Saturday, August 1, 2015

From the particulars to the universal

I often listen to the podcast On Being by Krista Tippett as I take a weekend morning walk. This week she had a conversation with the poet Elizabeth Alexander. They spoke about many things but an idea from the interview has stayed in my mind and it is this: We all create from our "particulars."  Our particulars like our gender, our race, our class, our religion, the details of our family experience and relationships, the geographical area we are in, the time we live in, the places we visit. We create from our particular identity. Sometimes there is a transcendence and the art we create from our particulars becomes universal. I'm really not even sure exactly what this means but I am thinking about the idea of universal art a lot.

How does great music, literature, and art speak to us across the span of time and place? It seems hopeful to me that art reflects the idea that there is probably more we share as human beings across culture and time than not. There perhaps is more that is universal than particular in our experience as it is distilled into art. Universal themes of love and friendship and nature and faith are expressed uniquely through our particulars. I appreciate that it helps to know more of the particulars to develop a deeper understanding of art and to help bridge the particular to the universal.

This is of course the great Frida Kahlo in her self portrait. We seem to only love Frida more as time goes by. I believe there is a universality to her work. Her particulars can speak to us, especially as women I believe, even though she lived in a different time and place. 

The one below is by an artist I am newly introduced to and absolutely in love with- Hung Liu. She is a Chinese American woman painting profoundly moving and beautiful work. Her work reflects her Chinese experience, a very different experience from mine, yet there is something in this work that speaks to me so deeply. 

Here is another beautiful painting by Hung Liu

I will leave you with this image from a contemporary artist I enjoy- Anahata Kahn. She is the genius behind Papaya in Ashland Oregon.

Yes I do have a woman with flower head dress theme going and that is partly because I have an assignment this week to paint a woman in a flower head dress. And perhaps I will share that later. But also it seems like an image that speaks to the universal theme of the feminine in some very different ways depending on the artists particulars. It is certainly an image that shows up through a multitude of times and geographies.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, you're exploring a philosophical question through art, which could be the best way to come to an answer it seems to me. I'm intrigued.