Caravaggio's Saint Matthew and the Angel, and Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son are so boring! They were created hundreds of years ago by people that have little to do with me. Or so I thought. I can't say what has heightened my sensitivity to artwork, but these pieces contain something new and beautiful to me. They are pure, teaching lessons about my own mortal condition. Like Tolstoy's War and Peace, or Hugo's Les Miserable, they inform me about others, reminding me that they're in a similar state as myself. While I might blame other's mistakes as inherent flaws and see my own as consequence of conditions, the artwork reminds me of Jesus Christ, and how he would've patiently and encouragingly responded to other's shortcomings.
|Caravaggio's Saint Matthew and the Angel|
I turn to Andy Warhol's Campell Soup Can prints, and any one of Banksy's street art pieces. Very different sentiments are conjured up. They seem to trivialize the mortal condition, accusing the audience while simultaneously provoking resentment in others. It's paradoxical though. Banksy's pieces, to me, seem designed to bring out awareness, action, and social tolerance in societal ills, but they rile up sentiments in me that would have me accuse others, judging them. This is instead of instigating a change which would have me love the other, which would also contribute to my own peaceful approach with them.
|Graffiti stained glass piece by Banksy|
Warhol's works create a different effect in me. Rather than mocking society by seemingly addressing ills while actually perpetuating those ills, Warhol's play on consumerism notes mass manufacturing of goods, and equally massive consumption of those goods. That reaches into TV and film viewing, acquisition of material items, and worshipping of celebrities. So while individuals are searching to stabilize and reinforce their world views, pop art is offering not so much a solution as a distraction from finding the things that will create peace and happiness in individual's lives.
They are fun pieces to check out though. They offer entrance to fascinating conversations, and allow an intriguing culture, but are distractions from truth individuals might desire to find. Art movements like these might be coupled with postmodern philosophy, finding "an inclination to hold that truth is relative or impossible to know (Matthew Frederick, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School. 83)." I can't think of anything more destructive than philosophy like that! Not only does it move individuals away from personal developments, service in communities, and genuine relations with friends and families that create satisfaction and happiness, but it sees no reason to actually correct the social ills Banksy highlights. There is thus a perpetuation of contention and injustice.
The stained glass windows in King's College Chapel, Cambridge, were breathtakingly beautiful. But I thought the idea of artwork serving as instruction to believers looking up from below a little hokey. As I realize how powerful art can be as a reminder and instructor of divine ideals, my views have changed entirely. They are worthy and sacred places to stand and learn in, which halls of great art, like great literature, should be.
|King's College Chapel, Cambridge|