The body in ballet

7 12 2010

Here is a pretty good summary of a recent controversy regarding ballet dancers and weight. Apparently, a critic from the New York Times stated the following about a recent performance of that ballet cash cow (pun entirely intended), The Nutcracker:

Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.

One wonders what such critics would think if they saw the original Czarist ballerinas dance when they judge such svelte dancers to be too plump. Margot Fonteyn might as well be called obese.

Personally, I think the modern idea of womanhood is emaciated to the point of being androgynous. Modern ballet and dance are certainly choreographed that way in many performances. The masculine and the feminine are indistiguishable, and are often deconstructed in inartful and superficial ways.

If I am not an idealist in daily life, I am at least so in art. But the spectacle of an emaciated ballerina for me is a broken ideal.

On plaster saints

25 01 2010

Originally posted here:

When I visited the shops around the National Basilica of the Virgin of Lujan in Argentina, I couldn’t believe some of the kitschy statues I encountered. Some were badly painted and of poor quality. Others were just outright grotesque. Since we do not live in a Catholic country, religious art is monopolized by the official Church or reputable companies. In traditional countries, street vendors often sell religious art to make a living on the sidewalks in front of shrines or in random places in a city. My former abbot told me that in Greece, you can even buy your icons and pornography from the same stall…

After my encounter with these poorly made statues, I was overheard to say, “no wonder people become Protestant!” My aesthetic snobbery was unable to tolerate these poor examples of sacred art. Now I am beginning to see the error of my ways once again.
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On Vision, the Finite and the Infinite

29 12 2009

Cusanus proposes that man must first accept the fact that no overlap can exist between the finite and the infinite. Accepting this separation allows the possibility of seeing the One in the many and the many in the One. In De Visione Dei, Cusanus sees the resolution of universal and particular exemplified in Rogier van der Weyden’s self-portrait. The eyes of the sitter, following both stationary and moving observers, are coinstantaneously fixed upon one viewer and all others, taking part, in synchronous fashion, in the movement of one and all. Cusanus says that we can know the divine when (in a manner similar to the self-portrait) we begin to approach God from infinitely multiple points of view, collecting these views in a unified vision, a visio intellectualis. True knowledge then, lies in accepting particularity and “allowing it to unfold in all its richness.” But even all this does not mean that we have mediated the difference between the finite and the infinite. Cusanus believed that any process beginning in the empirical would end in the empirical. To overcome this, we must replace the empirical with the spiritual, the spiritual universal content of humanity. Cusanus saw this universal content embodied in Christ, a natura media encompassing the finite and the infinite.

-Robert D. Huerta, Vermeer and Plato: Painting the Ideal

The Grotesque as Sacred

1 06 2009


More notes on religious art

What makes an image sacred? People nowadays, who often do not tie beauty in with holiness (as proven by the various monstrosities produced by the modern church) can often come up with various mechanistic solutions to the question. Many would have us think that sacred imagery has to follow very explicit rules and patterns to be holy, and this is perhaps behind the resurgence of interest in “classical” Byzantine iconography, which can be seen in many of the more “upscale” churches. For others, the rules of Christian aestheics can become as complicated as a tract of Karl Rahner or Hans Urs von Balthasar, and still for others they can be traditions that we have lost long ago that it is imperative that we recover, and so on. For most, it can be a strange free for all where anything of a remotely religious subject matter can be considered “sacred”.
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On Form

29 07 2008

To perpetuate the image of “an ordinary man”, to represent an individual, is not art. The one thing worthy of detaining our attention, and of being fixed in an immortal work of art, can only be the beauty of an ideal form. If one is going to sculpt the figure of a man, let him gather together everything beautiful as he can find. If you’re going to make a statue of a god, says Plotinus, do as Pheidas did when he sculpted his Zeus: “He did not use any sensible model, but he took him as he would be, if Zeus wished to appear before our eyes”.

-Pierre Hadot, Plotinus or the Simplicity of Vision