Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Would you rather be Chopin or Artur Rubinstein? Stravinsky or Maria Callas? Sofia Coppola or Scarlett Johansson?
Would you rather create art or re-create (perform and interpret) it?
My friend, the acclaimed short story writer and essayist Robin Black, believes that interpreting works of art is just as challenging and important as creating new work. (She’s well-acquainted with interpretive art — her brother is a harpsichordist.) As Robin eloquently puts it, “I think interpretive art is the equal of generative.” It’s a question I pondered the other day as I palled around with two friends who are visual artists and whose lives are consumed by creating something out of nothing but paint, canvas, and found objects.
The day was planned because my friend Ginny Fry, a thirty-year-old octogenarian, drove up from Annapolis at the invitation of my husband and me to hear a recital given by phenomenal young guitarist Lukasz Kuropazsewski at the Settlement School. Ginny has recently published her first book, BASKING SHARKS, a volume of original poetry. Facing each poem is a reproduction of one of her vivid abstract expressionist paintings –- the book is a brilliant generative double-whammy, if you will.
The day after the concert we met up with our friend Marybeth Hughes, who had just hung a show of her newest work at the Rosemont School of the Holy Child. The thirty or so paintings, small to moderately-large-sized oils, show Marybeth’s mastery of color, traditional landscape and human subjects, and plein-air painting. One oil, Divine Marta, indicates her movement toward more abstract and allegorical work.
From there, we stopped at the Haverford School, where Marybeth also has an outdoor ceramic installation as part of Mexican-American artist and teacher Antonio Fink’s tile exhibition. Her piece depicts the Pacific Vortex, a trash pile the size of Texas, composed of plastic debris that has gathered, whirlpool fashion, in the North Central portion of the Pacific Ocean. The installation is made up of hundreds of blue ceramic fish which Marybeth fired and then attached to three metal-work panels, at the top of which are threaded lengths of brown video tape that shimmer in the wind and represent the plastic debris of the vortex.
“Where did you get these great metal panels?” I asked her.
“Oh, in a pile of old stuff that I found in the basement when we moved into our house,” she said.
Something out of nothing.
Finally, we headed to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is hosting an exhibition of the master Generator of the twentieth-century, Picasso. This large-scale show demonstrates how Picasso moved into and out of cubism, how he influenced and was influenced by his colleagues Georges Braque and Juan Gris, Brancusi, and many others. Viewing the juxtaposed pieces, one can immediately see that these artists were all trying to solve the problem of how to express point-of-view in a new way. It’s clear they had a lot of fun solving the puzzle while they were at it.
So is generative art greater than interpretive art? Perhaps the ideal answer can be found in those rare artists like Mozart or Rachmaninoff, who were touched by the creative spirit in the utmost way. These beings, more than human, wrote as divinely as they played.