Contemplation and artistic realism
18 January 2010 1 Comment
In the context of the contemplative life and art there is something I’ve wondered about. I’ve wondered if artistic realism does a better job of drawing a viewer in, creating pause. In the past I’ve chalked up differences in viewer attention span to personality, and I believe there’s still something to be said for that. For instance, as I write this I’m drinking from a mug my wife gave me for Christmas. The mug is decorated, and the decoration appeals to me. It makes me stop and think about how it was made, the materials it was made from and what the embellishment means. If anything.
It’s not what you’d call realism.
However, Roberta Green Ahmanson, in an article titled Art Through Thick and Thin, argues for realism in relationship to contemplation.
But the realism is not in service of the self; it is in the service of bringing the viewer closer to the divine . . .
But such gore is not the only theme here. Contemplation demands realism as well, whether it’s Pedro de Mena’s “Virgin of Sorrows,” tearful over her son’s death, or his ecstatic Francis of Assisi . . .
But the artists on display in “The Sacred Made Real” bring the sacred into our world. The grief-stricken Magdalen contemplating the Cross, the Christ of the “Ecce Homo,” and the “Virgin of Sorrows” were not alone — for the display was crowded, and the visitors were in no hurry.
Am I simply more interested in the decorated and abstract mug than most people would be because clay is my craft? Were the visitors to the “Pop Life” exhibit, which Ahmason contrasts to “The Sacred Made Real” in her article, less likely to linger on the artworks simply because each show attracted a different demographic to begin with? Or is there something to the idea that realism is more likely to draw a viewer in and keep their attention than abstractions or non-representational pieces?