Canada Dreams

Weiner, E. (1975). Art and Human Emotions. Springfield, IL:Thomas.
The title drew me to this book, and the content captured me. Weiner discusses subjects of great importance with humour, sensitivity, and years of experience.
The book is a series of essays and speeches discussing such things as "man's imperfection is his perfection." He goes on to say that a bad picture is an honest emotion trying to be expressed. Each time you paint a bad painting you "save yourself a nightmare." For example, you can see the pain in Munch's early life reflected in his work. He had lost his mother and sister to tuberculosis. Weiner created a statue of Christ that was physically unappealing to the church elders. In his mind Christ would not have been accepted by the rabble if he'd been too beautiful and aloof. Art work that is excessively cosmetic has not stood the test of time. It is the artist's honesty that shines through all good art of every kind. To the church elders he suggests that they would be better off giving Sunday School children crayons to create a work than to buy mass produced pretty Christs. "It is most difficult for a grown-up person, in his grown-up surroundings, to keep his inner creative urges and powers as pure as a child's."
He also goes on to note that artists don't need to defend continually what they are doing or why, if they come from that honest place. There are many possible reasons and if you spend your time looking for the reasons you'll miss the work itself. Just as there is the ugly in life and the silence in music, there is the ugly and blank in art. "Picasso says we are ugly, and we hate him for it, but he says the truth." Great art can not be copied. Renoir's greatest works were done after his hands were crippled by arthritis. Even his factotum could not produce art even close to the quality of Renoir himself. The factotum was merely the tool. Renoir possessed the spirit.
Art is more than technique. With childlike curiosity, you need to study methods and the artists before you. But in the end, you can throw those away and jump naked into the process for it is in your bones. So even though it is rumoured Picasso foisted jokes on the public, he is a great and proven artist, and therefore it is great humour and great art.
Weiner rambles on covering many topics of concern to me as a young artist. He mentions the difficulty we have surfacing to face this world of "normal life." He discusses how we are driven "to do" our art, and how we expose our vulnerability to "express not impress." I found not so much that I sat with this short book in my lap as much as I sat in the lap of this mentor.


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