Meaning & Purpose Chapter 17

Chapter 17 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What are the moral and ethical responsibilities of representational artists to each other?

Morality and Politics in the Art Community

There are rumors of recurring issues affecting the arts community, including representational artists. Rumors such as:
–jurors who judge and award cash prizes to friends
–teachers who show up too impaired or unprepared to teach
–artists who use others’ photographs to create new works without credit
If rumors such as these are true, and issues such as these exist, are they moral or are they political issues?

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 16

Chapter 16 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

How can a representational artist claim power in today’s culture?

The Practice of Representational Art

To this point I have addressed morality and politics in the content of representational art, and I turn now to morality and politics in the practice of representational art. Alia al Bermani responded to a question of ethics that I posed in The Representational Art Group on Facebook encouraging me to propose a paper on this topic. The figure of the representational artist today might exemplify the dilemma of being human today–as insignificant in the culture of celebrity and success as man in the universe; as pitiful or worse, contemptible as so many attributes of tradition, begging for scraps.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 15

Chapter 15 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Are we only subordinate to external power, or are we free to dream?

Power and Choice, Nihilism and Freedom

The enigmatic, the tragic, the open ended, the mysterious nature of human existence remains. Can artists create new visual allegories to explore what the meaning of life is in the face of our inevitable death, the profound existential dilemma? What can we show about being human today?.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 14

Chapter 14 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What makes a visual allegory?

When Allegory Works

What Have We Done to Angels by Nelson Shanks works as an allegory because the artist took an object visually charged with meaning imbued by centuries of understanding, and used it in a composition such that we can see what he intends. He meant to show the price paid when we ignore the higher state of being, once described as angels, for reasons of expedience. It is not necessary to know or agree with the Christian tradition to grasp the meaning of the dove figure created with the knot of the string.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 13

Chapter 13 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Metaphors and Revelation

Steven Assael works allegorically. “Passengers” describes a metaphorical journey between new and old civilizations, between the present and the past,” James F. Cooper informed us in the Newington-Cropsey Foundation’s American Arts Quarterly 26(3). The monkeys here are personifications of the distraction that the soul must conquer.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 12

Chapter 12 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Can Artists Create Myths?

The painters who have banded together as “Metamodern Classicists” tell us at their eponymous website that they aim to create “an entirely novel mythic system.” Many work with technical skills comparable to the atelier movement. Their concerns expressed verbally are ambitious–indeed, they call on allies as “makers of gods yet unborn.” While I applaud the intent, their claims raise two questions. First, there is the question of creating myths. Myth achieves its power through recognition, through referentiality, through repetition.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 11

Chapter 11 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

According to philosopher William Barrett, “Art is the collective dream of a period.” How can an artist or a group of artists do more than reflect their times?

Myth and Meaning

I had intended at this point to show an image satirical of the power of the state, a moral and political issue if ever there was one, by the artist known as Banksy, but in a delicious twist of irony I learned that “the use of this image involves quite a few potential legal issues.” I have grave concerns about the so-called permissions culture, and the idea that an image of a picture painted on the side of someone else’s property, which is technically vandalism, cannot be legally or ethically presented in an academic setting, which strikes me as both ridiculous and unseemly.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 10

Chapter 10 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

How can an artist respond to the expression of political power?

Myth, Power and Politics

Not surprisingly, there is a school of thought in the study of mythology that regards myths as a form of broad understanding, telling stories connected to power, political structures, political and economic interests. This description sounds remarkably similar to the post-modern take on the world.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What makes a fairy tale resonate?

Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

I move deeper into social reality to works based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Frederick Turner reminds us that fairy tales serve a particular function in tradition. They teach “that your own moral decisions and choices are determining factors in making you who you are.” Paula Rego uses nursery rhymes in narratives to make sense of her childhood in Portugal, a world with dark secrets, compromise and betrayal. “With unforgettable imagery and ambiguous titles, she subverts the family, the so-called traditional role of women, opera, Fascist governments and any institution that the rest of us might confuse with authority,” we learn from the complete edition of her works in print.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 8

Chapter 8 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Who else has been missing from our view?

Redressing Historic Wrongs

Postmodernists tell us that “The logics of domination structure the world.”1 Kerry James Marshall makes art that addresses the domination that was exerted by enslaving Africans to build the New World. Voyager depicts the actual event of the Middle Passage across the Atlantic to the Americas. Plunge also shows the Atlantic Ocean, but the “Private” sign on the gate leaves us uncertain about how the descendants of the enslaved have fared in succeeding years. Who is included? Who is excluded? are questions that acknowledge that social isolation, or segregation, becomes a two way street.

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