Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

We are all naked . . . September 23, 2010

Filed under: art,educational,Reviews,writing — Addicted to Yarn @ 1:08 pm
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Humanity has always had one thing in common: under our clothes we are all naked. Throughout the ages artists have drawn, chiseled, shaped, cast, painted, sculpted and in every conceivable way represented the naked human form. The artistic rendering of the nude has changed over the centuries, from the symbolic sculpture of early humanity to the lifelike sculptures of the classical era and from the near photorealism of the Renaissance to the abstractions of artists such as Picasso. A closer look at the the ancient sculptural nudes Kouros, Riace Warrior, and Praxiteles’s Aphrodite of Cnidos and the modern painting Venus by Fernando Botero, will reveal some crucial differences between the views of the ancient world and those of the modern world. Differences include the setting of the nude, the artistic representation of the human body, and what the nude reveals about society’s views on sexuality.

The stiff formality of the ancient nude Kouros, sculpted around 590 BC, contrasts sharply with the stark informality of Botero’s Venus, painted in 1989. Kouros stands stiffly, “fists clenched,” marking or guarding a tomb or temple (Bishop 45), while Venus stands relaxed, her hands loose and busy while she goes about her mundane, everyday tasks. Kouros’s hair is “geometric” and his body rigidly symmetrical (Bishop 45), the epitome of order and ‘correctness.’ Venus, on the other hand, has her pair pulled back in a relaxed, informal manner. Her body is not presented symmetrically as she stands unevenly and is turned somewhat away from the viewer. Clothing drapes out of an open bureau drawer and her bed is not made. She is, in contrast to Kouros, not especially orderly. Kouros, whose creation served a very formal purpose, is presented very formally – his hair orderly, his body straight and symmetrical – whereas Venus, whose creation serves no higher purpose than the pleasure of the artist and the viewer, is presented in a ‘slice of life’ manner – relaxedly preparing for the day ahead.

Turning our eyes to the Riace Warrior of mid-5th century BC (photo on page 55 of Bishop), and comparing it to Botero’s Venus, we see how the artist’s representation of the human body reveals something about how they (and by association their society) view the human body. Riace Warrior is lean, his muscular body well defined and apparently, ready for action. In contrast, Venus is round and soft, her muscles buried under ample flesh. Her shape is over exaggerated so much so that she would not fit on the bed pictured in the background. The Riace Warrior is perfectly crafted, from the curls of his head to the toenails on his feet. Whereas every curl is defined on Riace Warrior, Venus’s hair is fuzzy and unclear. Her hands, and the rest of her for that matter, are free of wrinkles and lines, creating a much softer, laid-back quality to the art. Though now missing, the Riace Warrior was equipped with a sword and shield, the weapons of a warrior. It is clear that a warrior’s body – strong, capable, ready – was very important to society at the time Riace Warrior was cast. So important, in fact, that the sculptor saw fit to equip this warrior with sword and shield but not armor. Botero, on the other hand, said he wanted to “create sensuousness through form” (Faerna) and he does so. However, in doing so, he reveals that society no longer needs a utilitarian reason to honor the body. The human body is now seen to be for pleasure above purpose, alluding perhaps to an increase in hedonism. By recognizing these differences, we can see that the warrior ethos of 5th century BC has given way, perhaps, to the hedonistic pleasures of the modern era.

Differing levels of hedonism may explain some of the differences between Praxiteles’s Aphrodite (sculpted around 350-340 BC) and Venus and what they reveal about society’s views of sexuality and the ‘place’ of sex in society. Looking first at Aphrodite, she stands, legs crossed slightly, her hand covering her groin. She has just removed her robe as she prepares for her bath (wikipedia.com). Venus, on the other hand, stands with one leg brought forward and her arms over her shoulders, making no effort to hid her groin. She is nude, not because she is getting dressed or undressed, preparing for a bath or some such task requiring a state of undress. She is nude, apparently, for the sheer pleasure in being nude. Aphrodite’s hair, which it is believed would originally have been gilded (Bishop 54) is pulled neatly away from her face and coiled at the base of her neck, suggesting a certain amount of reserve. Venus, on the other hand, sports full bangs and unrestrained hair cascades down her back, suggesting an increase in personal freedom. Aphrodite’s gaze captures a hint of the demure and the diffident. She is nude, save for the arm band and jewelry she may have been adorned with originally (Bishop 54), not for sake of pleasure but of necessity. It would indicate a certain hesitancy to fully expose oneself, a feeling of reserve in regard to sexuality. She does not stand as proud and unselfconscious as the male nudes of the same time frame.  Venus is unadorned, save for a simple hair ribbon and a pair of shoes, yet her nudity seems much more natural and comfortable, suggesting a more open attitude towards sexuality. Venus’s lack of shame or demurral appearance would also suggest a more equitable sexual relationship between male and female. Both pieces of art center around a nude female and yet are wildly different because the worlds they sprang from are wildly different. While all of a society’s views can not be seen in two snapshots of life such as these two pieces provide, by comparing them, we can see some broad differences in how sexuality is viewed.

Perhaps no amount of study will ever reveal all the differences between the ancient cultures and more modern cultures but the art that a society produces does bring some revelation. From the stylized and simplified Kouros to the strong and sturdy Riace Warrior, from the demure and diffident Aphrodite to the supple sensuousness of Venus, we see that what artists produce is, at least in part, due to how society views the object that is the subject of their art.

Works Cited

Bishop, Phillip E. Adventures in the Human Spirit. 6th Ed. Upper Saddle River:  Prentice Hall, 2011.

Faerna, Jose Maria. “Fernando Botero: The Praise of Opulance.” 9 Sept. 2010 <http://www.all-art.org/art_20th_century/botero2.html&gt;.

Wikipedia. “Aphrodite of Cnidus.” 9 September, 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphrodite_of_Cnidus&gt;.

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Truth and Error September 9, 2010

Filed under: art,educational,Reviews — Addicted to Yarn @ 7:27 pm
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G. W. F. Hegel makes some very contradictory statements in his Lectures on Aesthetics, some true and some erroneous. Andrew Sola, writing for The Literary Encyclopedia, 2004, records that Hegel places art at the same level of importance as religion and philosophy and believes it must be studied as “patiently and laboriously as theology and philosophy are studied” (1). Hegel also rejects the two conventional approaches to studying art, empirically and “the study of the beautiful” (2), developing instead his own method, which he calls the dialectic method. He denies the belief that art is deceptive and opines that art is higher than nature, both thoughts in opposition to commonly held beliefs about art. Hegel does not believe that “art has a purpose outside of itself” (7), such as purifying and preparing humanity’s passions for “moral perfection”(7) and providing instructions on attaining said moral perfection; instead claiming that art has no purpose outside of itself. He finds meaning in art as a mediator between the inner and outer lives of the artists and their audiences. Hegel, recognizing the three stages of art – Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic – and implies that the latter are ‘higher’ than those that came before. He also places art into a hierarchy based on form. However, while Hegel makes some very good points, he is mistaken in these final regards. Art, as a mediator between the inner and outer realities of life, has no hierarchy.

There is no escaping the fact that art is a mediator, a crucial concept to Hegel’s dialectic approach to studying art. He first recognizes “the classical philosophical opposition between the inner and the outer” (Sola 4), believing that art brings reconciliation to them. He then defends this stance against the commonly held belief that art is less ‘real’ than the outer reality it represents, by writing, “Genuine reality is only to be found beyond the immediacy of feeling and of external objects” (qtd. in Sola 4).  Hegel believes, quite rightly, that even when nature (an ‘outer’ reality) is the subject of art, it must first pass through the artist’s mind (the ‘inner’ reality) in order to strip away the “arbitrary, chaotic, and contingent details” and “gain its universal or spiritual qualities,” (5) thus qualifying it as ‘art.’ When art, which “relies on the representation of natural forms of transitory emotions and of sensual stimulations,” (4) passes through the mind of the artist, it acts as a mediator, bridging the gap between the inner and the outer.

Unfortunately, it is on the subject of hierarchy in art that Hegel becomes entangled in his own arguments. Hegel mistakenly assumes that art has a hierarchy. He places architecture and sculpture at the bottom, because they are bound by ‘matter’ as the other arts are not. Following architecture and sculpture, he places painting and music, as they are not bound by the physical – if it can be imagined it can be put to paint brush and canvas or set to music. At the top, or “apex,” Hegel places poetry, stating, “Poetry is the universal art of mind which has become free of its own nature, and which is not tied to find its realization in external sensuous matter” (qtd. in Sola 10). However, if art’s purpose is to bridge the gap between the inner and outer realities of life, as Hegel argues, than any form of art which does so serves its purpose, whether it be a soaring, epic poem which causes the reader to ponder the mystery of god, or the lofty architecture of a cathedral which draws the viewer’s eye upward into contemplation of god’s greatness. Poetry requires not only simple literacy but also literacy in poetry in order to communicate to the audience (Hegel considers it crucial that art be made available to others (Sola 6)) while other forms of art do not  require the same level of literacy. Art, in its many forms, has no hierarchy for any form can  communicate the artist’s reconciliation of the inner and outer.

Hegel again comes into conflict with himself in regard to the three stages of art: Symbolic, corresponding to pantheistic religions and subjective thought, Classical, corresponding to Greek polytheism and objective thought, and Romantic, corresponding to Christian monotheism and dialectic thought (Sola 7). He wrongly implies that each is higher than that which came before. Sola records, referring to art of the symbolic stage which grants natural objects symbolic meaning, that Hegel considers Eastern art to be “still ‘primitive’ in this respect” (7) calling it “bizarre, grotesque and tasteless” (qtd. in Sola 8). In saying such, he contradicts his own belief that “the world always is as it ought to be in any given moment” (7) and that art’s purpose is to reveal the truth of the moment. As previously mentioned, Hegel believes that genuine reality is found through art. In pejoratively labeling Eastern art as “tasteless,” “grotesque,” and “bizarre,” he implies that this is not happening. The Eastern artist views her natural world, which according to Hegel “always is as it ought to be,” passes it through her mind, and produces art (bridging the gap between the inner and outer), which fulfills its function – the “representation and revelation” of said reconciliation (qtd. in Sola 7). Since art has no other purpose, so long as it is representing and revealing the struggle and bridging of the inner and outer realities, no one can place one stage above another as Hegel does.

Hegel presents numerous ideas and thoughts in his lecture on aesthetics. He correctly recognizes the antithesis between the physical outer world and the universal or spiritual inner world. He correctly sees that art is not meant to have a purpose beyond revealing the artist’s interpretation of the world. However, he incorrectly places art into an unnatural hierarchy, working against his own arguments. There is much we can learn from Hegel about art and the meaning it brings to our world but we must remain aware of his erroneously decided hierarchy.

Works Cited

Sola, Andrews. “Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics.” The Literary Encyclopedia. 2004 ed.

 

Dragon Journal October 8, 2009

Filed under: art — Addicted to Yarn @ 10:57 pm
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First of all, I want to apologize for my serious lack of posting. I have been struggling with depression, or rather, since I’m no pyscologist, despondency. Each day has been hard to get through and at the end, I had nothing left with which to post. Not that I didn’t have things to say. I simply lacked the emotional strength to put them onto paper…as it were.

Anyway, I have TONS of pictures to post. I am going to start with the most fun ones. The ones that are easiest to get motivated to do.

A number of months ago, I signed up for a “Dragon Journal” swap. The instructions were to decorate a journal with the theme of dragons. This was what I came up with:

Cover

Cover

Bookmark inside front cover

Bookmark inside front cover

Page 1

Page 1

Page 2

Page 2

Page 3

Page 3

Page 4

Page 4

Page 5

Page 5

Pages 6 & 7 -- closed

Pages 6 & 7 -- closed

Pages 6 & 7 -- open

Pages 6 & 7 -- open

Page 8

Page 8

Page 9

Page 9

Page 10

Page 10

Page 11

Page 11

Page 12

Page 12

Page 13

Page 13

Page 14

Page 14

Page 15

Page 15

Page 16

Page 16

Page 17

Page 17

Page 18 -- closed

Page 18 -- closed

Page 18 -- open

Page 18 -- open

Inside back cover

Inside back cover

Back cover

Back cover

And there you go. That’s my dragon journal. Which cost me $30 to send to England. Kind of sucked but I hope my partner liked it even though it was a month late.

 

Art, art, art April 4, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,art — Addicted to Yarn @ 9:04 am
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This blog was not started as an art blog but due to my current interest, that’s what it seems to be becoming. Of course, since art is the main thing I’m doing right now, it remains an update of my life blog.

I’ve done a lot of little things since I last blogged (sorry, Lisa). I’ve done too many to show them all, though I am working on getting all the photos over to Flickr so that I can showcase the best here and link to the rest over there. But it’s not happened yet. But here’s some of the better things I’ve done of late.

Contrast Study of Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, sans tatoos

Contrast Study of Vin Diesel as Xander Cage, sans tatoos

I wanted to work on drawing tone. I have a hard time seeing the value of colors and hues. So I decided to start black and white with a high contrast photo. Oh, and I wanted to try out my new ebony black pencil. It’s neat but I’m not sure it’s that much better than plane graphite and charcoal. Oh well.

I’m also working on a couple of journals. One is just little stories about me, like the time my bra broke during gym class, during the jump rope portion of the physical fitness test. The other is for a swap. It’s a Journal with a Twist. Each entry has to have an “extra” with it. An ATC, a recipe, a photo, a painting, a candybar like the one you ate that day. Whatever. Here’s my favorite page so far. And the extra for this one is a print out of the original The New York Times article on Alia Muhammad Baker.

The Librarian of Basra, a true story from Iraq

The Librarian of Basra, a true story from Iraq

Here are two ATC’s I did for a swap titled “Good vs. Evil.” We had to make two ATC’s, one showing Good and one showing Evil.

Evil ATC from Good vs Evil

Evil ATC from Good vs Evil

Good ATC from Good vs Evil

Good ATC from Good vs Evil

Next is an ATC from the Butterfly ATC swap. I glued wrappers from Dove Dark Chocolate Eggs onto a piece of cardstock and then cut out the openings in the butterflies wings. I glued it down and then used water color crayons for the background. Then I drew around it with a Sharpie. Oh, and I used color pencils for the body of the butterfly. Pretty cool, eh?

Dove Dark Butterfly for Butterfly ATC swap

Dove Dark Butterfly for Butterfly ATC swap

 

Completed Female with Babe February 16, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,art — Addicted to Yarn @ 9:33 pm
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Female nude with babe; charcoal on sketching paper

Female nude with babe; charcoal on sketching paper

This is the head I started a couple of days ago. Jael wanted to know why she was naked…because I don’t really know how to draw clothes. And I didn’t have a nude model either but skin is easier to guess at than clothing. Anyway. This was my big project for the day…after pushing our car up the hill. 🙂

Detail of Femal with babe

Detail of Female with babe

 

Valentine’s Sunrise…well, maybe just a landscape February 15, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,art — Addicted to Yarn @ 8:53 pm
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Landscape in pencil

Landscape in pencil

This was my project for the day. I bought a bag of Dove Valentine Hearts. As usual, the wrappers have a small message printed on the inside. I decided Jael and my art project for the day would be to illustrate our message. Mine was “Watch a sunrise together” and I thought I would draw a sunrise and give it to Israel for Valentines day, along with the wrapper. All went well until I realized I’d out the light source coming from the left, of page and the place I’d intended for the sun (between the hills) was the exact opposite of the light source. Oh well. It still turned out really well.

And for those who care to know, this is pretty close to what the view out our kitchen window looks like. Our landlords have a raised bed vegetable garden made from stones, much like the stone walls on the right of my picture. Our hard has four trees and not two and there is another field between our yard and the forests. Our yard also has birdhouses and a well/fountain and various other landscaping stuff. But other than that, this is what I get to look at every day. And the light source really does come from that direction so I drew accurately what I see but just not what I was seeing in my mind.

Oh, and this is the scarf I’m knitting Israel. It’s probably about 3/4 finished. I’m enjoying it but I’m also ready to move on to other projects. With German taking up two hours of free time I don’t have nearly the time for knitting that I had a couple of months ago. But I try to knit a few rows every day and hopefully it’ll be finished before we leave Germany.

Israels rainbow scarf - in Traveling Ribs pattern

Israel's rainbow scarf - in "Traveling Ribs" pattern

 

Sleepless Nights and Jazz February 14, 2009

Filed under: Anecdotal,art,deutsch,germany,marriage,writing — Addicted to Yarn @ 8:12 am
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The other night, in an attempt to settle Jael down with some quiet activities, as both Israel and I were sporting severe headaches, Israel put on some jazz and instructed us to draw what the music made us see in our minds. I closed my eyes, leaned back against our wonderful couch and let the music flow through my head. And this is the picture it made:

Jazz; in colored pencil and charcoal

Jazz; in colored pencil and charcoal

Last night as I fell asleep, I was thinking of a picture I’d like to draw and paint. I’d bought a few things at Micados, watercolor paper, water colors, and a new sketchpad, and I wanted to try them out. So while trying to pin down something to paint my mind slipped off to another thought. German. I began running through the German phrases we are working on in class and remembering vocabulary words (or trying to remember). I began to count as high as I could before falling asleep when the following picture popped into my mind and I knew it was what I would draw and paint. I call it, “Danke schön, Herr Trost, for all my sleepless nights.”

Thank you, Herr Trost, for all my sleepless nights; watercolor and felt tip marker

Danke schön, Herr Trost, for all my sleepless nights; watercolor and felt tip marker

These are the pencil drawings I did first. They are pretty cool in their own right.

Sleepless Nights; pencil

Sleepless Nights; pencil

Sleepless nights, detail; pencil

Sleepless nights, detail; pencil

That’s what I’ve been up to. That and having dreams which made me realize afresh that I am committed to always being the best Becky Walker I can be, wherever I am, whatever life situation I am in. The dream involved an old crush and you know how dream emotions are. When you wake up, you still kind of feel them. So as I tried to fall back asleep (which I was unable to do) I thought about what might have happened between this crush and I if my life situation had been different when we met (I was married). Then I wondered what might happen between us if something were to happen to Israel (which I in no way want but it’s always a possibility. Death grabs many people by surprise.). I felt a stab of guilt before I realized that there should be no shame in living life to the fullest. When we first met, I was very happily married and so there could be nothing beyond friendship. I would not trade what I have with Israel for anything. However, if something were to remove Israel from my life, I would not have any guilt about living my new life to the fullest. Each life situation has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

As a single person, all I wanted to do was get married. I missed out on a lot of things that a married person simply can’t do, like take off across the country on a whim, bungee jump, sky dive, things like that. I could have had an art room and really pursued various interests with no expectation put upon me. I love my family and again, would not trade them for anything, but having a family does put limitations on a person, as does being single. When I was single, I did not have a husband to spoon with at night. I didn’t have the stability of eating three square meals a day. I didn’t have the accountability of sleeping well. Of course, I had the option of staying up late and being crabby in the morning. I don’t have that option when I have a child to care for. There are advantages to both sides and I wish I would have taken advantage of those more when I was single.

I am incredibly happy that I’m living my married life to the fullest. There are so many things that are wonderful about being married. Fifty percent of my college tuition is paid for because of my husband’s job. I am living in Germany because of my husband’s job. I have one of the most amazing children in the world, who I could not have had without Israel. I have an expectation placed on me of cooking healthy meals, three times a day, which at first glance seems like a disadvantage but for my health, it’s an advantage. I have an expectation put upon me of being responsible with our money which results in me having better money skills and more money to spend. I have an expectation put upon me of not wasting our resources, which means I’m getting out walking more than I would if I were single. So beyond the obvious advantages of being married (I don’t have to go to work and I’ve got a built in bed warmer) the things that would appear as disadvantages are advantages if looked at through the right lens of living life to be the best you can be.

I love life.

I love where I am in life right now and I hope that whatever tomorrow brings, I will love that too. Life sometimes throws us curve balls that are truly horrible but I hope that no matter what I will live each moment as the best Becky Walker I can be. If life throws me tragedy, I hope I can be the best depressed artist/writer/blogger/crafter that Becky Walker can be.

Life is good.