Mystical Things

A few years ago I wrote about two artists who played with the question of whether what they are depicting is anything more or less than words on a page or paint on a surface. Both the poet George Herbert and the painter Arcimboldo make art of the question, What is art? Is it what it depicts, an idea about what it depicts, both at the same time (which makes it a third option), or something less than? Is art, by definition, always a misfire, in that a depiction of a thing is not the thing and never can be?

Arcimboldo painted portraits of character types rather than individuals; for instance, a librarian composed entirely of books or a gardener made of vegetables in a bowl. That latter painting depends on the viewer to decide to see the bowl filled with veggies or a human “face.”
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Little Glass Houses

The architect Philip Johnson would have been 110 yesterday. He died in January 2005 at the age of 98, at his residence for the previous five decades: his famous Glass House (above), which he built in 1949.

The idea behind the house is intricately simple: walls are an interference (obviously) between us and the world. What if the views on your property provided your home’s natural walls? Of course, my cynical brain brings me to memories of neighborhoods in which I would have happily lived without any windows, where “the view” (not the TV show) was exactly what I did not want to see. Heck, my cynical brain brings me back to apartments in which there were not enough walls between me and … me.
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