Friday, March 7, 2008

Depicting Suffering in Art

The Medieval, Rennaissance and Mannerist painters always fascinated me. Death, pain, and suffering was so much a part of their lives and art. Since most people would be lucky to live to be 30, death was probably very present in most people's minds.

Mantegna's painting of St. Sebastian has always stayed in my mind ever since art school. It's both beautiful and disturbing.

Hieronymus Bosch painted amazing and horrifically beautiful paintings depicting Heaven,Earth and Hell.

Parmigianino foreshadows Jesus' death while creating a painting of him in his Mother's arms.

It surprises me sometimes how people who say they like art that depicts reality are fearful of art that shows the darker side of being alive. I too wish life was all sunshine and roses, but unfortunately it's not.

I had such a negative response from other artists when I wanted to create dolls depicting things like physical disabilities. Even finding out that I was disabled didn't take the curse off of it for some people.

I've gotten around this phobia for the most part by creating mythological or magical creatures. Sometimes I feel like I sold out. But at the same time, many of my creatures and figures are now considered beautiful. So maybe I am making a tiny dent into the rigid ideas some people have about what is beautiful.

My most recent foray into pushing the beauty boundary came about when I read an article about a brave little Terrier named George.

The story reminded me of the art I mention above and I decided to portray George in his last moments. I feel such great bravery and love should be commemorated.

I've been pleased that most of the responses to George have been very positive.

I'm feeling much braver about creating darker sculptures. Portraying all aspects of being alive like death, fear and pain can be very liberating.


Jared in Kansas said...

Interesting thoughts. I often wonder why it is that we're so uncomfortable thinking about death. Makes more sense to get used to the idea, I figure.

Anonymous said...

The more that beauty becomes mainstream, the more fearful people become of the "unbeautiful". The more perfection you can buy, the more imperfections, you fear.
It's a slippery slope that we're headed down.
I love your outlook!

Laura Bartlett said...

Thanks Jared and Pam. Sometimes I think people would be happier if they lost so much of their fears of death and "unbeauty". Without them how can you appreciate being alive?

Anonymous said...

quite some time ago a saw a painting of a man with an expression of such misery and suffering on his face. I have never been able to find out what that painting was. I just happened to stumble on your website, now maybe I will find it. Lots luck to me. Very glad I found your website anyway.Trying to sign, don't understand it. I am really computer illiterate! There is no visual verification given.