Would someone please answer the following question for me: Why do Americans – actually, I think Westerners generally, but I will stick with Americans – believe art is something that must be approached so … well … seriously? With most art, most Americans seem to believe that, when looking at a painting or a piece of sculpture or seeing a play or listening to a piece of music, they are obligated, on pain of being branded as culture-phobic philistines, to wear a facial expression that announces to the world Pity me! I am dying of terminal hemorrhoids!
Well, before anyone makes any cracks about that remark, I will back up a step or two and say that, yes, to be sure, some works of art are explicitly intended to evoke play, laughter, and light-hearted dalliance. A good example is
mountains explodedestroying the landscapelife begins again
Drawing of Mt. St. Helens in response to Psalm 46 along with haiku, by Terri Stewartall rights reserved
Psalm 46 is dire with the earth collapsing: mountains crumble, mountains shake, surging waves, the earth melts.
However, the interesting thing is that God "brings wars to an end, breaking the bow and shattering the spear, burning chariots with fire." Declaring: "That's enough!"
Well, haven't we all felt that way? That the calamity of hurricanes and volcanoes and the climate crisis in addition to the wars and violence and children locked in cages. Do we not want to declare, "That's enough!"
I know I do.
But I remember Mt. St. Helen's eruption. I lived in North Carolina at the time but we heard about it. T...
Ever since my very first exposure to it in 1979 as part of a Smithsonian Institution art-history seminar, one of my favorite art venues in Washington, DC, has been the venerable Phillips Collection, a few blocks east and perhaps a block south of the DuPont Circle DC Metro stop.
The Phillips Collection
There are many reasons for my respect and enthusiasm for “the Phillips,” but certainly one of the most salient reasons for my “evangelical” work on behalf of the Collection is that the Phillips houses Pierre Auguste Renoir’s great Luncheon of the Boating Party (hereafter Luncheon). (I refuse to call it, as some critics do, Boatman’s Lunch. Computers are expensive and I would rather not throw up on mine.) Aside from the sheer beauty of the painting itself, I enjoy watching others’