"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Friday, April 14, 2017

Prepare Ye the Way

Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, 2013
By Kehinde Wiley ~ American painter ~ b 1977

Contemporary artist Kehinde Wiley takes a new look at old classics:
"Wiley frequently engages in gender swapping of roles
for his models -- one example is St. John the Baptist
who is recast as a beautiful young black woman."
Seattle Art Museum

A more conventional rendering of the same subject:
Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1660-70)
Probably by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682)

See More
Biblically Themed Figures
William Morris - Like Designs

My friend Nancy and I were lucky enough to see the exhibit Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic when it was in Seattle a year ago. We admired Wiley's vision of dislocation and relocation, his imaginative subjects, brilliant use of light, and vivid colors. His vibrant re -imagined John the Baptist (above) expands the gospel and prepares the way for a more inclusive future. For the most part, however, we felt more curious than surprised by the juxtaposition of Old World and New Age.

Nancy said, "I think the reason his new compositions of an old tradition didn't shock me is that I never made any personal connection to the originals. I had no imagination for them. They were too rich, from too long ago, too male -- so I never identified in any deep level with the people in the portraits."

I knew exactly what Nancy meant about the remoteness of the entitled figures that Wiley was updating and re - thinking. The formal gentlemen, with swords or on horseback? Whatever life they may have lived in the 18th or 19th century, it was never one that made us think, "Oh if only that had been me!" Or the wealthy, stuffy ladies? Had we ever donned a punishing corset and sat for a portrait with our bosom pushed high and our hair piled atop our heads and studded with jewels? No, that had never been us.

More likely, we were villagers, farmers, or gleaners; women working at a counter, sitting in a cafe, or tending a child. The Wiley exhibit reminded Nancy of some consciousness - raising images from her postcard collection. She wrote" I collected them when a child, and have a tall stack. This one is from some unknown source along the way. It does make me think, 'That could be me! Or my baby in the cotton.' I have been wanting to share them with you for some years now. Finally remembered."

~ Thanks Nancy! ~

~ At the Museum ~
"In the room the women come and go.
Talking of Michelangelo."

T. S. Eliot

Barkley L. Hendricks, Portraitist of a New Black Pride ~ visuals

Next Fortnightly Post
Friday, April 28th

Between now and then, read
my shorter, almost daily blog posts

Looking for a good book? Try
my running list of recent reading

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