The Great or Not-so-great Gatsby?

Words and images are two different media, so a novel and a movie are two different kinds of art forms.  Sometimes a good written story can be told visually, but if what makes the novel good is its language, that may not translate at all into motion pictures.  I don’t know if the movie version of The Great Gatsby (in 3-D, no less!) is worthy of Fitzgerald’s novel or if it might possibly be a good movie in its own right.  I haven’t seen it, so you tell me.

But I was struck with this example of a genre in its own right, the movie review, by a master of the form, Rex Reed, who eviscerates the Gatsby movie with razor-sharp words: [Read more...]

Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief died. perhaps the best-known American dancer in the field of ballet.  I confess to not following that particular art-form, though I’ve seen a few ballets and was quite impressed with them.  I want to honor Maria Tallchief here because she was a fellow Northern Oklahoman, born in Fairfax in the Osage Nation.  I drive through the Osage countryside virtually every time I go back home, and in my opinion it’s among the most beautiful landscapes in Oklahoma.

The story of how a young girl from an Indian reservation in the 1930′s went from dancing at rodeos to the New York City Ballet is quite a tale. [Read more...]

Bach’s “Passion” as online meditation

Bach is among the very greatest of Christian artists, and his “St. Matthew Passion” is considered one of his greatest works.  It is an oratorio, something like an opera, that sets to music Matthew’s account of the crucifixion of Christ (Chapters 26-27), with soloists singing the lines of the various characters and magnificent choral music, all punctuated with Bach’s rendition of Lenten hymns (many of which we still sing today) and remarkable verse by Bach himself responding to Christ’s sacrifice.

My colleague Steve McCollum alerted me to an online resource that makes this masterpiece of musical devotion accessible online:  Oregon Bach Festival » Digital Bach Project » St. Matthew Passion.  It gives the English translation, as well as the Biblical sources and the dramatic script, for each line as the oratorio unfolds.  Click the link, then when you see the painting of St. Matthew, hit the play button.  It’s divided into five 30-minute segments, which makes it an excellent Holy Week devotion.  [Read more...]

The mystery of the stolen masterpieces

Twenty-three years ago, thieves dressed like police officers robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, taking 13 masterpieces of the world’s art.  One of them is one of my favorite paintings:  Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”  (I love the turmoil and struggle of the disciples who are looking away from Jesus trying to right their own ship, contrasted with the serenity of those looking to Jesus.  And the composition of the painting, in which all of the lines point through the darkness to Him.)  Anyway, if you bought this painting out of the trunk of someone’s car and have it hanging in your rec room, beware.  The FBI is saying they are close to solving the case.

 

Details about the case after the jump. [Read more...]

Historic preservation for modernism

The modernist architecture of the first half of the 20th century rejected ornamentation, tradition, and history itself.   In the age of reason, science, and progress, “form follows function.”  Buildings were bare structures of concrete, glass, and steel.  If they were beautiful–and some were–that is a byproduct of their pragmatic purpose.  Today, though, modernist architecture–like modernist art, literature, philosophy,and theology–has become dated, culturally-irrelevant, and old-fashioned.  But now the historic preservation movement is adding relics of modernist architecture to the buildings it is trying to save. [Read more...]

Dave Brubeck and the arts

E. J. Dionne’s tribute to the late, great Dave Brubeck contains some important insights into the arts in general:

Too often in the arts, the fact that someone is accessible is taken to mean that he isn’t truly creative. This is a very wrong idea, and it’s especially mistaken in the case of Brubeck, an extraordinary innovator in rhythm and meter. His music is now so familiar that we forget how daring he was as a composer.

He also defied the romantic image of the troubled and distant artist. It’s almost as if his being a generous soul, a loyal family guy, and a quietly and thoughtfully religious man — “Forty Days,” one of his best pieces, was inspired by Jesus’ wanderings in the desert — were held against him. Yet over the years, earthly redemption came his way. It turned out you could be both good and great.

“Art may not have the power to change the course of history, but it can provide a perspective on historical events that needs to be heard, even if it’s seldom heeded,” Brubeck said in a 2009 interview with Commonweal. “After all the temporary influences that once directed the course of history have vanished, great art survives and continues to speak to each generation.”

via E.J. Dionne Jr.: Dave Brubeck — a love affair – The Washington Post.

Great art can be accessible (contra the purposeful obscurity of much art and literature today).  Great artists can be normal human beings and solid citizens (contra the myth of the bohemian, that artists are unbound by bourgeois conventions).  Great art lasts; indeed, great art is pretty much the only thing that lasts from past civilizations and historical eras.


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