The feeling for things in themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.
Vincent Van Gogh
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.
Mike Walsh, MM. The Hudson Dragon (2013). Looking west across the Hudson at serpentine clouds that spread like a Chinese dragon over the highlands.
I love the words of that psalm. They repeat in my heart like a mantra. This is the day not just today, October 10; not yesterday or tomorrow but the entire span of our days. And the times in which our days are lived. We cannot embrace one in separation from the other, however much we might wish to.
How the psalmist’s lovely proclamation applies to the way we think about art had been the intended springboard for this morning’s post. As luck would have it, a reader got there ahead of me with his response in the comment section to the previous post. Here it is in full, from Richard T.:
Like all human activity, art suffers from cycles of good and bad. Yet even in those cycles, the opposite exists. In the worst of times, good exists. And in the best of times, bad also exists.
I have often wondered how much bad art existed, say 500 years ago. My guess is that there was plenty of bad art, but it was so bad that it ended up in with the garbage. Good art was more likely protected, because it was obviously valuable. Thus it survived.
What distinguishes our current “bad” era is not so much a lack of good art (there is plenty, if one looks for it) but that bad art is the most popular and highly praised. I have faith that some day, many decades from now, we will come to our senses and give good art the praise and attention it deserves.
The comment that there is plenty of good art is spot on. And, yes, one has to search it out, beat the bushes, only because we live under such an avalanche of art stuffs. By a peculiar kind of Gresham’s law, the volume of banal or just plain bad art drives the good out of view. There are reasons for this and I want to talk about them in the by-and-by. But first, it is crucial to consider that it is quite likely that there is no less gracious art being produced today than there ever was. It is not commissioned by princes or cardinals. It is not distinctly religious in character. It has available to it a widened range of materials. But it is real, it is good, and it is ours. Let us be glad.