Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Musing about Art

The art exhibition at the University of Oregon is over; they have sent us back the pages we lent them for the show. We sent them in mylar envelopes, they returned them beautifully matted. These people did things better than they had to.
This picture of a dejected Batman (issue 195, page 22) is one of the pieces they sent back. I have finally photographed it.
I have watched some of the Olympics, as just about everyone who has access to some sort of viewing tool has done. My favorite in the winter Olympics is ice dancing. I know, it's not really a sport. But that's what I like about it. The couples don't have to all do the same set of things; they can create their dance. It's art, or sometimes it is. As I was watching, I remembered a couple from maybe 20 years ago whose routines were different from anyone else's. I couldn't remember their names, so I Googled (actually Binged) 1990 ice dancing, and found them: Torvill and Dean. If you haven't seen them--or even if you have--this is truly worth watching. They did something that NO ONE else did: they subsumed their own egos into the dance. That is, it was not about parading their skill; it was about making something beautiful. Their timing was absolutely perfect, but it wasn't about that. Their strength was astonishing, but it wasn't about that. Their virtuosity was legendary, but it wasn't about that. It was not even about the exact unison of their actions. It was about making something beautiful. Dance is a spectator art; it doesn't exist without an audience. But these dancers are not showing off for their audience. Nothing in them says, "Look at how great I am." What they say is, "Enter into the spirit of this number, and be transported to a place of delight."
In contemplating Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, I am aware that all great art has that in common. It is not about showing the skill of the artist, or even the vision of the artist. It's not about ego. Sometimes what is right for the work is to do something simpler than the artist's skill level is capable of. Sometimes a great part has to be taken out because it doesn't go with the rest of the piece. An artist does what is in his or her own soul, without wondering if it's really OK to do it that way because it hasn't been done before. An artist takes his or her own vision and translates it into their particular art form, even if it's socially peculiar, or never before heard of, or obsolete, or unpopular. It's not about other people, even if it is done for others to see or hear.
I began this post by mentioning that the people of the Jordan Schnitzer gallery at the University of Oregon had treated the artworks they borrowed with care far beyond what was expected. That is also a part of art: doing far more than what other people expect, because it has to fulfill ones own vision of what is right.
Here above is this picture that Seth did, of Batman sitting on a couch looking like an unhappy guy in a spandex suit, his tool belt hanging realistically down onto the floor, and a knife upright in the floorboards where he has thrown it in frustration. This sort of image of Batman upset some fans, who wanted their superheroes a little less vulnerable. But it takes Batman to a level of realism that accentuates his superpowers rather than diminishing them, because it shows him to be a guy like your neighbor, who just happens to have an extra source of ability, and is learning to use it. Batman too is an artist: a man who has an extra ability, and learns how to use it, sometimes in unprecedented ways, so the rules have to be made up as he goes along.


Joe said...

Hi Vicki & family

Hope all is well, I love the blog, I check here regularly for updates. I am writing to you to let you know how Seth’s work essentially changed my life! A few years back I was in a comic book shop (I live in the UK, just outside London) and stumbled across Batman: Snow. I had only been a casual comic book fan up until that point, but had never seen anything quite like this particular artwork before, the style was unique and I loved it! Needless to say, I have now collected almost all of Seth’s back catalog of work (all except Happydale - which is proving rather difficult to locate over here!) he was truly a genius and I was extremely sad to hear of his passing a few years back. I myself am an artist looking to get into the business and would consider Seth as one of my main role models/inspirations, and even now I still re-read his work on a fairly regular basis. Anyway, I thought you may wish to view an example of my recent work:

Or alternatively my portfolio, at: http:joejames.co.uk



Vicki said...

Thank you Joe. I responded to your email instead of here. I'd love it if you keep me in the loop about your work.