((Excerpt from The Art Of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal))
IMITATION OF CHRIST
"His hair was white as wool or snow, and his eyes penetrated like flames of fire. His feet gleamed like burnished bronze, and his voice thundered like the waves against the shore.”
He's the most respected, reviled, controversial and praised figure in human history. Jesus Christ.
For centuries, artists have offered us their interpretations of the man the Holy Bible calls the Messiah, the Son of God.
I''ve seen many paintings, drawings and sculptures of Christ, but two, no, three recent discoveries have moved me to write about them. In all cases, two old, one new, the artists have created truly inspired work.
Spanish Baroque Painter Francisco de Zurbaran's, "The Cruxifixion," is the most stunning painting of Christ that I've ever seen. I saw it at the Art Institute of Chicago. It dates back to 1627 and depicts Christ as a lean, Caucasian male, arms outstretched and lightly draped. He's been neatly, yet brutally nailed to the cross. His body glows against the dark, dramatic background that Zurbaran has created. He went for drama and got it. I almost felt like I should drop to my knees while looking at it. Truly remarkable.
"The Mocking of Christ," by Gerrit Van Honthorst is another inspired work. It dates back to 1617-1620. I saw this piece in a gallery of Dutch masterworks at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It was hanging on a wall between two Rembrandt portraits. Rembrandt always makes me stop, look and listen, but not like this discovery. I couldn't believe the beautiful shadowing and light and the elegant brown and golden tones. He's depicted as a king on a dubious throne, with a crown of thorns on his head. The way Christ is beautified, yet simultaneously reviled by men jeering at him, holding fire in his face, is stunning. Just exquisite. Also, anyone who doesn't believe in the power of framing should look at this painting. It has the most beautiful brown, wooden, modern frame I've ever seen. I can't imagine feeling any more privileged than I did when I basked in the glow of this great painting. It's the reason why I feel so compelled to write about the art that I see.
Fast-forward more than 300 years.
The other, more modern rendition of Christ that strikes me comes from Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. I saw it at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. And man, was I blessed! I saw it literally moments before they began dismantling the exhibition. Talk about nick of time! It's an ethereal, multi-paneled, black & white re-creation of "The Last Supper." Silver-gelatin prints. What strikes me about this piece is how hip and modern it appears. Of course, it was done in 1999, so I guess it would be. Christ is looking right at you and you feel this sense of conviction, yet comfort at the same time. A closer view gives you this sense of the surreal. Like the Zurbaran piece, it's dark and dramatic, yet dreamy and very elegant.
Which, of course, raises the question ... What did Christ actually look like? No one alive today knows for sure. However, one of the many things that I love about Christ is the fact that he’s there for everyman … everyone. We get so caught up in what people “look” like. Close your eyes and see him for yourself. Through art, he looks different to different artists and through life, he looks different to different people. Yet he’s always the same … the same source of inspiration for everyone. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Shouldn’t THAT be the point?
((Excerpt from Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal))
DWELL IN FALL SPELL
It's something you don't often hear people say until it hits.
"Fall is my favorite season!"
Somehow, it always seems to take us by surprise. It creeps up on us as we continue to wear shorts and sandals on deceptively warm days that struggle in vain to outlive summer's end. Although I was aware that it was mid-October, the pleasant arrival of autumn didn't really awaken me until I drove into work one day recently. Venturing down a narrow stretch of road framed by oak trees, weeping willows and other towering monuments of nature, I saw the colors. There are many great artists out there, but Mother Nature tops them all! She slowly and delicately strokes the leaves in yellow, orange, red and brown. A rhapsody of color clearly designed to make us stop or at least slow down and admire.
There's also something unusual about the sky. It's the bluest of blues. It's the blue you want to be when people say you're in a blue mood. There is no bluer blue. Clouds are in short supply when the sky is true blue. It lifts the concept of blue minimalism to new heights!
And yes, THE SUN!
There's something beautifully strange about the way the sun shines during fall. It's so bright and precise as it floods everything, putting it all on stage, especially the newborn color wash on the trees. How can you not notice? Still lifes are everywhere.
Autumn always reminds me that nothing is more magical than change. Something new always comes or goes as the wind blows. Oh, and the wind! It's grand and gusty and bold and breezy. It's unapologetically unruly. Who doesn't love a windy fall day? The wind makes a mess, but it all makes sense. Change blows and brings creativity for those with open eyes. The nip and chill in the air pinch you and remind you that you're alive. You're crisp and alert. All eyes, ears and even pores are open. What a great season to experience. Autumn is for artists and people who live artistically. The falling leaves swirl and twirl, the sun bounces and trounces, our shadows dance and prance, while insects flee and you're left to live in the moment. A pest-free moment finally, except for those times when the ground-crowding leaves crunch and rustle beneath the teeth of my determined rake. Fall makes me believe that I too, am an artist. Or is it a landscaper?
Even the brooks and creeks and rivers and lakes seem game. There's an elegant flow in fall and everyone knows that it's destiny. There's no stopping it or running from it. It's here already. It crept up on us. Like a river flow, it will come and it will go. Why not wallow? It's time to dwell in this autumn spell. But hurry, it won't be long until the leaves are all gone.
Fall is my favorite season, too. (Did you guess?) It reminds me as an art collector that experiences make the best collectibles. People do too. Just live and be awake and on the move and automatically, you're a collector! Yet with fall comes that frigid threat of winter ... the bane of the warmhearted. UGH! It's not my cup of tea.
Speaking of which, there's nothing like a cup of hot tea in fall. Drink up.
Winter is approaching.
((Excerpt from: Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal))
ANDY WARHOL LIVES IN MY HOUSE
Don't be alarmed. I haven't totally lost my mind. Yet, I think some of the best art comes from our own artistic ability, no matter how small.
I'm no artist, but I think that coming up with your own ideas for art certainly gives you some insight into the overall process. Imagine ... your own artistic, pioneering spirit! I love product design. If it's done right, it can actually become art.
Coca Cola and Pepsi are among the best examples. They became conglomerates long ago by not only selling soft drinks, but their brands, their logos as well. We all know they're icons.
It's amazing how comfortable we've become with commercialization. It certainly lives in my home. I love oatmeal. Needless to say, I eat lots of Quaker Oats. I always buy their largest boxes. You know, those forty-two ounce mini-drums. Boy, if I had a buck for every one of those I've consumed! Anyway, one day I was just looking at an empty container that I was about to toss out. Upon inspection, I remembered that it took a group of people with ARTISTIC VISION to create the carton's design that we all now take for granted. Right then, I decided that I was looking at art. So, I put the empty container on top of my refrigerator. Then I put another up there and another and another. Now, I have about fifteen large (empty of course, I eat oatmeal almost everyday) Quaker Oats boxes stacked up in a pyramid shape on top of my fridge. I think there may also be an empty Brillo box or two around here as well. Cool.
I really consider it my tribute to Andy Warhol. It's unlikely that I'll ever own an original Warhol piece, but his spirit lives on in my home.
Also, years ago, I visited a factory in Lockport, New York that makes packaging for food products. Unfortunately, at the time, the company was going out of business and laying off many people. The factory housed machinery that resembled printing presses. The machines would spin out long sheets that would later be detached into many segments and folded into product cartons. Things like Glad Bags, Cheerios, etc.
At the time, I got an idea and asked for a few samples. I now have a couple of sheets that I decided to turn into art. One is packaging for about ten boxes of Triscuit wafers now flat beneath framed glass. Very cool. I should've signed my name at the bottom before I took it to my framer, but I didn't. That's okay, I'm not really an artist anyway. The other sheet that I have is MilkBone dog biscuits. I haven't gotten that one framed yet.
Whenever new visitors look at these pieces, they think they're either cool or weird. Who cares? It's art. It was made by designers ... people with creative insight. I just decided to pull an "Andy Warhol" and raise it to the level of art in my own home. By the way, many observers marginalize this art by calling it "kitsch." Sure, it's fun and funny, however, I truly believe that it's respectable art. Of course, like beauty, "respectable" is in the eye of the beholder. Still, no matter how many times I move in the future, all of those empty, worthless oatmeal boxes are coming with me. You have to keep art alive for yourself.
Hmm ... which now has me wondering ... maybe I should try to contact Andy in The Great Beyond. "Hey Andy, do you think I should start saving up all of those empty Campbell's Soup cans?"
Don't worry. I haven't totally lost it.