Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Picture's Really About

We all love visual shorthand for our lives, whether it’s the Apple logo for technology or a flag for patriotism. Just as Thomas Nast’s version of Santa Claus endures as the quintessential Christmas image, Norman Rockwell’s classic painting of an American family at Thanksgiving (detail shown above, full picture here) has stood for seven decades as the single image most Americans associate with turkey day. But few Americans know the full story behind (or even the title of) Rockwell’s painting—the political and human rights roots of the text Rockwell aimed at illustrating. As we plan to sit down as a nation and give thanks, it’s important to remember what Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving picture’s really about. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "What Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Picture's Really About."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How Rodin Turned Early Neurology into Modern Sculpture

When we look at the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, we can’t help but feel what his figures feel. Every inch of those sculpted bodies “speaks” the language of passion, whether it be of joy, love, yearning, or anguish. In a recent study of Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, art historian Natasha Ruiz-Gómez of the University of Essex links the figures found on those monumental doors (such as Rodin’s Damned Woman; shown above) to images from the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, one of the founders of modern neurology and one of the fathers of the malady known as hysteria. When Rodin looked for a way to break away from the tired tropes of classical sculpture, Ruiz-Gómez suggests, he turned to modern medicine, especially Charcot’s work, which linked psychological and physical states in a way that showed Rodin how to make people see what others feel. By linking art and science, this study opens a new door into Rodin’s art as well as why that art still captures our imagination today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Rodin Turned Early Neurology into Modern Sculpture."

How We Almost Lost JFK Twice

This week we mark the loss half a century ago of President John F. Kennedy. For that generation, Kennedy’s death was the “where were you” moment. For our generation, the “where were you” moment is September 11th. In the middle of all that devastation, few knew that we “lost” JFK in that moment, too. Locked away in a safe in Five World Trade Center were 40,000 negatives of photos of the Kennedy circle by photographer and family insider Jacques Lowe. The trusted photographer of the Kennedys since the late 1950s, Lowe captured many of the iconic pictures of JFK and Camelot in the making. Thanks to the magic of modern technology, Lowe’s photographs have been restored. Those photographs, many never before published, are now united with Lowe’s recollections in The Kennedy Years: A Memoir. Lowe’s words and pictures remind us of how Kennedy became our first modern president in the sense of being the first to take full advantage of the technologies of the day to project a particular image to the public, both for personal political gain and to inspire the nation. We’ll never be able to bring Kennedy himself back to life, but Lowe’s images and recollections raise the Kennedy myth from the dead and allow us to recover the best and the brightest of that moment. Please come over to Picture This at  Big Think to read more of "How We Almost Lost JFK Twice."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Raymond Pettibon Puts Words, Pictures, and Anger Back Together

“I could erase an entire life,” thinks a pensive Adolf Hitler as he stares into his mirror in one of the many striking images from the career of artist Raymond Pettibon. In our time, when words mean little and images deceive, Pettibon creates art that rewrites the meaning of words and images erased by modern society by uniting them in fascinating ways that all share a common, simmering anger. How words and pictures have been rent asunder, and how art can undo that divorce, is the subject of a major monograph on the artist titled Raymond Pettibon. A child of the late ‘60s, Pettibon found his groove in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but his art and his message feel just as relevant and important today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Raymond Pettibon Puts Words, Pictures, and Anger Back Together."

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Should Films Be Rated for Sexism?

Movie ratings in the United States today boil down to a few simple elements—sex bombs, f-bombs, and real (fake) bombs. Too much sex or nudity, too much profanity, or too much violence will win your film an R or maybe even an NC-17 rating, which can, depending on the filmmaker’s target audience, spell either doom or big box office. But are these criteria for categorizing films too narrow? Do they give us all we need to know before watching? The movie ratings people in Sweden have added another element—sexism. Not sex, sexism—the use of usually derogatory gender stereotypes. Employing the infamous “Bechdel test,” the Swedish film industry hopes to address what they see as a pervasive problem in movies. But can such a system work for American films and, more importantly, American audiences? Should films be rated for sexism? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Should Films Be Rated for Sexism?"

Friday, November 8, 2013

Munch at 150: More to Scream About?

Munch at 150: More to Scream About?

November 8, 2013, 9:18 AM
If you know only one work of modern art, it’s probably The Scream. More people know that “Mona Lisa” of modern angst than know the name of the artist that painted it over a century ago—Edvard Munch. From 1893 through 1910, Munch painted multiple versions of The Scream in several media, the equivalent of releasing your greatest hit on several albums. No one-hit wonder, however, Munch built a long and screamingly successful career that elevated him to the status of national hero in his native Norway. To mark the sesquicentennial of Munch’s birth this December, Oslo’s Munch Museum launched a massive Munch 150 exhibit, which is accompanied by a brilliantly fresh look in the companion catalog, Edvard Munch: 1863-1944. As much as we’d like to think we know the “real” Munch, much of that Munch belongs to the mythology that arose around the mysterious artist, and much of that Munch mystery marketing came from the man himself. From this reevaluation, Munch arises from the mists of his and others making and appears more creative and more compelling than ever. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Munch at 150: More to Scream About?"

What Is the Legacy of Calvin and Hobbes?

What Is the Legacy of Calvin and Hobbes?

November 5, 2013, 9:10 PM
Is there anyone who doesn’t like Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes? I say “like” and not “liked” in the past tense, because the irrepressible Calvin and his faithful stuffed tiger Hobbes feel as present and lovable now as when Watterson discontinued the comic strip in 1995. If you don’t like Calvin and Hobbes, you probably haven’t read it. Or maybe you don’t have a soul. Either way, the legacy of Calvin and Hobbes, a strip that ended seemingly at its prime and that endures despite its creator’s vehement refusal of licensing and merchandizing, is a powerful one. Mr. Watterson himself has avoided the spotlight ever since, becoming, as one fellow cartoonist calls him, “the Sasquatch of cartoonists.” Dear Mr. Watterson, a new film by Joel Allen Schroeder, traces the big footprints left behind by Watterson not to corner the cartoonist personally, but rather to muse upon the magical hold his characters still claim upon those who read him long ago as well as new generations of readers. It’s a legacy that saddens with the thought of memories gone by, but also gladdens with the hope that there will always be the childlike glories of wonder and imagination. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "What Is the Legacy of Calvin and Hobbes?"

Making the “Divine” Bach Human Again

Making the “Divine” Bach Human Again

November 2, 2013, 7:21 AM
“This is what I have to say about Bach’s life’s work,” Albert Einstein once remarked. “Listen, play, love, revere—and keep your trap shut.” But how can anyone listen to the “divine” music of Johann Sebastian Bach and not wonder about a man now synonymous with classical music and, in many ways, high-brow culture itself? In Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, not only one of the world’s leading conductors, but also a preeminent interpreter of Bach’s music, takes us inside the music—listening, playing, loving, and revering, as Einstein asks—to take us inside the man. Opposing the traditional view of Bach as almost God-like in his musical perfection, Gardiner unearths the imperfections of a very flawed artist who struggled with spiritual faith as well as secular authority. For anyone who’s ever felt intimidated by “BACH,” Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven will guide you into the world of Bach and allow you to experience the compelling humanity (foremost Bach’s own) embedded in every note. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Making the 'Divine' Bach Human Again."