I’ve been thinking about starting a vlog. There’s tons of them out there, trust me, I have no delusions of grandeur or driving ambition for fame. As a teacher I read a lot about the three steps in the “new literacy;” Discover, Process, and Share. So, I’d like to demonstrate this practice for my students.
When I teach Art students about Art History, I try to share a sampling of exemplar painters’ works and introduce concepts of perception, design, expression and execution techniques. Because the purpose is to inform my student’s own work, and we’re limited by time, I don’t tend to focus on which works are my personal favorites or why. This series would give me an opportunity to do that.
Art impacts the lives and thinking of both viewers and makers. Since I’m not a teenage YouTube star, I’m going to process these discussions by writing first, before recording. Feel free to share your own responses to these artworks in the comments on these blog posts. If I follow through with this, I’ll embed the videos into these posts. If I don’t (for whatever reason, time, obstacles or inclination) I figure I’ll still write some burbs about famous paintings here anyway, just as a blog and not a vlog.
First up, Salvador Dali’s 1976 Surrealist painting, “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea; Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko)” better known as “Lincoln in Dali-Vision.”
Please try not to be put off by the nude woman’s tush. While a lot of Dali’s work explores psycho/sexual themes, legend has it that his wife Gala was his only female model.
This thing is over six feet wide by eight feet tall. Dali got the idea for this from an article in Scientific American magazine which reported about the smallest pixelation at which an image can be reduced and still be recognizable by the human mind. Dali used just 121 pixels to represent President Lincoln.
I think that Dali deals with four things which were important in this work; Faith, Civics, Love, and Art. That may be why I like it so much, because I can identify with these same four aspects of life.
On the top of Lincoln’s head, Dali painted Jesus being crucified on the cross, floating in the blazing sky. This puts the spiritual and the intellectual together. While I’m Lutheran where Dali was Catholic, my faith is central to my life and my faith life tends to be more cerebral, with a focus on theology and reading- rather than being just emotional or dogmatic.
Obviously you can’t think about Abe Lincoln without thinking about America or Democracy. I have a double major in Art and History. In the mornings I teach eighth grade Civics and then teach MS/HS Art the rest of the day. Naturally combining Art and Social Studies appeals to me. The more I read the Gettysburg Address, the more I appreciate it. While my religion cautions me not to turn politics or politicians into false idols, I kind of see this image a little bit like an old Byzantine icon- especially with the gold colors and the mosaic qualities that come from the grid Dali used.
Sure, Gala and Dali may not have been paragons of purity and virtue, their marriage somehow held together for almost 50 years. Not only was she his model, but also his agent. Dali is known for his both sensual and affectionate depictions of Gala whenever she modeled for him. My wife is my best friend. I can’t see God and representative democracy and federalism are abstract concepts which I can’t hold or talk to, so often my wife seems more real and consequently more important that faith or patriotism, even though she and I both believe in putting God first.
I feel like I have a bit of a connection color field painter to Mark Rothko because he committed suicide on the day I was born. His brand of minimalist abstract expressionism was to paint huge areas simple, non-objective color. His intention was that viewers could be with these color fields as with religious icons and be induced into a contemplative state, almost like in devotion. Lost in eternal meditations, escaping the tyranny of everyday hassles. I think that the soft shades and glows of each cube in Dali’s painting have a Rothko-esque feel to them.
The Dalis weren’t introverts, they socialized with other artist couples like the Magrittes in the 20’s and 30’s and later with pop stars and entertainers in the 50’s and 60’s. I’m convinced that no matter how proud he may have been of his own prowess as an artist, Dali also loved art so he viewed, enjoyed and explored art and talked with other artists about art. Ultimately, this painting isn’t about Jesus, Lincoln or Gala, it’s about optics. It’s about our eyes and how our brains process and interpret images. It’s about Art.
If a painting being about God, nations “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” love for a beautiful woman and ART isn’t enough to make it a great painting, I don’t know what is.
What will my eyes be hungry for next time? Come back in about a week and we’ll see. Stay hungry, my friends.