Sunday, December 27, 2009

Visual Scripture

How often do scriptures cause us to visualize something in our minds? Stories, people, places, things... all the time, right?? In fact, once you take out the ubiquitous "And it came to pass"'s, you'll see that our holy writ is pretty much stuffed full of amazing visual ideas and symbols. This is one of my favorite features of the scriptures. Somewhere, (you are about to see how much of a scriptorian I am NOT) it says that God speaks to his children at their level of understanding, wherever that is. I feel like he also speaks to us through all of our senses! In addition to the heart and mind, God speaks to our ears, our sense of touch (baptism by immersion, the warm hug you offer to friends in their trials), our sense of taste (sacrament emblems and visiting teaching cookies :), smell (cookies again :) and last but not least, our sight! There are a few vivid "visuals" that I count as my favorite in the scriptures. These visuals, some symbolic and some literal, I imagine again and again, and they never fail to affect me. I'm going to set a couple of them before you, and not offer any art historical dissections. Scriptures sure can stand on their own. That's one of the many reasons why I know they are not a construct of man alone. (I can't resist, however, including a few select illustrations of these scriptures' ideas. The following scattered images are the nearest that reality and the internet come to resembling the truths of these verses, at least as I imagine them. :)

D and C 84: 82-84 For, consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin; and the kingdoms of the world, in all their glory, are not arrayed like one of these.

For your Father, who is in heaven, knoweth that you have need of all these things. Therefore, let the morrow take thought for the things of itself.

Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 49: 15-16 Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.

1st Nephi 11: 8, 33 (Lehi and Nephi's Vision) I looked and beheld a tree... and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God.

This scripture is perhaps my favorite of all these; it comes into my mind all the time when I'm studying the stories and images of the Savior. I'm on an eternal hunt for images that really strike me as looking like Him. It was told to me once that I would recognize the Savior if I saw him before me, which was a sweet thing to be told. It's kind of cool to me to think that somewhere in the back of my subconscious mind I know what Jesus Christ looks like. BYO Illustration to this one :)

Isaiah 53: 2-3, 5 He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New and Good Things

I have half of a post about Manet's The Railway written... but I am seriously struggling to not use high-faluting art theory when I write about it. So it's on hold for yet another week... my mind just can't pare it down yet. (Trust me, it's better this way. It's currently a really boring, watered-down version of my 26-page final Historiography paper. And NOBODY, myself included, should ever have to revisit that ugly monster). 

Instead, I want to talk about the experience of being home. I've thought about what it means to be home at least 10x a day, starting probably three weeks ago. At first, while in the throes of the miserablest round of finals ever, being home was just the chance to escape, to let my mind stop churning. Visions of watching tv, sleeping, and not having to use any more confounded multisyllabic words danced in my head.

Then, I realized that being home represented a major change, or at least a significant mile-marker, in my DC life. With the close of the semester, I said good-bye to a few good friends who will not be returning East with me next year. I also realized, kind of for the first time, that many of my bestest friends in the West have joined the march of the marrieds this past year, and thus can't come out and play with me like old times. But it's ok. We are meant to grow and learn and adventure in this life, and I am so proud of my friends for the bold steps forward they take.

Being home at this time, the end of 2009, means the close of an incredible and unique year. EASILY the fastest 365 days of my life. I have skipped through an internship at the Smithsonian, a round of unemployment, a summer as an underpaid lifeguard, and a fall as a first-year art history grad student. A lot of the time, I hardly noticed how quick and brilliant these days were. In 2009, I have changed, and changed directions, wildly... and I hope for the best. Being home for Christmas means a brief moment to stop and contemplate these amazing opportunities. It also means a chance to express my gratitude for the "back-east" friends I have out there, who make the cold and the distance and the obnoxious DC materialism/professionalism so worth it (special shout-out to Marissa, Jenni, Maggie, and Dani, my East Coast blog buddies :)

Finally, being home allows me to re-learn the wonderful, slightly cheesy but very true lesson: that friends who love each other are never far apart at heart. It doesn't matter that I only got to see my parents four times this year; when I came home, it's as if I never left! Magic! I've changed, it's true, but they love my changes, or at least they'll want to gab about the changes. :) DC '09 taught me that your heart will ALWAYS expand to fit whenever you find something new to care about. Miraculously, none of the older things in there have to be kicked out. What a glorious gift that is, to be able to grow in love, and never be bounded. There are always new people to serve, to laugh with, to explore, and to love. That must be why Heavenly Father's work and glory is to bring about the eternal life of his children. He's really figured it out: the best thing in life is to love as many little humans as possible, and thus keep one's heart growing.

I read over my 2008 journal this morning. Apparently, on Thursday, November 6th, I felt I had the greatest day of my life. Here is a selection of that entry, so you can see why:

"I worked more, kept busy, shared my friendship bread, went and gabbed with Dani at her desk at the Wilk, and walked home in the beautifully brisk air. And on that walk home... Milena, the Director of Public Programs at the Hirshhorn Museum in DC called me to set up an appointment for a phone interview... then we just decided to interview right then. She told me all about the kinds of things I'd be doing, and as we talked, I felt this unbelievable sense that I could not have ASKED for a better internship, one more suited to my current educational, professional, or social needs :) Heavenly Father LOVES me! I started screaming and jumping afterwards, and called the wonderful parents who support me. Mom cried she felt it was so right, so perfect.

"I have officially changed my life plan today- gonna go down a road in January I never dreamed of. It feels incredible, and very right. Ah faith. Bless it. Oh, and I listened to the great art critic Michael Fried give a lecture on High Modernism and Minimalism at the MoA tonight. I felt completely at home there. I belong in that big, beautiful world. I'm SO Happy. PS Milena was SO pleasant to talk to. I'm really looking forward to working with her. PPS Jessica is sad for me to go... and that's why I choose her as my best friend."

I've learned, taught, explored, loved, been accepted to and attended one brutal semester of grad school since January. Frankly, it has worn me out to skin and bones, and I am happily at home in order to recoup and fatten up. Next year's resolution, among several, is to find better balance between all of these things. While in DC a friend really alerted me to the value of balance; I have the nerdy tendency of focusing too closely on my art world (well... once in a while :). I've got a lot to see of life yet, and many people to love and serve.  I am extremely grateful to know that I have a Savior whom I might lean upon as I try to gain strength and accomplish great things. I am so happy to be home for Christmas, so that I might celebrate His birth with those I love. And I am ridiculously excited for the new and good things to come. Merry Christmas all.

Me at the Vegas Bowl last night- BYU vs. Oregon State. I LOVE that the Momo crowd causes the beer signs to be turned off and the hot chocolate ones to be haphazardly created.

Me and Spence after rushing the field. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO COLD! But notice the score in the upper right hand side- Cougs 44, Beavers 20! Just baaaaaarely worth it. :)

PS Please excuse the gushyness of this post. "I just have a lot of feelings." What movie?? Haha

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finals are Over.

Courtesy of a Google image search for "grief."

 I don't even want to talk about it. It was that awful. Grad school is not for the faint of heart.

On the other hand............. I'm going back to New York and then onto Vegas this week! Oh happy day! So happy I'm actually enjoying listening to this:

Merry Christmas. :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yellow and Blue

"Besides, I don't even like the colors green and red together. The summer colors, Yellow, Green, and Blue are SO much prettier to look at!"

- That was one line of an argument I submitted to someone this weekend about why I'm Grinchy. When you spend entire weeks and eventually entire years of your life looking at pigments and daubs and brushstrokes of colors, you start to get a feel of what is attractive to you optically. I've got my optical allurements down pat: Blacks and whites over browns, always. Jewel tones over pastels.  Contrasting colors will always catch my eye better than well-behaved, blended, harmonious colors. Grey is in fact my favorite color, because of the peculiar power it has to make every other color that it is laid down next to just POP. I love contrast all the way around, which is probably the reason I am so obsessed with the painter Gene Davis, see his picture above. Full of contrasts- each color is laid next to another that will make its edges shimmer.  In short, I like my colors to convey action, daring, boldness, and honesty. It can be argued that even my color tastes convey a sense of my summer-obsession (wow. That sentence reads like something straight out of one of my research papers. Meh. I'm leaving it in.). Winter you just sit around in the house looking at the murky mix of brown, green, and red. Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.

Pretty as they might have been, you may have noticed when you first arrived on this blog today that I took down the post-colonial ballerinas from the top of my blog and replaced them with blue, which has then, as is customary, been overlaid by my favorite bright yellow title. I feel right at home with this arrangement.

Guess what? There's an art story to go with the above blue. A good story. This blue has a name: IKb, pronounced "ick-Bee" (which also happens to be the name of a beta fish residing on the GW Art History Dept's front desk). IKb, which stands for International Klein Blue, was invented last century.  Yes, that's right. The color was invented by the French artist Yves Klein (well, no, it was invented by chemists, under Klein's supervision. Then he humbly named it after himself.) Yves Klein is an interesting character in the history of modern art, and his IKblue stands as one of his most crowning achievements. In fact, if I had to put money on what art history books fifty years from now will still say about him, I would bet that he's going down for his use of IKb. This IKb color is made of a pigment suspended in a chemical so that there's pretty much NO reflection coming off a canvas covered in it. Looking at his monochrome blue paintings is like looking at velvet, or the sky, or something. You know how velvet just looks... deeper and shadowy-er than other materials? Yea. Very cool effect. Not reproducible on a computer, but the above was a fairly decent approximation.

One of the most vivid memories I took away from my modern art class at BYU, the first upper-level art history class I ever took, was my Professor Magleby showing us pictures of Yves Klein at work and then announcing, "And here we have Yves Klein, I can't stand him. Such a misogynist. Moving on..." and then we moved on to someone else.

Kind of shocking, you'd think, for a teacher to dismiss someone currently deemed very important to the arc of art history! (The Hirshhorn, in fact, has a giant retrospective of Yves Klein's career coming up I think next year). But when I tell you that the picture Magleby had put up was a picture of Yves Klein, dressed in a tux complete with white gloves, standing over a white-paper-covered floor and ordering around nude women covered in IKb (all done in front of an audience), you may understand. Bleeeeeeeeh.

Nevertheless, like I said, interesting character, which makes for a historically resilient artist. Klein had lots of crazy post-modern ideas about art. He started with these "anthropomorphisms": the paintings of naked people's imprints on canvases (sometimes he'd do these himself... so I guess he can't be labeled a complete jerk). Sometimes Klein would paint with certain chemicals on specially prepared surfaces and then set the whole thing on fire, just to see how the paints changed (see left image,
Untitled fire color painting, 1962, Charred dry pigment in synthetic resin with metallic paint on asbestos-coated paper on board, from the MOMA collection). Klein also did lots of photomontages where it looks like he's leaping off buildings or doing other crazy feats. He had interests in Judo, Oriental philosophy, and the hereafter. In addition, he was probably a total misogynist; the whole ordering women around was a conceptual stunt meant to show off that artists in the sixties, in the now, didn't even NEED to touch the canvas to be considered artists anymore. Whatever, dude. Happy that his time has passed. But he did leave an imprint (I joke!) and a color behind him, a pretty summery color, so he has earned this tiny mention on my blog. And now, it's finals week, and I am putting the finishing touches on my massive essay about Manet. After I have recovered a few of my currently-comatose brain cells, I'll tell you about The Railway. Next time. :) Have a great week everyone!