Jeeves than Alexa. I wanted the sound of a voice that came from the diaphragm, not from an algorithm. Continue Reading
Assemblage

Expect artists to be among the first to apply for a guaranteed annual income. The arts are a useful pretext for the universal basic income initiatives slouching toward us. California, predictably, is in the lead. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts explains that artists are “essential drivers of economic well-being.” This is debatable. It is also not the same as saying that the arts are essential in themselves. But let’s not quibble just yet. On the YBCA website, Mayor London Breed explains the rationale for San Francisco’s monthly stipend  to artists:
The arts are truly critical to our local economy and are an essential part of our long-term recovery [from COVID restrictions].
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Two Misleading Images: Vietnam, 1968 & Minneapolis, 2020

Photographs mislead. Just as with Eddie Adams’s famous 1968 photo from the Vietnam War, the images of Derek Chauvin and George Floyd only tell us part of the story. Reading reports on the current trial of former officer Chauvin makes it almost impossible to believe that the man will receive a fair trial. Everyone—bystanders, the jury pool, racial malcontents—has seen the now-infamous video clip. The public mind is made up; all have judged Floyd an innocent and Chauvin a murderer. The defendant has been convicted, a priori, by an image. Continue Reading
The Annunciation: Tidings From A Painter & A Theologian

Today is the feast of the Annunciation. The Gospel story of an encounter between an angel and a peasant girl in ancient Judea has provided us with a treasury of luminous depictions. Much as I love the inventory of them as works of art, only one draws me to wonder and to prayer. The essential commitments of faith do not begin in intellectual assent. That comes later. Intellect ratifies what the heart has already glimpsed. And the eye grasps certain things in an instant; the mind takes longer to grant approval to reasoned argument. Continue Reading