Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Truth and Beauty, Then and Now

Quite a remarkable trip through centuries of Western art via the morphing images of famous and nearly-famous paintings depicting the beauty of women throughout many eras and locales. YouTube link discovered via TigerHawk.

One of problems with America's Marxist-dominated cultural and artistic communities over at least the last 30 years or so has been their continuing effort, particularly in academia, to sever all modern connections with this kind of stuff, branding it racist, hegemonistic, whatever works to demonize it. Sitting through this presentation, one perceives instead that each morphing portrait exemplifies, in essence, the artist's imaginative conception of idealized internal and external beauty.

For earlier artists, in many cases, such an exercise in portraiture, as serially demonstrated above, served as their attempt, via their art, to somehow grasp, in a mortal portait, the essence of divine beauty and perfection. Nearer our own more cynical times, the artist was less concerned with the divine (which he or she probably didn't believe in anyway) than with capturing in time a fleeting, near-perfect moment of mortal beauty.

In the not too distant past, the Western artistic tradition was focused on the search for wisdom, perfection, and beauty in all things. Viewers of such portraits as these might very well be inspired to seek the same in their own lives. Modern art, however, is quite different in its approach. Divorced from spiritual idealism by a radical ideology and seething with resentment, today's artists can frequently betray only ugliness in humanity and nature. Divorced from tradition, or taught to scorn it, they can only paint hideous, negative, or ironic visions. And often, that hideousness is rendered either in the inexplicably abstract or worse, as an act of religious blasphemy and cultural vandalism.

I have noticed that over the last decade or so, I am seeing more and more artists turning back to the past for inspiration, however. I am seeing traditional portraits and serious still life work, often rendered in the manner of what some call "photographic realism," a term that doesn't do such work justice, so subtly are its visual cues blended into the apparently obvious. Perhaps abstraction and ugliness have run their course at last. It's earnestly to be wished for, but only time will tell.

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