Forbidden Art Revisited

This blog is a re-visit of the earlier blog on forbidden art. It is short as I am not blogging from my normal computer site.

While re-exploring what is meant by forbidden art, it was necessary to ask the question of what is Art?

A dictionary definition of art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agor

Early Greeks also addressed the meanings associated with the term art. Socrates said that the art of poetry is inspired by the muses, and is not rational. He speaks approvingly of this, and other forms of divine madness (drunkenness, eroticism, and dreaming). Aristotle considered epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, dithyrambic poetry and music to be imitative art. He believed that imitation is natural to mankind and constitutes one of mankind’s advantages over animals. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art

In the 17th century, fine art was referred to as a skill used to express the artist’s creativity or to engage the aesthetic sensibilities of the audience.

Others believe the purpose of works of art may be to communicate ideas, such as in politically, spiritually, or philosophically motivated art; to create a sense of beauty (see aesthetics); to explore the nature of perception; for pleasure; or to generate strong emotions. The purpose may also be seemingly nonexistent.

Most seem to agree in at least one point: once their aesthetic choices are accepted, the value of the work of art is determined by its capacity to express a universal theme.

So many definitions!

It seems that every group of artists and philosophers of art has their views on the subject.

Art is defined in this blog as simply an expression of the inner self.

Why are we fascinated but often disappointed with hidden treasures? The desire to venture into uncharted waters or ideas?

In the earlier blog, the following three artworks were introduced to explore our fascination with the forbidden. The images in the art pieces were based on what was, is or may be “Forbidden Art” during the years, circa 1816, 2016 and 2216. For these artworks, the fascination was looking beneath the curtains covering the underlying images.

Figure B-1. Forbidden Art, circa 1816: which forbids the showing of pubic hair. A religious restriction.

Figure B-2. Forbidden Art, circa 2016: which forbids the showing of female ejaculation. An English restriction.

Figure B-3. Forbidden Art, circa 2216: which forbids the showing of physical contact (Kiss). A future restriction.

Figure B-1. Forbidden Art, circa 1816.

Figure B-2. Forbidden Art, circa 2016.

Figure B-3. Forbidden Art, circa 2216.

Forbidden Art Series, JD Sage. Go Figure exhibition, The Sprinkler FactoryOct 2016, Worcester, Massachusetts. Acrylic spray paint, colored pencil, archival black ink, hair, dry body fluid and lipstick on paper, rayon string curtain.

The examples which follow are included because they transcend the traditional definition of art. They also highlight the effects of a narrow definition of “art”. I am sure the reader can cite many more examples.

Figure B-4. The Naked Maja, 1795-1800, Francisco de Goya.

https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-naked-maja/65953b93-323e-48fe-98cb-9d4b15852b18

This painting has been cited as among the earliest Western artwork of a respected woman depicting her pubic hair. The painting exemplified forbidden art during an ecclesiastical influence on the arts of that time.

The picture was in a private collection for six years before it was discovered by investigators of the Spanish Inquisition in 1808, along with other “questionable pictures”. The owner of the Goya and the curator of the collection were brought before a tribunal and forced to reveal the artists of the confiscated artworks. The works were labeled as “indecent and prejudicial to the public good”. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Naked_Maja.

Inquisition by 1808 was nearing the end of its influence, and while it could draw attention to “dangerous” forms of expression, be they books, plays, or paintings, it was usually unable to fully suppress them. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition

The sculpture Fountain in figure B-6 is a work by Marcel Duchamp which in 1917 was considered non-art.

Figure B-5. Fountain, 1917, Marcel Duchamp.

https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marcel_Duchamp,_1917,_Fountain,_photograph_by_Alfred_Stieglitz.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

Fountain is a readymade sculpture produced by Marcel Duchamp in 1917: The porcelain urinal signed “R.Mutt” was submitted for an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, This piece was accepted but not shown. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)

Today, this work is regarded by art historians as a major landmark in 20th-century art. Some scholars have suggested that the original work was by a female artist rather than Duchamp, but this is a minority view among historians.

In a recent art exhibit at a New York gallery by the Berlin-based artist Donna Huanca, models were featured adorned with body paints in place of clothes. The work was described and featured as body art. The models used in the exhibit have complete freedom. They are treated as fashion models. They have the right to take breaks or leave whenever they want. She pays everyone above an average ‘life model’ wage. Their voices are included in the catalog. Their names are on the walls. She wishes and considers them to be collaborators. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/12/arts/design/body-art-paint-donna-huanca.html

On a visit to Norway, this blogger saw a conceptual art piece in Alta. A petroglyph (8000 BP) showing a fisherman in a boat with a long, long, long line with a fish about to take the hook. The artist could only conceive of the fish below. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/12/arts/design/body-art-paint-donna-huanca.html

The Sami artist did not put a conceptual art label on the work.

In the art scene of today, it may be important to distinguish between work done to purposely shock the senses with those works that happen to shock the senses.

Equally important is the need to defend and support artistic freedom (sounds a bit like the support of motherhood). We wish to avoid another inquisition or the forbidden art displayed in Figure B-3. Forbidden Art, circa 2219.

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