Category Archives: art

Belle Époque and Breakfast too!

The Belle Époque  is over, right?

Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic (beginning 1870), it was a period characterized by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, an apex of colonial empires, and technological, scientific, and cultural innovations. In the climate of the period, especially in Paris, France, the arts flourished. Many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition. The Belle Époque was named in retrospect when it began to be considered a “Golden Age” in contrast to the horrors of World War I. The Belle Epoque was a period in which, according to historian R.R. Palmer, “European civilization achieved its greatest power in global politics, and also exerted its maximum influence upon peoples outside Europe.”

Yes, that horrible war. The war that was more than just a war. It was the end of the golden era. In art we went from this

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To this

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But of course, the memories of such a “golden age” live on. And perhaps the images from the Belle ÉEpoque will continue to inspire for as long as humans have memories at all.

If this will be so, I think it will be because of a single word – “elegance”. Elegance is

the quality of being graceful and stylish in appearance or manner.

Graceful and stylish. A nice combination. And a combination that we crave more in our own era because we find them less in evidence than we might like.

Which brings me to the figure of Marcel Proust.

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Proust was deeply obsessed by grace and style. And he was sensitive in the extreme. This brief vignette told by a friend y gives you a sense of that

Marcel Proust always managed to astonish me. Towards six in the evening, at sunset, a rattan armchair was brought out onto the terrace of the Grand Hotel of Cabourg. It remained empty for a few minutes. The staff waited. Then Marcel Proust slowly drew near, parasol in hand. He watched inside the glass door for night to fall. When they passed near his chair, the bellboys communicated with signs, like deaf-mutes. Then Proust’s friends approached. At first they spoke of the weather, the temperature. At this period—it was 1913—Marcel Proust feared or seemed to fear the sun. But it was noise that most horrified him.

And his obsessions are accessible to us through his marvelous books. Not only that, we can still get a tangible sense of what it may have been like to live in Paris in his day .- the Belle Epoque.

This article conjures up that sense and offers ideas for you to use on your next trip to Paris. Your next graceful and stylish trip to Paris, that is.


Missed Burning Man? You Can Still Catch its Vibe!

Your last chance

Those who’ve never spent days covered in dust at Burning Man’s temporary metropolis on “The Playa” have likely seen photos from the eccentric event posted to social media around Labor Day each year. But a traveling exhibition called No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man brings various experimental art installations from throughout the festival’s history to an even more accessible location—a museum gallery. After previous stops in U.S. cities such as Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati, the in-depth Burning Man exhibition is celebrating its final hurrah in Oakland, California—not far from where the spectacle originated.

The “Shrumen Lumen” installation (which changes shapes and colors) was designed by the Bay Area–based art collective FoldHaus for Burning Man in 2016.

Absurdist Manifesto: Next Steps Are Hard to Find

Why in the last century, did we get an artistic movement that celebrated the “absurd”?

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Yes, the absurdist hero is good old Sisyphus who must for all eternity push a giant rock up the hill, only to see it roll back each time just before he gets to the peak. Camus wrote “The Myth of Sisyphus”  in 1942

In the essay Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd, man’s futile search for meaning, unity, and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers, “No. It requires revolt.

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The artists themselves shouted out that “life simply is absurd!” and they demanded that we admit that they had a point.

But why did they think that? When you boil it all down, life is or is not absurd, depending on certain factors.  Things have meaning if they fit into a context that we want to be part of. They have no meaning — or are absurd — when they do not fit. So we can think of absurdism as a manifesto that there is no context for the things we experience.

Some have argued that this was deeply felt at the time because of “materialism” — the worship of things in themselves — and by definition out of context. A shopping mall, for example, might be seen as a cathedral for the worship of things taken out of context. Absurd.

But did Kafka have a point? Is the ultimate absurdity to be trapped in that state?`To wake up as a bug?

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Is being imprisoned the worst fate for those seeking meaning?

If so, we might take some comfort. While we might feel trapped in any given moment, there is always a next step. A step forward. Not an escape, but towards escape.  In other words, even where we cannot find the ultimate truth, there is truth in situations.

So if we are trapped by our sense of being lost?

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The next step is to see a path. That is a way forward.  Taking the path relieves from the absurdity of being lost. We do not know if the path will lead us to our goal, but at least we have the right to hope.

If we are following the path, the ultimate is to see beauty. Something we want to be part of

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Again, a step forward.  Seeing the beauty means we are still separated from it. We are not yet connected to it. And yet, seeing it confirms that it exists. We can hope for connection. And we have the right to feel hope.

I could go on, but you get the point. The absurd becomes the paradigm when there is no next step. No way out. Not even a way forward. The only thing that makes any sense at all is meaningless rebellion! Seemingly endless complaining by folks stuck in trash cans

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And folks might feel that sort of despair when they are blocked from thinking any other way.

Clocked by what? Obviously blocked by our culture.

The Tate Does Blake. Yes, He was Mad … and a Genius

William Blake was a radical and visionary. Wordsworth said this about him after his death

‘There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott,’

And here is a peek at what you can find at the Tate

When you enter the huge exhibition dedicated to Blake at Tate Britain, which has been dimly lit to preserve the delicate works, you will be greeted by one of the artist’s most iconic images. Albion Rose depicts a young man with out-stretched arms standing on a rocky base, rays of colour emanating from his torso. It is the perfect introduction to Blake’s oeuvre, a work simple in its composition, characteristically Blake in its design, and open to myriad of interpretations. This image of the muscular, rosy-cheeked youth, inspired by the frescoes of Michelangelo and the draftsmanship of Raphael, was replicated throughout the artist’s career. The statues of the ancient world would permeate these images, too; there are Classical Profiles and furrowed Hellenistic brows aplenty.

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Check it out!

What drove Blake? At least in part, it was his reaction to the birth of the industrial age. He hated it. Not because of nostalgia for the past. But because he felt a deadening influence from machines.

Here is more on that theme

BTW, Londonist loves the Tate Exhibit