WORLD ART DAY: April 15, 2021

Today celebrates the arts, worldwide.

Today the world celebrates Art, but until recently, I had no solid foundation as to what was classified as “Art.” ( See review on PWR of book, But Is It Art.) According to those in charge of World Art Day, art is “something that is created in visual form.” This includes painting, sculpture, music, writing, performance art, films, and many creative things.

I am celebrating “art” by listening to an audiobook about an art-restoration specialist, A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay. It is an interesting novel which gives much information about painting and art in many forms.

What are you doing to celebrate World Art Day?

BUT IS IT ART? by Cynthia Freeland: A Review

This cover shows the “Art Cow” phenomenon popular in Houston a few years ago. Many of the cows are located in Houston and the surrounding counties still.

I admit it was the cover and the memories of encountering the cows in various places that made me take this small art theory book out of the Little Free Library in my home town. Having audited a course in the history of Art and Graphic design at my university until the pandemic closed the university last semester, I was very interested to see what the author considered was art, and what was not. The book deals with contemporary art and art criticism, and is a very good introduction to art theory. Freeland, who has attachments to Houston, discusses the relationships of art with beauty, culture, money, sex, and new technology. She posits the question of what art is and what it means, a broad topic for a tiny book. She covers basic art theories and discusses why current exhibits and articles are considered art. She discusses definitions of art according to various art movements, including everything from Hume and Kant’s opinion to the opinion of the artist who created The Piss Christ.

There are photographs and musings from the author as she discusses the philosophy of art. Does she answer the question posed in her title? No, instead, she makes a fine argument that what is art is in the eye of the beholder.

FIRST LINE FRIDAYS

First Line Fridays is hosted by Hoarding Books, and many of my blogging friends participate. Here is my Firstliner from Susan Vreeland (I am trying to read all seven of her novels about art.). Clara and Mr. Tiffany is in large print and was obtained from my local library (which is now closed).

“I opened the beveled-glass door under the sign announcing Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in ornate bronze. A new sign with a new name. Fine, I felt new too.”

Yes. Clara, newly a widow, got the job she applied for and her adventures in making glass decorations and windows began. I am now on p. 184 and learning about the making of glass objects, stained glass windows, and the submission of Tiffany windows at the World’s Fair of 1900. This novel is wonderfully researched in addition to being a darned good read.

MONDAY MUSINGS

I have been working on my Advanced Writing class, which begins on August 28th, all morning. Perhaps this is why my thoughts have turned to art. The core of the class will be art majors, so I read Art for Dummies as a crash course in “the basics.” That strategy was only semi-successful because the book is more of a reference book than a textbook on art. However, I did come across this definition of art from Hoving, the former curator of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art:

“Art is when anyone in the world takes any sort of material and fashions a statement with it.”  Whoa, that blows my mind. It reminds me that like beauty, “[Art] is in the eye of the beholder.” This was brought home to me by a children’s poem, “The Secret of My Art.”

The Secret of My Art

“It’s a beautiful whale,” my teacher declared.

“This drawing will get a gold star!”

“It’s a beautiful whale,” my father declared.”

“Your talent will carry you far!”

“It’s a beautiful whale,” my mother declared.

“What a wonderful artist you are!”

Well, maybe it is a beautiful whale…

But I was trying to draw a guitar.

Only the individual artist knows whether their work of “Art” fits the concept of what is considered to be “Art,” and what the exact definition of that concept is. So then, anything is art? From Hoving’s definition, Yes.  Graffiti is art? Give that a definite YES!  Meditations in sand, drawn by Tibetan monks, which last a few minutes, then blow away in the wind? Yes. The definition of “Art” changes from generation to generation and from age to age. Art is in flux, constantly changing, constantly being dissembled and reconstructed. As long as artists and the creative urge continue, the “definition” of Art will change.

TUESDAY TEASER

This “bookish”meme is hosted by The Purple Booker. It asks the reader to type a few sentences from a book currently being read in order to “tease” someone else into reading it. Place yours below in the reply box. Be sure to mention title and author.

Today’s Tuesday Teaser comes from the middle of Susan Vreeland’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. The opening sentences of Chapter Nineteen:

“Alphonse stayed close to the bank where the current was slow but would still take her words downstream and pour them into the sea. She rested the oars across the gunwales and let the boat drift.” This kind of lovely writing infuses this artistic book about an artist, Renoir, and his painting, “Luncheon of the Boating Party” in a way that elevates the prose into poetic phrasings and descriptions.  Beautiful? You bet!

THE SUNKEN CATHEDRAL by Kate Walbert: A Review

This 2015 novel’s colorful cover displayed at the Alvin Library attracted me and “forced” me to check it out. I knew the Impressionistic cover depicted the sunken cathedral of the title, and it “looked like” music. Although I had never heard of Debussy’s score, “The Sunken Cathedral” (described as the composer’s ” musical version of Impressionism”), I was moved by just looking at the cover.

All this from just the cover and title! According to the blurbs on the back, Walbert’s story follows a group of characters, “as they negotiate one of Manhatten’s swiftly changing neighborhoods.”  The New York Times calls it, “a stunningly beautiful, profoundly wise novel,” and describes Walbert as “a wickedly smart, gorgeous writer.”  It opens with a strange prelude, written in italics. Flood waters swirl and drown all things, engulfing the city.  We do not know what city it is until later.

We meet in the first chapter, two elderly friends, Matie and Simone. Both had immigrated from Europe after surviving WWII. They are finishing dinner together and hurrying out so as not to be late for their art lesson. Sid Morris, once an artist, now a washed-up art instructor, who has students meet in his shabby apartment, is their teacher. The conversation between the six students, each with his or her backstory, explained in long,  narrative “footnotes,” more “side-stories” than anything else, round out the characters of each student.  The interplay between the instructor and the students laps over into the students’ private lives as well.

Marie, much younger than the two friends, appears soon. She is their landlady, who has issues of her own, in which they quickly become involved. This interesting device allows the author to create a sub-plot which keeps the reader involved in the plot and beginning to care for each character.

Cathedral,  the author’s peek into twenty-first-century life, is as well written as it is conceived and designed. It is a splendid novel in every aspect and one you certainly will enjoy as much as did I.