By jared a. j. butler - Posted on 08 October 2010

The most brilliant people--recognized or unrecognized geniuses--I have met, read, and admired don't hate God, their parents or the world, nor do they harbor disdain people at all (save maybe for rich people--that particular kind of rich people). They don't conform to any of the stereotypes portrayed in the cartoon in the first image, and despite an acute awareness of all that's wrong with the world, their kind eyes do not judge and do not scorn.  Now there may be people who do in fact match up more or less to these descriptions and ones like it by Matt Groening, but I wonder what bitterness in his heart led to such an unlearned, general critique of Modernity.


Not acquainted with each other due to the exile of time and space, the artist whose saints, sibyls, angels and demons soar in the Sistine and the other whose eyes saw fire split men into pieces by the hundred in trenches and in streets reach to the other from ends of a globe; like the faces of Janus, they gaze--only inwardly, eyes locked.  At the the center of the sphere they share: ever in sight and ever diminishing to an unseen vanishing point, a sphere whose center is at all points.


Inwardly they gaze, sights settled on that object which solely possesses all imaginable and all possible writhing and expressions of the Universe's unuttered and unknown passions: the face.  The suffering face, contorted in torment, sparks in them the vigor of all ages--that drive whose appearances differ grossly to the untrained and mortal eye but remains unmistakably identical to itself when examined by the sensitive, adept hands of he who only seeks to liberate the soul from the dead matter that encases it.


And you would call the former the ideal and the latter the abomination, when all that's changed is the fact that the whispers of the world's tortures have become a shout audible even to the unborn?

The pale, broken reflection of art in your mind's mirror is an untrue and unnecessary dichotomy.


And there is a third, like the others in spirit, but who heard in his colors the music of the spheres, ascending beyond those same vicissitudes of the face in colors and in forms who seem more like the Compositions whose names they bear.


And the first one added the post-script: It's OK to look at naked people in art.


 Michelangelo Buonarrati. Last Judgment (detail)

Michelangelo Buonarrati. Last Judgment (detail).

1537 - 1541



George Rouault. Head of Christ

George Rouault. Head of Christ

Oil on paper attached to canvas



Wassily Kandinsky. Several Circles

 Wassily Kandinsky. Several Circles

Oil on canvas




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Beautiful, Lover

jared a. j. butler's picture

This isn't really a fair representation of what I think about the divisions in Art History, or the divisions in any discipline for that matter.  Yes, of course there is something very different going on in modern art when compared to Michelangelo.  For that matter, the spiritualism of Rouault and Kandinsky isn't really a true spiritualism at all to me, as the former was aware of the absence of the traditionalism necessary for an authentic spirituality in his art and the latter never progressed to a spiritualism of an objective nature, that is: beyond his own subjective framework, even if he did familiarize himself to great extent with traditional art.  By spirituality in art here I mean an art that treats the spiritual as an ontological reality, which is what each of these artists have in common, and not merely a state of consciousness or something of the sort.  


What I do want to stress here is that this is more of a "creative writing" response to what I perceive to be a narrow minded, ill-informed view of art over the centuries.  This view, if I could express it as I understand it, would be: "Due to modernity's evils, the modern artist has become an alienated, angry individual who hates his family, God, society, etc and who shares nothing in common with artists of tradition.  On top of that, nudity in art is wrong."  This is a view for which I would without fail have suspicion, and would attack with any string of words I could muster, whether they be didactic or poetic in their organization. 


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