Friday, December 24, 2010

Angels We Have Heard On High

Merry Christmas ~ Botticelli's 'Mystic Nativity' 

'Mystic Nativity', Sandro Botticelli, Oil on Canvas, 1500 

Italian renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli probably painted the 'Mystic Nativity' as a private devotional for a patron in his native city of Florence. It has been called the 'Mystic Nativity' since it resurfaced in the 19th century. Besides the usual elements, taken from the Bible's New Testament story of the birth of the Christ child, (The holy family, livestock, shepherds and wise men), Botticelli also included symbolism taken from a vision of the second coming heralded in the Book of Revelation. I was immediately drawn to the jubilation of the dancing angels. Look closely in the lower section to see vanquished demons fleeing. To explore this painting further go to  The National Gallery - London.

The National Gallery - London: Botticelli's Mystic Nativity

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Little Town of Bethlehem

West Bank Occupied Territory, Graffiti Art, Banksy, 2005

At Christmas time Christian pilgrims from all over the world visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Over the years this has been an economic boon for the small Palestinian town however during the dark times of the second intifada tourism drastically declined. That is when Israel built a 26 foot high concrete and razor wire wall right through the heart of Bethlehem. They call it a security wall. The residents of Bethlehem call it a prison and a land grab as it encroached into their traditionally held land placing them between two blockades and an impenetrable wall.

West Bank Occupied Territory, Graffiti Art, Banksy, 2005

In 2005 British graffiti artist Banksy (who remains incognito but is suspected to be one Robert Banks) launched a massive graffiti project hoping to focus attention on the plight of Bethlehem's residents. Of the wall he said, "It's the world's largest blank canvas and my hope is that with a few cans of spray paint we can turn it into the world's largest piece of art but more importantly the world's most short lived." He also hoped to encourage the return of tourism, "It would do good if more people came to see the situation here for themselves. If it is safe enough for a bunch of sissy artists then it's safe enough for anyone."

 West Bank Occupied Territory, Graffiti Art, Banksy, 2005

He may have been at least partly successful in that as of 2010 tourism in Bethlehem has greatly improved yet the residents of Bethlehem complain that visitors are whisked in and out of the partitioned town leaving little of their trade with local shops and restaurants. Catholic cleric and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, requests prayers for peace saying, "This land will deserve to be called holy when she breathes freedom, justice, peace and security."

Church of the Nativity Grotto, Bethlehem, West Bank Occupied Territory

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Solstice - The Mystery of Stonehenge

Dazed Digital, Photography, Mel Bles, 2009

Searching the internet for artistic renderings of Stonehenge to post for Winter Solstice I came across this snowy fashion shoot for Dazed and Confused Magazine on a blog called Miska Walks Miles. The ancient setting together with model Kate Somers evocative garb create a sense of drama fitting, I thought,  for the coming celestial shift toward the sun.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Steve Martin and Stephen Colbert Talk About Art

Stephen Colbert and Steve Martin
watch Shepard Fairey in action.

Art collector, author and comedian Steve Martin appeared as a guest for an entire episode of Stephen  Colbert's, The Colbert Report. Colbert's other guests on the show include artists Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey and Andres Serrano in an entertaining banter that unabashedly asks the question, What makes art, art?

Steve Martin has a new novel, An Object of Beauty that according to the New York Times book review is a "New York tale of Art, Money and Ambition" and is based on Martin's first hand experience as a collector in the high stakes world of art.

To watch the entire episode visit: The Colbert Report
Read the NYT book review:  An Object of Beauty

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Confused About Immaculate Conception?

Many people are confused about the Immaculate Conception, an event celebrated on December 8th of the Catholic calendar. Contrary to a popular belief, the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Mary's virginal conception of the incarnation of Christ (as was announced to her at the Annunciation, by the Angel Gabriel). The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's own conception within the womb of her mother St. Catherine. It is said that at the very first moment of her existence Mary was filled by God with sanctifying grace and therefore kept free from the stain of original sin.

 The Immaculate Conception (detail), Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Oil on Canvas, 1767-1769

Paintings of Mary as the Immaculate generally follow traditional iconography depicting her as a young girl in the "flower of her youth". She typically wears a white tunic and a blue mantle surrounded by an oval of sunlight, a crown of stars are above her and she is standing on the moon. Her hands are folded in prayer and she is surrounded by cherubin bearing roses, lilies and palms. She has a vanquished serpent under her feet and a dove flying above her.

David Clayton, Artist-in-Residence at Thomas Moore College, and author of the blog, The Way of Beauty, writes about Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's The Immaculate Conception saying, "Tiepolo is noted for giving his paintings a lightness and airiness that did not exist in those works by artists who worked in the previous century. He has achieved this by using colors in a higher register than many of his 17th century counterparts would have done - more pale blue, bright yellow, and orange for example."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Signs of the Times

 War Is Over!, Billboard, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's song, Happy Christmas (War Is Over) has become a holiday standard covered by a multitude of artists from Jimmy Buffet to Yo-Yo Ma but the song was originally inspired by a 1969 art project opposed to the Vietnam War. John Lennon, the well known Beatle and Yoko Ono, a seasoned avant guard artist combined forces to stage a series of performance art events for peace.  They rented billboards and put up posters in cities around the world proclaiming, War Is Over!, If You Want It.

 War Is Over! Yoko Ono and John Lennon, 1969

War is Over! signs appeared December 1969 simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. Said John, "We specifically did the poster event around the world for Christmas to try and get at least one plug in for peace on earth at Christmas because that's what it's about. Peace on Earth, that implies no violence, no starving children, no violent minds, no violent households, no fear."

See Yoko Ono's website: Imagine Peace