Every several years or so, perhaps every decade or so, a work of art captures my emotions and imagination, and sticks in my memory, even though it may be several years between viewings – assuming I ever see the original of the work at all. One such is Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party; another is Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox; another, Picasso’s Guernica; still another, Edouard Manet’s The Old Musician. I have never seen the originals of the Rembrandt and the Picasso. I know them only from reproductions. But they haunt me. I recently discovered another such image while visiting the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC: Patricia Cronin’s Memorial to a Marriage (hereafter Memorial ).
Memorial is a bronze sculpture, cast from a marble original, depicting two women lovers,
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
Yeah … I guess I must … anyway … as I have said before, when I was taking both secular philosophy (ethics at a secular university) and moral theology (at a Jesuit school, Seattle University), I was taught, in different ways and in different dialects, that Knowledge plus Power equals Responsibility. I.e., if I know that a given situation is morally wrong and if I have the power to effect change, then I am morally responsible for acting so as to alter the situation and right the wrong. And, moreover, the degree of responsibility varies directly with the scope of my knowledge and my power to effect that change. E.g., there is not much I can do to alleviate the plight of Syrian refugees. Maybe all I can do is to give money. But I am obligated to do at least that much. Given how wides