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Friday, August 27, 2010

Hiding Cracks in the Plaster?

When was the last time you recall a painting, newly completed by a living artist, being reviewed in a national publication? If you're like me, the answer is...well...never? When was the last time you recall a newly released motion picture being praised (or panned) by a critic on national television, or perhaps on the pages of Newsweek? Every week...more like every day? Would it be safe to assume from this that painting is now irrelevant? Are the personal statements we make in paint merely one person's opinion and of no more significance than anyone elses personal opinion, whether visual, written, or spoken? Is what we do, at best, an adjunct to interior decorating--covering up bare spots on walls with pleasantly pigmented musings? Has painting now become an "antique" artform? Could it be that all we're good for now is hiding cracks in the plaster?

It hasn't always been this way. In 1817, a French government vessel, the Medusa, foundered off the coast of West Africa with hundreds of men on board. At a court of inquiry, it was revealed that a boatful of officers had been towing a raft heavily laden with passengers and crew. However, fearing for their own lives, the officers cut the rope, expecting the raft to be lost and all those onboard to drown. They didn't. The French painter Theodore Gericault created a massive 16'x23' depiction of the moment when those on The Raft of the Medusa sighted the rescue vessel. Widely displayed first in France, then in England, the painting was instrumental in a massive shakeup of the French government of the time.
The Raft of the Medusa, 1818, Gericault

Maybe someone should paint a mosque near ground zero in New York.

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