Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Art Vs Abomination

This is a follow up to some articles which have recently been posted by others regarding the fine line between an expression of art and something which could more properly assigned the rank of an abomination. There are levels of expression all along the way which would travel from masterpiece to pure garbage; the so called “beauty in the eye of the beholder” or in some cases, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

First I wanted to acknowledge the work of my friend Probligo from the lands down under, where he went to great effort to make his point and I happen to agree, at least in part, that the intent of the artist sometimes is lost in the social storm surrounding otherwise innocent pieces of work. Probligo used as an example, the work of Norman Lindsay, an artist who painted with erotic abandon; creating quite a stir as he went about doing what pleased himself.

I guess if you’re a total prude then any form of nudity is sinful; but for those who wish to put every nude into the trash bin; Michelangelo’s Statue of David takes up a lot of space, and don’t forget Botticelli’s Birth ofVenus while tossing out objectionable material.

What about the use of children being depicted without clothing; is every instance of child nudity contrary to the moral ethic in presenting the human form as art? Some would claim Raphael’s Madonna as one of the most spiritual classics of all time; was it wrong for the artist to use some poor child as a stand in for the Christ Child? As you can see, the line which seemed to be clearly drawn is now just a blur, if it even exists to begin with; it all boils down to the intent of the artist, something which is difficult to extract when societal morality is in flux.

I happen to like the work of Frank Frazetta, hard hitting comic book style art with a definite tendency toward the erotic. I have some of his work on my bookshelf; but this is all readily available via the internet now where you can view nearly every canvas Frazetta every created. A word of caution appears on the title page for those who find the naked human body offensive.

The naked human body is not offensive and never has been; the sinful nature of man and the ability to pervert such a splendid creation, now that’s an abomination. Are we not made in the image of our God? Shakespeare captured the thought in Hamlet:

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though, by your smiling, you seem to say so.”

My Church holds that, “If there is anything virtuous lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things”, from the 13th Articles of Faith.

The improper thoughts associated with the display of the human body are contrived in the deep recesses of men with no regard for the direct relationship man has with the Creator. While I’ve made little if any progress in determining the value of any particular piece of work; whether it be art or an abomination, hopefully there are those willing to give a little rather than blindly toss all forms of the naked human form in the trash bin.

In closing, I’ll borrow from something Douglas Callister said while addressing a group of young people.

“The images to which our minds are exposed are held in store, seemingly forgotten, even for years. But at the crucial moment they re-present themselves to influence our thoughts and lives. And so it is with the music, literature, art, media, and other images to which we are exposed. . . “Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Therefore, choose only entertainment and media that uplift you.””

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