Truth, Beauty and the Meaning of Art


“Beauty is truth, truth beauty” – That is all Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.
– Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn



I thought I’d put together some arguments on the nature and meaning of beauty to the human experience. I hope you’ll spend some time with these presentations and consider their implications.

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A Sense of Place

I think about this presentation every time I travel to a new location to paint. I think Plein Air painters are uniquely qualified to speak about this topic, as we are among the very few who spend so much time immersed in careful scrutiny, and the very nature of what we do documents the changes in our environment. I have painted dozens of places that are no longer what they were, due to weather, road construction or urban sprawl.

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Milwaukee Art Museum – China Exhibit

China Exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum - and stupid policies.

I was told today, in a rather contrite manner, by a suit-wearing rent-a-cop with a plainly smug expression, that there was no photography in the main exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Have I mentioned before that I am a devout Libertarian? It would be an understatement to say that I have a problem with authority, especially stupid authority. So, let me share with you some photography:

Last month I decided that to see the Milwaukee Art Museum’s China Exhibits which were being discussed on public radio. After doing some research I learned that the Art Museum has free admission on the first Thursday of every month. I thought that would be a great opportunity. It was a mistake.

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A = A

What is going on here?

Exactly how are we valuing our art?

One’s expectation of reality should never interfere with their ability to perceive reality.
– Richard Schmid

Before I talk about how the Cedarburg Event wrapped up, what my results were, I want to tell you about a conversation that I had shortly after the event closed, which I am still contemplating, and my criteria for evaluating a painting.

Just prior to attending the artist post-event party thrown by the remarkably generous Shoenenberger home, I was congratulating the awarded artists whom I knew, which inevitably ended up in long conversations about art. The last of these involved my friends Brian and Bonnie, both of whom are more established artists than I, both of whom won awards.

We ended up discussing the judging of the event, and at one point I expressed an opinion that good paintings are good paintings because they rise to a standard that is recognizable. By this I also meant that there is a standard by which to evaluate the value of a painting, or towards which to strive for excellence, regardless of style. I did this while inwardly reasserting to myself that if my paintings were better, they would have been recognized and they would more likely have sold.

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