Art and History

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Art and History

From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005


Roberta wrote:
Perhaps this is splitting hairs. I think one must give some contemplation to what is truth or myth. Maybe it is in the context of the use. If one is using the content of a myth as a symbol in painting that is fine. For example if I do a painting of Persephone we know this is mythology now if I were to do a painting of Christ this is not mythology now I am doing a religious painting. If I want to use some other element as a symbol of Christ perhaps that is my artistic freedom such as a reflection of a telephone pole as symbolic of a cross.

Of course one must be careful. Such as the complete hoax as the Da Vinci code. Which was fiction. Not truth. Hope I don't stir a bee hive!

The way I look at it is that whether you believe in Christianity completely, partially, or not at all, it is possible to speak (and paint) coherently with references to Christian mythology. We could also talk about American mythology and the images of George Washington, Thomas Edison, and Sargent York, and whether one thinks that a given story if entirely true, embellished, or complete hokum, the stories are still part of a particular mythology. Of course if you want to think of Christian stories as entirely historical rather than myths to some degree I don't think it will particularly impact your work unless you refrain from using your artistic license to bring out the more important aspects of the stories. For example, if you were going to paint Jesus' empty tomb, would you focus more on an exact replica of the place we can best guess that it was? Or would you idealize it to give your image the requisite emotional impact. If you are a journalist or a historian you should for the former. If you are an artist you should do that latter. History is one thing. Meaning is a bit different. For example, I doubt that Washington was standing up in his boat the way Leutze painted him, but the mythology of Washington calls for him to be painted just that kind of way. Journalism and history are fine things, but they aren't art. See my point?

--Brian