Monday, March 26, 2007

Art as Non-Violent Response to Violence

This painting is called: Dante and Virgil Contemplate the Inferno and it was created by Sandow Birk.

As a partial explanation of the theme of the painting, I'll quote his biography:

"Most recently, he has completed an enormous project involving the rewriting and illustrating of the entire 'Divine Comedy' [written by Dante] into contemporary American English."

Here's a listing of some of the themes appearing in his work:

* inner city violence
* graffiti
* various political issues
* travel
* prisons
* surfing
* skateboarding

I first became aware of his work because of the appearance of this painting,
The Liberation of Baghdad, in the popular blog Boing Boing:

Here's what they had to say:

"...Birk has made a number of paintings, including The Liberation of Baghdad, seen here. The paintings are more satirical and ironic, and many are based on paintings of the glories of war in Napoleon’s time and from Russian socialist images of battlefield glories.

"The Liberation of Baghdad, says Birk, is about 'what we were told would happen -- happy, joyfully liberated Iraqis welcoming American troops as we free them from the shackles of oppression.'"

Along with basing the way he expresses his feelings on historical styles of painting, he adds the Spiritual Commentary of satire and irony.

For instance, rather than just painting The Liberation of Baghdad in an ancient style and letting the serious viewer go away thinking he approves of the "liberation", Birk added the dog fight in the lower left corner.

Every detail of a created work is important to the meaning of the whole. Birk didn't have to put any dogs in the picture and he didn't have to make them fight ferociously. But he did and by putting them there he told the careful viewer, "This situation may just not be what it first appears to be".

And American troops are still dealing with that deadly dog fight...

5 comments:

Sophia said...

I went to go check out the works on his homepage. They certainly are unique as he has a style all his own.

Alexys Fairfield said...

Alex,
Nice reference. Very emotionally gripping.
You are a soldier for the consciousness of God.

Alexander M said...

sophia,
He is totally unique, in my experience!

~~~~~~~~~~

alexys,
"...a soldier for the consciousness of God."
Hmmm...
soldier: maybe, 'cause I'm an Aries and my name is Alexander (meaning, defender of Humanity)...
consciousness of God: well, only if we all are--some having clear consciousness, some blurred, some darkened...

Anonymous said...

I think this is an amazing painting, very topical, thought provoking, beautiful, ironic, and timely. I went to check out his website and the paintings there are amazing too.

You wrote: "Along with basing the way he expresses his feelings on historical styles of painting, he adds the Spiritual Commentary of satire and irony."

In what way are the attitudes of satrie and irony to be considered "spiritual commentary"?
Aren't they just "commentary"?

His work seems to be thought provoking and meaningful. I'm going to check out his versions of the "Divine Comedy" books. "Dante's Inferno" is out now, in a set, I think.

And check this out: www.dantefilm.com

Alexander M said...

Thanks for your comments!
"In what way are the attitudes of satrie and irony to be considered "spiritual commentary"?
"Aren't they just "commentary"?"

Yes, they are, technically, "commentary". It's their result--a pointing toward a worthy spiritual goal--that makes them "spiritual commentary" to me...

~ Alex