'To honor women, a sculpture of a girl was installed overnight near Wall Street in an act we're told was like graffiti or guerilla pop-up art, but given how secure that zone of Manhattan has become and how politically correct it is to celebrate women it's likely this is just part of a highly funded stunt to coast along the news trend of this year's International Women's Day post-Pussy Hat March, and claim some moral high ground. State Street Global sponsored the sculpture of 'The Fearless Girl' to emphasize studies showing that companies that have women in top leadership positions perform better.
You can call this girl anything you want, but it's still a girl -- a girl representing women. A girl in a pigtail, short skirt, and rear-end sticking out is fearless and a symbol of women. Seriously?
The girl was installed opposite of the Charging Bull sculpture that was erected after the 1987 stock market crash, as a symbol of ever-lasting growth and prosperity. It's another incarnation of the sacred bull or Zeus turning into a bull to woo the maidens. The sacredness of the bull endures: to support a bull market of higher equity prices, stock prices, and capital is about as American and patriotic as mom, the flag and apple pie. So, how are women via the 'girl 'fearless' by opposing this? Do women oppose these capitalistic values? I'm not sure what the girl is opposing exactly or what the duality is all about here. Too bad an actual woman isn't an inspiration. There could be loads of ways to play with some mythical or historical characters here. Instead we get a pouting child just before she sticks out her tongue.
Venus is a symbol of the female, of woman. That planet is in exaltation in the sign of Taurus, which is the sign of the bull, the sign of plenty, material prosperity, crops and harvest and money. This sculpture lacks the force and vigor of art, lacks any basic knowledge of art history and as a political statement seems to contradict the point of State Street's commission. Its subject matter and depiction are a perfect reflection of the women's movement so far in 2017: lacking in maturity, power, or inspiration and creativity. Derivatives aren't just financial instruments after all, but artworks commissioned by the highest bidder. Its placement here is as mixed a message as using a girl as a symbol for physically, emotionally mature women in the first place.
"The Lion's Bride" is a study in contrast, in values between light and dark, a spur to beginner art students everywhere to be bold and fearless when shading, sharply and strongly. As if the subject matter wasn't startling enough, the values between the white of the woman and the dark recesses from which the shadowy lion emerges add to the drama and tension of this allegory.
Austrian artist Gabriel Cornelius von Max's 1908 painting has largely been ensconced in private collections, but it caught the public's imagination at the time and was widely copied and replicated. It's the replicas that you see even now when you look through different online libraries. This (above) is the original, which is currently in a Chicago residence, and this is what inspired one of the most indelible scenes in the silent movie era. Cecil B. DeMille re-staged this scene, using a real lion, in his 1919 movie on the complications of love and class, "Male and Female". DeMille did have his doubts about casting a real lion with his star Gloria Swanson, discreetly asking her if she was menstruating because that could trigger the male to attack, and then at the last-minute deciding to scrap the scene entirely. But Swanson insisted:
“I said: ‘Mr. DeMille, you can’t do this to me. I want to do that scene - the lion’s bride scene…you don’t understand. When I was little girl, in my grandmother’s house, she has this painting - a replica of a painting called "The Lion’s Bride.” And here it was, a bride, with a lion on her back. She had gone to say goodbye to this cub she raised, and the lion killed her.'
'Oh,’ he said, 'Well alright, come on…'
"So down into this thing we go, and Mr. DeMille with a gun, revolver in his hand, no one else but the two trainers. And they bring out this fuzzy lion, and they claimed he’s a nice lion. Only two weeks after we had done this scene, did he almost kill someone. Any rate, we didn’t know that then." (from the 1980 documentary "Hollywood")
Swanson recalled being frightened by the painting as a girl, but that was nothing compared to shooting this fantasy sequence (the king, formerly the butler, gives Swanson's character, the virgin slave, the choice between offering herself to him or sacrificing her life to the lion). Years later she still shivered as she recalled laying her on her stomach, the trainers positioning the lion on her back, and the lion's breath on her "like hundreds of vibrators from the tips of your toes to every hair on your head."
The heroine in von Max's painting is not spared, however. She had been a trainer in her father's menagerie, working with the lion since he was a cub. There developed a deep love between the two, so deep that she visits him on her wedding day. The lion, sensing that he might be losing her, attacks her. Her fiance is running with the gun -- you can see him through the bars of the cage -- but he is too late. The damage is done.
Von Max's studies in mysticism and spiritism -- that the spiritual is at the core of all living things, including animals -- obviously worked their way into his art. It's not just a genre painting or a scene out of a historical moment. Spiritual is recognizing and working with the energy body, and what is one of the most powerful forms of energy? Our emotions. How deadly and destructive they become when unbalanced, with possessiveness and jealousy killing the very things we love most. Look at the expression he gives his lion. If he can't have her all to himself, no one can. Maybe he'll be shot at? He's in self-destruct mode -- I can't imagine him caring at this point. His eyes show no regret, and that paw, splayed with claws dug into the woman's haunch as if she were still alive.
Thank you London's FutureFace for featuring my collage "Emperor Donald Duck" on its blog Public Faces.
FF founder and one of the world's top Chinese face readers Maura Bright asked me to write a few words about it, and I'm just realizing that the duck theme has unintentionally continued from my August posting!
Trump "reminds me of a combination of a duck and a Roman Emperor -- everything from the swirly wanna-be ducktail on the top of his head, the sweeping arm gestures, and the saliva, foaming-at-the-mouth, quack-quack rhetoric that just doesn’t seem to shut up.
There was also a brutality in the Roman Empire born of strength without compassion...This may explain his appeal.
You can read the full article at http://www.futureface.com/public-faces
Hardly Lee Miller in Hitler's tub but funny what pops into your head at the most spontaneous moments. Here I am in St Joseph, Michigan, a turn-of-the-century town on a bluff along Lake Michigan, which plays host to street art on every corner, every summer, and this year's theme is rubber ducks and bathtubs.
I later showed a friend of mine the iconic photo of Miller sitting in the Fuhrer's tiled tub -- she had never seen it -- and she said 'why?' in that way you do when you are totally unimpressed.
When you ask why? you kill the moment, the mood, the expression. When you ask why? right when you are on the cusp of picking up a paintbrush or singing or dancing or creating or expressing yourself, then it is censorship of the worst kind: Self-censorship.
When you actually start answering your own question of why? then you've become your own personal dictator. You don't need a Hitler for that. You, yourself, can spend a lifetime trying to answer why? Why you're doing this or that. Why you like that person. Why you love this one. Why you're moving the paintbrush like that. Why? Why? Why? The more you ask this question, the more you are never satisfied. You never need to know why you do anything in life, even why you're hopping into a tub or onto the back of a giant duck.
This is The Bean. It's a nickname for one of Anish Kapoor's sculptures, a moniker that the British artist is quoted as saying is 'completely stupid'. It's stuck though because it tells you exactly what it is on the tin, in this case a stainless steel kidney bean. Its design was more inspired by mercury and it does look like a blob of liquid mercury fell from the sky and landed in the middle of Chicago's Loop. It feels like a semi-solid substance, held in space of its own accord. You don't feel like you're in the presence of 168 stainless steel plates seamlessly welded together in a year-long construction project that cost an estimated $23 million. The Bean is so much more ethereal than all that.
I only ever walked around, or by, the The Bean on the way to somewhere 'more important', more pressing. It's never been a destination point for me. Yet, if in my path, I've always stopped by to pay my respects. Always intrigued by its distorting reflections of the skyscrapers that make up the city's skyline or of a full moon -- a master reflector itself -- or of the people around me. Always admiring its shiny, metallic, newness after more than 10 years in a public park as well as its fun-house playfulness and how this playfulness seems to affect everyone who comes near it. There is almost a collective rapture around this thing.
But until recently, I never actually walked under it, or through it. In fact, I didn't know you could. I didn't know it was possible. Because I never quite saw the arch in the first place. This is extraordinary. The arch is 12 feet high! It's not some inconsiderable, dark arch as it may look in photos. It hits you: how tricky the eye is, how things can be obscured in plain site, and how our power of perception relies on so many intangibles. Which is the point of this masterpiece -- it obscures, limits, and plays with the viewer's field of vision and thus its comprehension. Two-thirds of its surface reflects the sky, and yet it is by traveling on the ground underneath -- and I don't lightly use the word travel -- that its official name makes sense. Kapoor named it Cloud Gate months after the 'completely stupid' nickname had taken hold.
It is only by walking underneath and looking up -- not looking through as in earthly gates -- that we see the true gate, a 27-foot high indentation in the belly of this beast. We don't know it's an indentation when we look up. We just see a circle, a navel -- the omphalos, an ancient Greek symbol with its unrelenting echo of 'know thyself'. We can't distinguish this navel at all from the surface of the sculpture though. When you look up, staring back at you are endless reflections of yourself and others -- and of Cloud Gate itself. It is self-reflecting, spiraling and morphing into quicksilver blobs with each move. Cloud Gate is a modern version of a stargate, a portal, a wormhole of infinite proportions, a metaphysical gate and motif used in art and architecture the world over to represent the crossing over from one realm to another.
I went to Carnegie Hall for the first time the other night. I've never been to a theater quite like it. After ascending three of the steepest flights of stairs ever to the balcony, I then had to step down the most vertical set of steps to my seat. At this point, I felt like I was going to plunge head first into the orchestra pit. Then I looked up and saw the ceiling. I couldn't stop staring at (or into?) it. As mesmerizing as the music.