Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Humans, animals, plants, and other life forms live and die.  Although, even in death, these things continue to exist.  My son attends a high school located next to a cemetery.  I've always been intrigued by the irony of it - that is, children in the process of development as humans on this earth and the nonliving in the dirt - juxtaposed there next to them.  The high school is located in the small town of Strasburg, Virginia.  Many of the children in the school can trace their ancestry back generations as having lived in Strasburg and undoubtedly some have family members buried in the very cemetery there next to the school.  So, the children are not only the present mortal generation living and learning there next to a memorial to the past, they are also a continuum.  Just as a plant produces a seed, dies, and other plants grow from what it was, so go all living things.

Does this mean that nothing ever really dies?  Occasionally a lineage of living things certainly does become extinct.  But does that really mean it is finally and completely dead?  Or, does it simply mean that a thing that evolved from some other source has become somehow nonviable and has left a void to be filled by the next evolution of something new from the mass of all life?

That said, perhaps there is no death in the natural world, but only cycles of life.  Isn't a seed a piece of a living tree?  If a seed falls from a tree and another tree grows from the seed, is the new tree not just a continuum of the original tree (itself)?  That is, is every oak tree the same oak tree, every human the same human, everything that was, is, and will be - all contributing all that they are to the next?  Its enough to make you crazy.

What about those things that are inanimate - rocks, architecture, consumer products, artwork, etc.  A rock may crumble into sand, but it will be elementally intact - but never alive.  If a house is abandoned it may deteriorate - its organic parts finishing the cycle of decay and its inorganic parts continuing elementally, but another house will never be spawned from it.  The house is simply the product of a process put into motion by humans and will not and cannot propagate itself.  And, so goes an artwork.

Humans and societies, since ancient times, have tried to imbue their creations with immortality - thinking them to be an embodiment of their own spirit,  intellect, or greatness.  Some say that a work of art has a life (or spirit) - really?  Are artists god-like - breathing life into an inanimate object (much like god formed Adam from the dust of the Earth and breathed life into him)?  I believe that art simply exists as a temporary expression of an artist's intellect and/or ego and will eventually vanish from existence.  Can any of you reading this post name an artist from before the 16th century?  It's probably safe to say that few, if any, can.  For most people art seems to have begun with the renaissance - at least in as much as some of the artists from that era gained celebrity status and became memorable for what they accomplished.  For those artists who fell into anonymity, their work, without conservation, found its way to the trash heap or a thrift shop wall.  Even with armies of conservators, the great pyramids of Egypt and da Vinci's Mona Lisa will find their fate - dust.

A work of art is not a living thing.  It is an inanimate object crafted from the imagination of the artist to speak to the intellect and emotions of humans, just as a flower (creation of nature (god)) speaks to the human senses.  One will decay into dust and cease to exist.  The other, through natural propagation, will live on until the end-of-days.

As with my artwork and most of my writing, I find that this blog post hasn't  completely realized its original intention.  I meant to write about the use of archival materials in the making of art.  No matter how hard I try, these things seem to take their own course.

No comments:

Post a Comment