Friday, December 24, 2010

Liberals – Art part VII 113

What are we dealing with here with Saving Jessica author Imogen Clark?

“As a parent you can only divulge your own child's misdemeanours to someone who is not shocked by them. Most of my women friends were much more conservative than I was and whilst I loved them dearly, they were not the ones to confide in now.”

Saving Jessica, p. 134 where Imogen describes looking for advice and help

Imogen may really be saying, “I have a lot of conservative acquaintances, but I wouldn't humiliate myself by telling them my daughter is a heroin addict. I'm better than that. I'm better than them, and I won't let them lecture me or smirk at me. My approach to life is better than that. And maintaining my appearances is a more pressing need than aiding my daughter with her problem.”

And she is probably right! Conservative friends might have asked her about her faith, about the closeness of the relationship with her husband, why the husband isn't leading the decisions and confrontations with Jessie, whether she should ask for forgiveness for being an indifferent mother, and a whole host of embarrassing and fight-provoking questions.

And she is probably right for another reason. Her book was reviewed and edited by a top publisher and her implied cruelty, though evident, was not edited out. A more rational book review might have suggested not publishing such an hysterically furious and self-serving rant. She was nominated for awards for this book. She spoke at conferences as a veteran who had been through the mess that addicts create. She only got called on her cruelty seven years after publication. And that insightful review was from an experienced counselor who fully understood invalidation and its techniques.

Imogen Clark doesn't know who she is or what her emotional triggers are. The folks at Random House didn't catch any of this. The attendees at at least one major seminar didn't pursue it. Imogen was nominated for awards. What do all these teachers and social scientists have in common that they don't recognize?

I call it a civil religion. It isn't written down It's a package of moieties that goes unquestioned and undebated. I myself have had trouble tracking it down, though I knew it was there, having gone to extremely liberal public schools and state universities in the 1960s and 1970s (King County, Washington, and the City and County of San Francisco, California).

So, how as blog author can I assert this mysterious “package of moieties” without references? Because I am a CPA, an experienced auditor, a master of tricky formal research (in taxation), and, on my last employment before retiring, a state fraud examiner. The package of moieties is there, sometimes stated out loud, yet unbundled and left in the technical fields involved – art criticism and formal philosophy.
We aren't going to find anything if we search the Internet (or even search Lexus Nexus) for a connection between liberalism and cruelty and pomposity. But if we look at art that liberals admire (especially cubism, impressionism, and 12-tone-scale orchestral music) and at the formal philosophies favored by liberals over the last century, we can achieve some theories and some answers – inferences that are powerful enough to reach some conclusions about the quiddity of modern liberalism.

Let's start with modern abstract art, particularly painting, and very particularly with Pablo Picasso. I've spend a lot of time living around and working with conservative people in places like Virginia. I've never met a single art-minded conservative with a high opinion of Picasso. I've also known a lot of libertarians. They don't have a high opinion of Picasso, either, though some will try to shift the conversation to surrealism (especially Salvador Dali) or photo-realism. But many, many liberals love Picasso. He was an artistic revolutionary.

Below is the best review of Picasso I've ever read. It says a great deal in just a few hundred words. Some of them I've emphasized. This analysis is copyrighted but available on-line from the link below the text. I will discuss it further in the next blog posting.
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Africa's Magic that Transformed Modern Art
An exhibition in South Africa reveals the depth of African influence on Picasso
The Economist February 9, 2006 (Johannesburg)

PABLO PICASSO never went to Africa. But more than three decades after his death, his art is travelling to the continent that so deeply affected his work. “Picasso and Africa”, the most extensive exhibition of the artist's work ever assembled in the region, was due to open at the Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg on February 10th, and will travel to the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town in April. The show, which highlights Africa's influence on Picasso's work, brings more than 80 of his paintings, drawings and sculptures together with a selection of African masks and statues similar to those that he had around him as he worked.

                                                                    Out of Africa

Picasso said that the “virus” of African art stayed with him throughout his life. He caught it in June 1907, when stumbling upon the African and Oceanic collection at the Ethnographic Museum of the Trocadéro in Paris. The fateful encounter was a revelation: “The masks were not simply sculptures like any other. Not at all. They were magical objects.” That day, he later said, he understood what painting really meant. It is not an aesthetic process; it's a form of magic that interposes itself between us and the hostile universe, a means of seizing power by imposing a form on our terrors as well as on our desires.”

He had been working on “Les Demoiselles

Many other signs were to follow. The exhibition shows how Picasso absorbed Africa's abstract, expressive representations of faces and bodies, and made them his own. He started fragmenting and faceting the human figure, which eventually gave birth to cubism. He was later inspired by African power masks from Congo—wood carvings used by diviners to help them communicate with the spirits—which used everyday materials, such as nails and mirrors. Picasso created one of the sculptures in the exhibition, “Head of a Woman”, out of a colander and springs; nails and newspapers find their way into other works.

The show offers visitors a glimpse into Picasso's genius at work. Many of the pieces exhibited are drawings, sculptures and studies that the artist kept in his studio and which document and dissect his experiments with a new art form. His fascination for African art had turned into a collecting bug, which he fed as he wandered the flea markets of Paris and Marseilles. He gathered over 100 African statues and masks, and kept them by him. Visitors to the exhibition, surrounded by work in progress and with African artefacts beaming their magic, feel transported to his studio.

Many of Picasso's contemporaries shared his fascination with African art. Artists such as André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Georges Braque and Henri Matisse were also avid collectors. In the early 20th century, France's colonial push into Africa encouraged an interest in the tales and objects from mysterious, exotic lands, which travelled back with soldiers, traders and missionaries. Picasso and his fellow avant-garde artists, who had been searching for a new artistic language to break the mould of conventional representation, were exposed to forms rich in symbols.

Africa found its way in varying degrees into their work. Yet, explains Marilyn Martin, one of the exhibition's curators, Picasso had a unique understanding of the magical and ritualistic power of African art, which influenced him far beyond form. That encounter at the Ethnographic Museum transformed his artistic vision, and with it the direction of modern art.

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