One Thing & Another

Word for the Wise

Leonine (LEE-uh-nine) = of or relating to a lion. Example as used by Sax Rohmer in the 1915 crime novel The Yellow Claw: “In the leonine eyes looking into hers gleamed the light of admiration and approval.”

 Quotable Quote

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary can speak.” – Hans Hoffman


From My “Work-in-Progress” Basket

Principles of Wealth: #12 of 61

The term “value” is widely understood in theory but rarely in practice. Value denotes that which you can appreciate and benefit from, both now and also in the future.

Anything that is valuable to you can be said to be a value. Friendship, for instance. Or fidelity. Or art. Or dance. Or music.

Politicians value power and loyalty. They seek to acquire as much of it as they can as they rise through the political ranks so they can wield it when they are on top.

Performance artists value approval and use their energy and creativity to create the largest possible base of fans.

Professionals – doctors, architects, and plumbers – value their reputations and work hard to not only gain but also preserve and improve them by providing high quality service and personal care.

Most healthy minded people understand that wealth (and even net investible wealth) has no intrinsic value. Its value is dependent on its ability (or perceived ability) to be exchanged for those other values: friendship, loyalty, power, and admiration, to name a few.

Mini Philosophy Lesson: Aesthetics*

Most people think of aesthetics as the study of beauty. But it is a bit broader than that. The word derives from the Greek term to denote perception, feeling, or even sensation.

Plato had an idealistic view of aesthetics. He believed that there was a perfect form of the beautiful – generally and specifically. A bed, for example, was an imitation of an ideal thing, a “Form” or paradigm, almost like an abstract blueprint of what a carpenter might build. The bed that the carpenter actually built was beautiful or not to the degree that it replicated some ideally beautiful bed that exists in some other dimension. In his ideal word, only representational art would exist, and its purpose would be didactic: to teach viewers what truth and beauty look like.

Aristotle, perhaps the greatest of all philosophers, was not an idealist. He did not believe that there was some perfect bed in some ideal world that real beds and paintings of beds should imitate. It was enough for him that the painting of a bed should look as much like its earthly subject as possible. His approach to aesthetics was to identify the best expressions of art and compare them. From that, he made observations that could be used by critics (for evaluation), viewers (for appreciation), and artists (for creation).

Most of the ideas we have about aesthetics today can be said to have originated in the writings of either Plato or Aristotle. But there was a twist added at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the advent of “art for art’s sake.” This view held that art should exist solely to be beautiful. It need not have the pragmatic/didactic purposes that Plato and Aristotle suggested.

I don’t know of a philosopher who has made this claim, but I believe that much of aesthetics is actually the basis of ethics. At the bottom of many ethical preferences – once you cut through the skimpy rationales – is some deeply held feeling about what is ugly and what is beautiful in human behavior.

*From my book How to Speak Intelligently About Everything That Matters”.

 Look at This…


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Literary Criticism

criticsFor every good book, play, or poem, there are probably a half dozen works of criticism written about it.

Literary critics tend to fall into groups, characterized by what they think their jobs are. The best criticism is that which seeks to understand and explain a work by analyzing it in its cultural context.

But many critics are not happy doing that. So they do other things, such as evaluating literature based on how well it lives up to some moral or political standard. These efforts usually aren’t helpful at all – unless you are a zealot – but they are common. Other critics,wishing to show how smart they are, take a “formalist” approach, analyzing works according to their “linguistic texture.” Then there are critics who analyze works psychologically. This can be fun if you like it, but… well. There are also critics who like to find comparisons between a work and the author’s life. Most of them work for arcane literary journals. And then there are those who think their duty is to explain nothing more than their own personal impressions.

Interesting Fact: The word “criticism” is from the Greek kritikos, meaning “judge.”

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Mesa Ocre con 3 Objetos

Mesa Ocre con 3 Objetos
Alejandro Aróstegui (1935 – )
Mixed media & collage on canvas, 61” x 61″

Alejandro Aróstegui is, without a doubt, one of the great political activists of all time in the Nicaraguan art world. For decades, he has used crushed cans and other “found” objects as the focus of his imagery. (They can be seen in many of his works in private and public collections.) He used trash in his art long before the trend for recycling existed — not as endorsement for “being green,” but to express indignation.

Mark Ford and I consider Aróstegui to be the most important of the Nicaraguan artists.
He was instrumental in the formation of the Praxis group in Managua at the beginning of the modern art movement in Nicaragua, and was its leading visual artist. He studied architecture at the University of Tulane in New Orleans and art at the Ringling School of Art, as well as in Florence and Paris.

What Mark likes about this painting is the feeling it evokes — which is difficult to describe because it is complex and almost contradictory.

Serenity is one emotion. The other is some sort of aesthetic irritation. The serenity comes from the blue sky and mountains, conventional elements in landscape painting. Here, they are painted as flat surfaces, yet some sense of perspective is suggested by the shading — especially in the primary field, which presents both the mountains in the distance and the desert in the foreground. The aesthetic irritation comes from that contrasted with how soothing the colors are.

But that is only half the painting. The other half is a still life showing a legless table that seems to be floating in air. On top of the table are three objects that seem to be both flat and three-dimensional. They seem flat because they are flattened metal objects. At the same time, they have three-dimensional qualities because of their shape and color and also because they cast shadows on the table surface.

Cenar, 2011, 19” x 30”

The contradictions give Aróstegui’s paintings a complexity that is hard to ignore. On an academic level, you might say that he achieves that here by combining select elements of three very distinct genres: landscape, still life, and surrealism.

Aróstegui still paints in his pristine studio in Managua, Nicaragua. I like that he creates only a few paintings each year. They sell before the paint dries at still reasonable prices. His work is occasionally available on the secondary market.

Las formas a la luz de la luna, 2011, 16” x 13”

Suzanne Snider

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