Tuesday, December 30, 2014

state of the art...

We visited the "State of the Art" exhibit at Crystal Bridges Museum yesterday. The show takes its name from a large reclining, black Mickey Mouse made from the back plastic grills of old television set. Underneath in the dark room there are working cathode ray tubes projecting eery cartoon images on the walls as people walk around it scratching their heads.

When my wife asked me if I liked the exhibit, I answered, "about half of it."

There is something to be said for those things that are intricately crafted, and that show human emotions and values in a better light, and allow us to contend that we've not made such a huge mess of things with our things. There is certainly a dark side to human domination of the planet, and it can be unpleasant to stand in a dark room, as silent witness to the mess we have made. So, perhaps in witnessing the "state of the art," we find the state of our culture expressed, that it is not all lovely, and surely museums at their best have a responsibility to show us both sides.

The sign in the image above is from the entry to the exhibit. Yes, human hands shape and frame the world. We get the reclining Mickey Mouse version of it when those same hands are given little more to control than the remote. The hands not only shape the natural world in ways that are often not picturesque... they also have profound effect on the development of self. The hands are kind of a hinge. They go one way or the other. Through their use in craftsmanship, the human soul is developed. Leave them untrained in both skill and sensitivity, and toward the darkest version of Mickey Mouse, here we come.

Destroyer by Dan Webb
The carved self-portrait of an artist in the image at left may help to explain. The piece by Dan Webb is entitled "Destroyer," but we know the creative process is transforming. Things go one way or the other. Both the sword and the chisel cut or hack at the soul of man. The artists is (at best) transformed in the process of his or her transformation of the material. Wood you not guess it would be a wood worker who would explain it? That we, in the process of creative work, are crafting self.
"Let us educate the senses, train the faculty of speech, the art of receiving, storing, and expressing impressions, which is the natural gift of infants, and we shall not need books to fill up the emptiness of our teaching until the child is at least seven years old." - E. Seguin.
I have made a Kindergarten play board. The 1 inch grid was used by the Kindergarten children to lay out Froebel's gifts, 3 through 7.

Make, fix and create...

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