art strikes a balance

I’ve always favored “pure” art, created without political or social motives. This is not to deny that art can exist in those contexts, just that it often suffers as a result, burdened as it is with a message or some other baggage that distracts us from seeing it qua art.

And yet sometimes it is just so well done, so perfectly attuned to its new purpose, that I can only smile and say thank you.


just what the doctor ordered

I’ve posted before on the interrelationship of Art and health, here and here. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Art is good not only for our state of mind, but also for physical well-being. It’s become something of an M.D. mantra that the health of the body is closely related to that of the mind. This usually translates to generalities such as reducing stress, staying happy, being positive. But now doctors – in Canada at least – can actually prescribe Art for their patients.

“There’s more and more scientific proof that art therapy is good for your physical health. It increases our level of cortisol and our level of serotonin. We secrete hormones when we visit a museum and these hormones are responsible for our well-being.”

I told you that Art was good for you!

random rothkos

My friend Mike came across some… paint on a wall. He’d spotted some bands of color on the walls of an abandoned building. He posted photos of what he’d seen on Facebook, under the title Random Rothkos. A commenter suggested that they were perhaps color samples, done in preparation for painting the building. But whether or not that was the case, it struck me that Mike himself was creating art in the very act of his perception of them as something else. That, in my view of Art, is sufficient.



he’s crafty

I just watched the documentary “Art and Craft.” There was more than one person who suggested that, given his talents, Mark Landis should paint original works, and sign them with his own name. Which sort of misses the point.

What he does, and why he’s become famous, is copy works by famous painters. Or copy their style, at least. And then pass off the works to museums and galleries as originals. One key point though, is that he doesn’t try to sell the works, and therefore is not committing any crimes.

He may know that what he does is forgery, but he calls it “philanthropy.” For Landis, it is the act – the entire act, of painting and presenting a work, complete with paper and wood and frames and canvases all made to look age-appropriate, and then presenting it to a gallery as authentic – that is important.

Yes, his work is undeniably good. But if he had toiled for these same years producing originals, would he be a famous painter? Probably not. As someone in the film said, his schtick is as much performance art as it is painting. And what a performance.

floating my boat

Chairs and nature, in a work produced by an artist whose “intention is to visualize elements of ordinary view and questions how we connect with the beautiful world.” What’s not to like?

The story is here.

a natural history of art


The famous historian of type Robert Bringhurst has just published a book about the humble Palatino typeface. In an interview with Steven Heller, a discussion of how this particular typeface, and its creator Herman Zapf, rates its own volume leads to some provocative ideas on how art can be viewed as a part of natural history:

“I’m not a big fan of the colonial-industrial mindset: the view that human beings are masters of the universe, children of God and pretty much unrelated and unbeholden to anything else. Humans are animals, and we are, like all animals, good at some things, lousy at others. We can run, for instance, but not as well as deer, and we can swim, but not as well as trout. We can climb trees, but not as well as monkeys. Compared with most other creatures, however, we can talk and draw pretty good.

In fact, making art appears to be part of our nature. Humans do it wherever you find them. If art is a natural activity, then the history of art is really and truly a branch of natural history. Maybe this is easier for people to think about if we focus first on calligraphy and typography rather than representational art.”

Read the interview here.

art five-oh

What do you see when you look at a work of art? How closely do you look? Are there salient details? Is it important to look at every little thing?

If you are a police officer, and you are studying with Amy Herman, you’d better take a good look. Herman, an expert in visual perception, uses artwork to train law enforcement officers as well as medical students, business executives, and others how to be better observers. Noticing the details of a painting can easily translate to noticing something at a crime scene, or a medical examination.

“I’ve had people say, ‘I hate art,’ and I say, ‘That’s not relevant,’” she said. “This is not a class about Pollock versus Picasso. I’m not teaching you about art today; I’m using art as a new set of data, to help you clear the slate and use the skills you use on the job. My goal when you walk out the door is that you’re thinking differently about the job.”

Take a look: Off the Beat and Into a Museum: Art Helps Police Officers Learn to Look