Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blog in a bog

A work in progress

What's been going on? Too much to mention.

But I had what I think is an insight the other day, as I was talking to Ms. Moments of Clarity. We were talking about two artists we were both familiar with. One is a well-known name in southwest art, the other, an up and coming contemporary of ours. In a magazine Melinda was thumbing, we saw a work of the latter's in an ad on one page, and one of the former's on another page.

The contemporary's work was an image from imagination, which was (we surmised) intended to whimsically convey child-like joy, a young person ready to take on the world. The well-known's was a social comment, delivered as nearly a characature, complete with a word balloon.

But we were both struck by how 'off key' the contemporary's piece felt: the figure was distorted, with a neck too long, and the rendering lacked depth. A painting from the mind's eye. The well-known's was unselfconsciously whimsical, ironic and captivating. A painting from emotion.

It reminded me of an article I read at by an acting coach on why Gov. Bobby Jindal's response speech to President Obama's was such a failure:

"In life we have thoughts and feelings and then we find the words to express those thoughts and feelings. It is a straight line. In acting as in public speaking, we start with the words. What should the great actor and the great orator do? They should find the thoughts feelings [sic] that make them need to say these words...

"What Jindal did is focus on How he wanted to come across. In acting I call this a General Attitudinal Choice. He thought of the effect he wanted to have on the audience. He wanted to come across as likable and friendly. He wanted the audience to think that he is a good guy, so he adopted a general demeanor of kind and empathetic. This is why he came off as condescending. No matter what he talked about the the pose was the same. He was trying to project his idea of a warm and friendly guy. Therefore he came off as patronizing."

It struck me that these two statements about "trying to come across as something" versus "trying to get across an idea" are the differences we saw in the paintings: and this is what everyone seems to be talking about when they say "art needs to be authentic."

A distinction I will struggle with, in completing the painting above.


Barbara Muir said...

Oh Edgar,

I do love how you keep forcing us to think. Just when I thought it was safe to go back to read your blog -- wham another foray into intelligent discussion. What about simpletons like me who just like to paint, just make colours move around, or line? Are we doing the right thing, or are we missing the point, of having a point.

By the way the painting looks great so far. Keep going.

Take care,


Edgar said...

Barbara— Woody Allen made an art out of self-consciousness. Audrey Hepburn made an art out of being unselfconsciously graceful. You make unselfconscious art out of being lively and humorous. What could be wrong with that?

Keep it real, Barbara. ...Always a pleasure to get one of your sunny comments.

Leslie Saeta said...

My brain hurts. You have really got me thinking and I do believe your thoughts here are spot on. I also love your painting.

Marian Fortunati said...

Gosh, Edgar....
How is it you can express the ideas on the edges of our minds before we are able to bring them to being??
Thanks again for your thoughtful and insightful posts... You keep us on our toes!!

Patrice said...

As I watched Governor Jindal's rebuttal, I was struck by how uncomfortable he looked - as if even he did not believe what he was saying. A more painful "performance" I've rarely seen.

If one can not "own" the part, or the art - if one has no faith and no confidence in what they are attempting to portray, no one else will believe in it either.

Great post.

Joan Breckwoldt said...

Hi Edgar,
I came over to especially thank you for your last comment on my 'art class' painting. You seem to understand what I was trying to do spot on. I have some graphic design background too so maybe that has something to do with it.
And I found a wonderful painting in progress. I hope you'll write more about your thought process with this painting.
I enjoyed reading your post today. I think it is a fine line between expressing ourselves with art and trying too hard or forcing some emotion with our art. A very fine line.

Anonymous said...

LSaeta— So nice to see a new visitor! Thank you for coming, and the kind comment.

Marian— I keep you on your toes? Must be my great, big feet getting in the way, again.

Patrice— Yes, the difference seems to be between having convictions one wants to convey, vs. being so involved in the expression of the convictions that we are compelled to complete them.

Interestingly, there is a story out that Jindal couldn't have had the encounter with the Sheriff that he described: he was in another part of the State at the time. So, the story was a fabrication -- another reason he sounded 'flat.' "Funny, Republicans always tell us how bad government is -- then get elected, and prove it." (From Thom Hartmann).

Joan— You're very welcome. I just addressed the question in the terms in which you posed it.

The painting in the post may be too contrived to have merit. We'll have to see if some spontaneity will find its way back in, which might save it. But I'll be happy to talk about the thinking, in either case: I believe in learning from successes and mistakes.

Deb Schmit said...

I'm kinda late chiming in here but boy, Edgar you pegged that one!

When Gov. Jindal swaggered onto the set?! my husband and I both looked at each other with an expression of, "Whats the "*" is THIS!?"


Edgar said...

Gadzooks indeed. I hope the PR guy that thought the "approach from the East Wing" look was anything but pretention got his hiney fired. That's just tone deaf malpractice.

Kay said...

Thankyou for your very interesting comparison. I miss such discussions, (I don't have the language for such discussions in my new country) and have lately started exploring blogs to stimulate my own thinking.

You tackled an issue very close to my own heart in this post.

I am very glad to have found your blog. May I put a link to it on my blog please?

Anonymous said...

Kay— The blogs are truly useful for bringing together widely separated people passionate about unusual things... So glad that you stopped by, and thanks for the kind word.

I'd be honored to be included in your blog or blog list. You've found a jewel in Bob Cornelis' blog, BTW. He's well worth visiting.