Carnival vs. Lent

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Kampf zwischen Fasching und Fasten (The Fight Between Carnival and Lent) depicts today, the day before Lent. Today is an important enough day in the Christian calendar to go by a few nicknames: Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” “Pancake Day.”

Any day that is associated with food, whether because restrictions are about to be imposed or restrictions are to be erased for one special day, by rights ought to have as many nicknames as it can bear.
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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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Despair Has No Wings …

To be is to despair and to despair is to remember the thousand tightly missed connections and not-yet completed conversations that will reveal themselves eventually as never really begun. The Surrealists got despair, perhaps better than most. They adopted Existentialism’s finer frustrations and rendered them with comedy, joy, and horror in sometimes strange proportions.

The comedy of coincidence and the tragedy of imminent abandonment dominate their work. Everyone is always alone, and this fact is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying in Surrealist Art.
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The First Paintings

The aurochs is an extinct form of cattle that overlapped with humans for tens of thousands of years. It lived in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia; the last one died in 1627. We domesticated it: Our modern-day beef cattle and dairy cows are descended from the aurochs and some of them bear a deep resemblance to the extinct animal. (Picture a bull in a bullfight, but make the animal taller and even more muscular; this would have made a bullfight a bit more even.) The reason for the extinction of the aurochs is the all-too familiar one, and it can be summed up as: Humans have enjoyed beef for a very long time.

Early modern humans, homo sapiens, showed up around 100,000 years ago, and we really started to leave a mark on the landscape around 40,000 years ago. This is deep in our prehistory, and no one knows what our Upper Paleolithic ancestors were thinking. It just appears that thinking is something they were doing.
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Down with Renoir!

Yesterday at noon, protesters began to chant: “Rosy cheeks are for clowns / Do your job, take them down.” Another: “God hates Renoir! God hates Renoir!” The number of people attending the protest in front of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts numbered in the middle-to-high single digits, according to reports.

Max Geller, a political organizer, hates Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter who died in 1919 and never used anything but pastels in any of his several many famous and gigantic works. If one could type a sentence that used air quotes and then took them away and then replaced them again, one might perhaps begin to convey a sense of how completely almost serious and almost mocking and yet earnestly this hatred is felt.

Protest is important. In a free country, one ought to be able to protest anything and everything. This happens to be a free country, and the display of Renoir’s frenetically-dabbed pastel pastorals is as good an object of protest as many. (Not “any,” but many.) Two of his works have fetched more than $70 million at auction in the last quarter-century, so the received perceived wisdom in both the art world and the world world is that Renoir’s many giant works are good and valuable.
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My Favorite Cave

The aurochs is an extinct form of cattle that overlapped with humans for tens of thousands of years. It lived in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia; the last one died in 1627. We domesticated it: Our modern-day beef cattle and dairy cows are descended from the aurochs and some of them bear a deep resemblance to the extinct animal. (Picture a bull in a bullfight, but make the animal taller and even more muscular; this would have made a bullfight a bit more even.) The reason for the extinction of the aurochs is the all-too familiar one, and it can be summed up as: Humans have enjoyed beef for a very long time.

Early modern humans, homo sapiens, showed up around 100,000 years ago, and we really started to leave a mark on the landscape around 40,000 years ago. This is deep in our prehistory, and no one knows what our Upper Paleolithic ancestors were thinking. It just appears that thinking is something they were doing.
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Olana

Only one person has asked, which means that many have been wondering silently. It’s a clamor of silence. (In the world of a co-dependent, almost complete silence is the same thing as many specific requests.) The question(s): The photo at the top, where is that? What is it photo of?

Indeed, there is one photo on this web site that is not of me or my duck friend, and it has sat at the top of the front page since The Gad About Town made its debut. It is at the top. It is the view of the Hudson River looking south from Frederic Edwin Church‘s home studio, Olana, near Hudson, New York. It is a photo taken in 2013.
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Discrediting Reality

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol, was born 111 years ago today. “A nice round number,” he is not reported to have not said to anyone about this or any other number, except round ones, today or any other day.

Salvador Dalí was the most local of artists—many street scenes in his works replicate from childhood memory the turn-of-the-century streets of his hometown of Figueres, many beach-scapes are photorealistic recreations of the rocks and outcroppings and jetties of the nearby Port Lligat beaches he loved—and his works bring viewers into a yet more local setting: his mind and his dreams.

His body is interred in a crypt in the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, across the street from the church in which he was baptized and received his first communion.

Dalí’s popularity as an artist has never really had peaks and valleys; his work started to attract notice when he was in his mid-20s and his course through life took him from attention-getting to admired to loved to beloved, and now he is thought of as one of the major visual artists of the 20th century.

His self-promoting persona sometimes outshone the creations but at times it was his chief creation.

And for $30 from various websites, you can purchase a melting wristwatch, as seen at top, a visual reference to one of Dalí’s most famous paintings: The Persistence of Memory.
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