Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's all in the details.

This Christmas, one of my favorite gifts was a Close Up art card game from my mom. Yeah, we like to shop at museum stores. How did you know? The game takes famous works of art and puts them in sets of two, one being the full work and the other a magnified "close up" from it. With several activities possible, ranging from Old Maid to Memory, countless hours of fun can be had with this simple, genius card game.

After playing this so much, and even just staring at the cards, it made sense that the perspective used in the game would spread to how I looked at art in my everyday life. This became particularly apparent in my art history class. Now when I study certain pieces, my attention is drawn to small details no one else notices (much like Audrey Tautou's movie watching in Amelie). Since I am such a loving, caring person, I thought I'd share with everyone this joy of details and give a small glimpse into my brain with a new series I am introducing: Close Up with Cat, Vol. I. Lets begin, shall we?

Our first piece we'll be examining is Francisco Goya's The Third of May, 1808

It's a strong piece, offering overt Christ-symbolism, the horror of war, and shock at the tyranny that sometimes occurred in Napoleonic France. We look in pity at the helpless Spaniards being slaughtered. But a whole new meaning comes into the mix when we look at this:

A little fuzzy, but you get the general idea. These two prisoners seem very far away from willing surrender. Instead, intense hatred and subtle plotting are written all over the left figures face. The right man leans in, as if confirming some uprise that will occur at any moment. Definitely not what the viewer sees on first observation.

Next is Theodore Gericault's Raft of the Medusa

Such drama. With broiling seas and figures writhing in Death's grip, it's hard to really know where to look first.

I really liked this guy. He kind of sums up the attitude I would have if I was in the same shipwrecked, starving situation he was. "Who cares, we are all going to die anyway, just give up now. You'll waste way less energy that way. You think that boat's going to see your pathetic little shirt-flag? Yeah. Right. We're doomed. Call me when the fat one dies."

This one was actually kind of cool. I present a landscape for you, and an American work (USA! All the way!), Thomas Cole's The Oxbow

Beautiful. Can't beat that Hudson River School. They do landscapes right. But wait, what is that at the bottom of the picture?

OK. You might have to grab a microscope for that one. But if you look really carefully, you can see a little top hat. and underneath that, a person. Who could it be, in the midst of that untamed wilderness? None other than the artist himself, Thomas Cole, arm outstretched, presenting in all its glory NATURE.

Finally, Jacques- Louis David's The Oath of the Horatii

Ah, Neoclassicism. Look at how honorable and patriotic they are. Giving their all for the glory that is Rome. True heroes. Hold on just a second. What are they doing!?!

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

So I hoped you enjoyed this little visual adventure, and join us next time for a foray into Revivalist Architecture!

Friday, March 7, 2008


This post has taken a ridiculously long amount of time to be posted. To my few, loyal followers I apologize (sorry Kelsey and Ashley!). What with ridiculous amounts of school, and maybe even the deeply personal nature of this entry, it's been written in small intervals every now and then. Anyway, here goes.

For those of you who honestly don't know me and randomly stumbled across this blog looking for one that outlines moodily attractive movie characters, I have to say something: I am addicted to Batman. This is common knowledge to those near to me. And for the last time, no, I do not just love Batman because the incredibly talented and attractive Christian Bale (Call me! Anytime! I LOVE YOU CHRISTIAN!!!) took on the role of the Caped Crusader in the 2005 blockbuster "Batman Begins". My love began from a younger age, when I would watch the futuristic "Batman Beyond" and think it was insane that someone with absolutely no real superpowers would take on sadistic badguys who possessed supernatural abilities born of acid accidents or exposure to radiation. Yet the more I watched, the more heroic Terry McGinnis and his aging mentor, Bruce Wayne, became to me. True, they had no "special" gifts, just athletic bodies and loads of cash, but they dedicated what they had to making the world, or at least Gotham, a better place. Batman appealed to my idealistic side, the part of me that wants to believe that we are capable as mere human beings of being a force for good in the world, of helping others.

So I embraced Batman, to a certain extent. I watched the cartoons on Saturday mornings, staying through the transition from "Batman Beyond" to more routine revival "The Batman". I watched Michael Keaton's film versions by Tim Burton, and even the later ones starring Val Kilmer and George Clooney (a viewing experience I can't block, no matter how hard I try). I had a Batman blanket, and envied and sometimes stole my nephews action figures. But I drew a line. No matter how much I loved Batman, I would not fall into the comic book abyss. That was going too far. There were exceptions to this rule, however. My friend Jon, a comic book nerd in his own right, made a habit of giving me a Batman comic book, or graphic novel, whatever you want to call them, for my birthdays and Christmas. Thus began my fall down the slippery slope.

I enjoyed the books, as can only be expected. As an English major, I found myself drawn to the intricate plot lines and the massive symbolism that is involved in the average Batman tale. The common themes of the tortured soul, whether revenge can be a tool for good or if it always breeds evil, and the seeds of corruption enthralled me as much as any Orwellian tome. And as an Art History minor, the picture panels were no less intriguing. The dramatic lights and darks, the sometimes brusque pen lines and at other times smooth brush marks, all conveying a proper mood and setting, these laid claim to the lofty title of art as much as the next post-modernist phenomenon. Reading them was a delight. However, I still resisted. I could not bring myself to purchase these of my own accord. So, for about one to two years, my semi-annual supply from Jon had to suffice. But all that changed. One day, after reading the latest installment in my meager collection, April could not come fast enough. I had time, desire, and a Barnes and Noble gift card. I was going to buy a comic book, and nobody could stop me.

When my roommates, a.k.a. the ones with cars, announced an excursion to Barnes and Noble one weekend, I knew the time had come. My quest was commencing. I walked into the bookstore bursting with confidence and excitement. Unfortunately, I had no clue where the comic books would be. After a quick walk through the entire store, I knew this was serious. Wandering around the massive cookbook section (only in Utah) and glancing through the Mediterranean guide books, I finally had a breakthrough. "If I was a nerd, where would I be?..." I thought to myself. Then, without further ado, I starting making my way to the science fiction area.

It wasn't difficult to find, tucked in a shadowy corner behind the in-store Starbucks. Once I passed the rows of manga and Robert Jordan novels, I found them. Books upon books dedicated to the glory that is the Dark Knight. The few I was considering were near the bottom, so I knelt to investigate which one was worthy of my purchase. That's when I stepped into ... the Twilight Zone.

As I was searching the bottom shelves, I felt a presence to my right. Looking up, there was the quintessential teen geek. Tall, thin, and pimply, he stared at me briefly, as if wondering what sort of alien had encroached upon his territory, before resuming his perusal of Alan Moore comics. Then, behind me came the boys future. He was easily in his mid thirties, a chubby, glasses-wearing man in a commemorative Star Wars tee. You could tell he too had no clue what I was doing there, and eyed me warily as he drifted to the Marvel section.

I sat between these two uber-nerds, in the middle of a living stereotype, before the situation got a little uncomfortable. I grabbed The Dark Knight Returns and briskly walked away. I was too embarrassed to have that as my lone purchase, so on my way to the cash register I picked up Silence by Shusaku Endo. The girl at check-out didn't comment on either selection.

On the ride home, all I could think of was how all the rumors and myths about comics were true. I had witnessed it with my own two eyes. And yet, I survived. I got through that experience unscathed. Maybe these social misfits were just as human as the average person...

By the way, The Dark Knight Returns rocked. I can't wait to buy the next book on my list.