Ellen Stuttle

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  1. See. Ellen
  2. Section Four - the Point Now, returning at l-o-n-g last to the issue I was trying to get at, the issue of FACT. Rebay's statement implies the factual claim that there exists, "out there," like "existence exists and is what it is," irrespective of anyone's wishes, hopes, fears - or opinions, a "primary essence of creation." Does it make a difference to the correctness of Rebay's views if the primary essence of creation which she thought was out there isn't there? Yes. Does it make a person artistically insensitive if the person doubts - including very, very strongly doubts - that the primary essence of creation which Rebay thought was out there indeed is out there? No. I'll use a couple analogies myself to illustrate how I view Rebay's account of Kandinsky's "abstract" work. (1) Suppose that a person understands the term "unicorn" as meaning a mythological creature (not a horse or pony tricked up with a horn plastered on its forehead or some other mistaken identification), and that the person claims literally to have experienced riding a unicorn (not to have imagined riding one). Then I would think that the person either hallucinated or is lying, since non-existent creatures can't be ridden. (2) Suppose that a person claims to have sighted the Loch Ness Monster. I totally doubt that I could be persuaded that there really is a Loch Ness Monster. However, I wouldn't conclude simply from a person's claiming to have sighted Nessie that the person either hallucinated or is lying. The person might have sighted something and might genuinely believe that the something was Nessie. I assess Rebay on Kandinsky's "abstract" work as similar to the second example. I think that Rebay was "sighting" <i>something</i> which is a property of Kandinsky's "abstract" paintings, but that it's not only reasonable to doubt, it's unreasonable not to doubt that what she "sighted" was what she thought it was. As to what I think Rebay was discerning but mislabeling in Kandinsky's "abstract" work, I think it's closely related to what she thought it was, but minus her mystical belief system (and minus Kandinsky's - he thought that true art comes from a cosmic Spirit of Art). I'd call it essentialization of form, especially of the dynamism of form. Once upon a time - from July 2008 to Fall 2014 - that's what I thought that you, too, thought was the nature of "abstract" visual art. It's what I thought you were attempting to illustrate in selecting the set of paired images that I've re-posted as the "frontispiece" of this thread. But then you said, no, that you meant "having no identifiable likeness." But just the thing that strikes me, and that I thought you were trying to demonstrate in the respective pairs if the set is the likeness, with the image on the right being like the essentialized dynamism of the one on the left. Now, I haven't a clue what you were trying to demonstrate. If you remember your principle of selection, could you describe what it was? I'll repeat the set:
  3. Section Three - Blind Men, Rand and Rebay One must be lacking in not only artistic sensitivity, but also in general life experience and fundamental social interaction in order to not recognize the very simple reality that others often experience in art what one does not. Many people have differing views on what they think is the “essence” of creation, what is the “essence” of each of the art forms, and what is the “essence” of each individual work of art. There doesn’t have to be a single, universal, objectively definable/identifiable “essence” of any of those categories in order for one to accept the reality that another person is reporting that she experienced what she describes as an “essence.” She has an opinion on what is essential, then she experiences a work of art which meets her criteria of what she thinks is essential, and then states that the art work hit her essence button. We don’t have to agree with her on what is essential, nor do we have to even accept the idea that anything can boil down to a single “essence,” in order to recognize and accept that she experiences it as an essence, even though we do not. It’s the old tale of the blind men touching different parts of an elephant. One touches the trunk and thinks it’s a serpent, another touches a leg and thinks it’s a tree, etc. Rand “touched” the subject of “art” and felt only the story-telling part, so the "essence" of all art forms became those aspects which were most similar to literature. Rebay touched only the visual compositional part. Both made the mistake of irrationally rejecting — sometimes quite angrily — others’ statements about the parts that they were touching. Why not listen to and accept others’ descriptions of the parts that they are touching? What’s with the insecure little psychological need to assert that others can’t possibly be touching a part that is different from the part that one is touching? I'll start with your analogy to the parable of the blind men and the elephant to get it out of the way. Ever since I first heard that parable many years ago, I've thought that it was dumb and that it portrays blind people as idiots who wouldn't likely survive for long. As if blind people wouldn't soon discern that they were touching a creature, and a large one (the parable's script implies that the elephant's an adult elephant). And what is a blind person doing that close to an elephant without the assistance of a sighted person? Blind people get to be skilled at detecting potential danger using other senses besides sight and at avoiding blundering into harm's way. "It's an analogy!," you might reply, like you're prone to replying, "It's a metaphor!" Yes, but an analogy used to what purpose? To suggest that any description that anyone offers should be "listen[ed] to and accept[ed]"? Listening to is one thing, within limits. There's only so much time in life. But shouldn't accepting be done on the basis of trying to form a correct theory of the whole elephant? And could it not be the case that some descriptions are fully wrong, not partially true? Actually, all the descriptions are fully wrong in the parable, which was the biggest reason why I thought it was dumb. Its moral, as I understand the moral, is acceptance of everyone's being in error, with the truth of a unified understanding not to be had. --- Regarding your descriptions of the parts of art that Rand and Rebay, respectively, "touched": I don't know enough about Rebay to have an opinion on the degree to which she "touched only the visual compositional part." There are definite indications in her Preface that she thought that representational painting is inferior to what she called "non-objective" art (from the German gegenstandslos, literally "object without). I don't know if she went so far as to consider representational painting not art. I don't agree that Rand, upon “'touch[ing]' the subject of 'art,'" "felt only the story-telling part." Granted, she overextended her category "Naturalism" in speaking of the "metaphysics" operative in the choice of subjects in visual art. But she overextended her category "Naturalism" in literature too by making it the omnibus opposite to "Romanticism." She liked having things slotted into pairs she could call "diametrically opposite" to each other. I think that her bigger overextension, however, was from visual art to literature. I brought that idea up a few years ago, thinking of writing about it, but I haven't gotten around to spelling it out. What I'm referring to is her idea that art - all art - brings what she called "the conceptual level" to what she called "the perceptual level." ]> There's nothing perceptual about a story, even one enacted on a stage or in a motion picture. A story is something you have to follow with the imagination and intellect, not something you perceive. Other arts aren't strictly "perceptual level" either, even visual arts where one does literally see the artwork. Even there imagination and intellect are operative in the seeing it as art and in forming a weave of meaningfulness in what one sees. Anyway, I agree that Rand was too narrow in what she accepted as art, but not that she made literature's characteristics "the 'essence' of all art forms." Ellen
  4. Section Two - Pretentiousness / Sensitivities and Limitations I agree, and that has been my entire point: There is no reason to take the frantic, insecure, Objectivish position of doubting or rejecting anyone’s statements that they were "sincerely, deeply, profoundly moved" by any work of art; the fact that O’vishes don’t themselves experience the same depth and profundity is not a logical or rational basis on which to doubt others’ experiences, or to call them lies, delusions, etc. An individual work of art that Rebay may have experienced as a primary essence of creation might do little or nothing for me or you. In such a case, I’m not at all uncomfortable with the idea that I lack her sensitivities to the effects of the work in question. Likewise, if you say that a certain poem or ballet knocks the wind out of you, but it bores me, I wouldn’t find it upsetting in the least if anyone were to say that, in regard to the artwork in question, and perhaps even the entire genre, I appear to be aesthetically limited, unaware, unobservant, uninterested, etc. I would not be able to understand someone’s needing to tell you that you’re lying, delusional or pretentious when you claim that you experience depth, emotional impact, expressiveness and meaning that I and others might not. Your first paragraph: There you've used my specific comment about a particular person as a springboard for railing against your O'vish bugaboos and you've flown off into disconnect from what I was saying as well as from what Rebay said. Rebay did not make the statement of herself that she was "sincerely, deeply, profoundly moved" by Kandinsky's art. That's my assessment of her outpouring. Nor has Hilla Rebay's lack of pretentiousness been your "entire point" (in cyber-reams of posts?). As best I can ascertain (I've discovered that the search function is defective, but that's another story), prior to the current discussion, Hilla Rebay had only been referenced twice on OL, both times by me - here and here - in the thread titled "Kandinsky's Spiritual Quest." Those two earlier references were informational. I didn't say anything evaluating the genuineness of Rebay's praise. The reason why I disclaimed accusing Rebay of pretentiousness now is because the style of her encomium is flowerful, effusive. It's the sort of writing that can easily arouse suspicions of being at least partly put on. I was attempting to indicate that I think that Rebay in particular wasn't putting it on. I think that she meant it. All of it. This is by contrast to many effusions about "abstract" visual art which I've heard or read and which I've thought were put on to some extent ranging from mildly to entirely insincere. --- Your second paragraph: I've already commented on the oddity of your speaking of experiencing an artwork as, itself, "a primary essence of creation." I'll add a personal touch. I think that there's a good likelihood that an artwork which affected Rebay as being "conceived from the primary essence of creation" would also positively, and probably strongly, affect me. I resonate to the "wavelength" of her reaction to Kandinsky, although my explanatory frame differs from hers. Next, I'm curious: Why a ballet? I've never expressed any particular interest in the art of ballet, and I'd estimate that I've attended no more than a couple dozen live ballet performances. I love the movie of "Romeo and Juliet" with Prokofiev's music (Nureyev and Fontayne as the leads), but I don't recall even mentioning that if I have mentioned it. Next, the word "needing" loads your last sentence, as if you think that there could be no basis or context for someone's making any of those charges of anyone else besides someone's needing to make them. Yet, ironically - although, again, I think that you didn't intend the implication - you yourself in effect accused Rebay of being deluded in mistaking her "subjective opinion" for cosmic fact. As I've already indicated, I think that there are abundant displays of pretentiousness regarding "abstract" visual art. I think that there's no shortage of pretentiousness regarding other areas of art as well. I've also, sometimes, thought that a person was outright lying about an artistic response. Next, I'm more than a bit skeptical of your statement that you "wouldn’t find it upsetting in the least if anyone were to say that, in regard to the artwork in question, and perhaps even the entire genre, [you] appear to be aesthetically limited, unaware, unobservant, uninterested, etc." I think that whoever said something of the sort to you would have to phrase the assessment very tactfully or the person might never hear the end of it. --- And next, and major: the issue of your "sensitivities and limitations" theme: Jonathan, what basis for judging sensitivities and limitations do you provide yourself or anyone else with? Is the person who claims to experience the most of a positive kind thereby certified as the most sensitive? For instance, consider the following alterations to Rebay's describing "the non-objective masterpiece" (in the context, meaning work by Kandinsky) as "conceived from the primary essence of creation." Suppose that one person were to say that Kandinsky's art is conceived from the essence of "pixie dust" (using the term in the pejorative colloquial meaning of fanciful nonsense) and another were to say that it's conceived from the essence of derangement. Based on numerous evaluations of "visual aesthetic sensitivity" I've read in your posts, my guess is that you'd evaluate the first person as badly lacking in visual aesthetic sensitivity and the second as a visual aesthetic moron. But by what standard could you make any evaluation? If all such assessments of art works "[come] down to each individual’s subjective opinions based on their own personal experiences, sensitivities and limitations," then you have one person's "personal experiences, sensitivities and limitations" judging another person's who's judging the first person's in a chamber of subjectivist mirrors. Yet you've wielded charges of visual arts insensitivity and limitations like O'vishes wield charges of "bad sense of life" and "malevolent-universe premises." Sometimes you add accusations of character flaws. For instance, when Tony described the Vermeer milkmaid as "homely" and "bored" and the scene as drab, and he said that he was brought to mind of centuries of female servitude, you accused him not only of visual arts insensitivity and limitations, but also of being an "Obedient Objectivist" and of likely having "hateful notions of women" to boot (link). Likewise, when some people responded with disfavor to the painting of the nude guys in the truck, you accused those people not only of visual arts insensitivity and limitations but also of human empathy limitations as well. When it comes to Kamhi, you become hopelessly anaphylactic and splutter charges, especially featuring your claim that she makes her aesthetic limitations the universal standard for mankind. I don't think that she does any such thing, but on your own subjectivist premises, it's all simply a matter of opinion whether she's aesthetically limited or you're an aesthetic whore. Ellen
  5. Section One - Essences Thanks, but I don’t need the luck since I wouldn’t argue that there is an “essence” outside of Rebay’s describing her personal experience as such. I think that all statements of what any person believes is the “essence" of creation, or of any of the art forms, comes down to each individual’s subjective opinions based on their own personal experiences, sensitivities and limitations. I'll start with the disjunct between your use of "essence" and Rebay's. The first time I read your reply, I had a WTF? feeling when I got to the phrase "or of any of the art forms." What was that doing inserted into Rebay's context of thought? The WTF? feeling intensified when I read the first sentence of your second section: [quoting J]"An individual work of art that Rebay may have experienced as a primary essence of creation might do little or nothing for me or you."[/end quote] This would only connect to Rebay's statement if you meant to write: "An individual work of art that Rebay may have experienced as being conceived from the primary essence of creation [...]." When I got to the third section, where you strung together "the 'essence' of creation," "the 'essence' of each of the art forms," and "the 'essence' of each individual work of art," I began to think that possibly you've never read Rebay's "Preface" to Point and Line to Plane. I had assumed that you would have read it, since surely you must have read the Kandinsky text. But maybe you skipped the "Preface" or you've forgotten its content. You appear to have interpreted Rebay's "primary essence of creation" as meaning by "primary" a rank-ordering term, that is, an evaluation of relative significance, but what Rebay was talking about was causal primacy, "primary" in the sense of "first cause." She was talking about a metaphysical property of the universe, a causative source, something existent in reality from which art can be conceived. She was making a factual assertion, and a strong one, given that she preceded the final paragraph with an extensive build-up, also presented as fact. Thus, in declaring that you consider any such statement as hers "subjective opinion," you're in effect declaring - although I doubt that this was your intent - that Rebay was immersed in a delusional system, that she was badly mistaking her personal response for an identification of cosmic truth. I think that Rebay's system of thought was mistaken, and that she was misidentifying what she saw in Kandinsky's "abstract" art. But I think that she was discerning something which is there in the artwork - and something which once upon a time I thought that you were discerning too. I'll return at the end of this post to the "something" which I think is there. First, I want to address a number of other issues, including your "sensitivities and limitations" theme. Ellen
  6. Preliminaries The discussion of Hilla Rebay's saying of Kandinsky's "abstract" art that it's "conceived from the primary essence of creation" begins here. William (thanks) posted a lengthy excerpt from Rebay's article here. Hilla Reba's Preface to Kandinsky's Point and Line to Plane was originally published as "Pioneer in Non-Objective Painting" in the May 1946 issue of the "Carnegie Magazine." The complete Preface, in the 1979 Dover reprint, can be read via Google books - link. I'll quote the full last paragraph of the article: "To unfold the human soul and lead it into receptivity of cosmic power and joy is the tremendous benefit derived from the non-objective masterpiece, so intensely useful and conceived from the primary essence of creation. In loving Kandinsky's paintings, we assimilate ourselves with expressions of beauty with which he links us to a higher world. Kandinsky's message of non-objectivity is the message of Eternity." (A note about the term "non-objective," and it's noun form "non-objectivity," as used by Rebay: The term doesn't mean "subjective." It's a potentially confusing English rendering of the German gegenstandslos - literally translated, "object without" - which means, when used in an art context, what's called in English "abstract" or "non-representational" art.) Ellen
  7. The title imitates Kandinsky's Über das Geistige in der Kunst: Besonders in der Malerei ("Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Especially in Painting"). --- I've been hoping for the last five weeks to start a new thread by replying in detail to a particular post of Jonathan's - here - from May 25, However, I've been preoccupied with preparations for a symmetry conference which Larry and I will be attending soon in Vienna. And with other stuff, including the painful and icky aftermath of an emergency dental operation. I'm now faced with the choice of starting the thread on the near-eve of my departure, when I won't have time to follow through for several weeks, or waiting until I've returned and re-settled in and caught up to neglected chores. I decided to go ahead and start the thread now when I have a few hours to spare in which to get on with it. ==== Jonathan and I have many, many divergences regarding issues of art, so many that I doubt I could list them all. However, Jonathan's post which I've linked to above seems to me to provide a possible access point for developing from in a positive direction. The post is like it's on a tangential trajectory to what I was saying - and to what Hillay Rebay was saying. It almost misses contact. But there is one point on which it comes close to touching: Jonathan believes - as do I - that Rebay experienced something which powerfully affected her in Kandinsky's art. The problem I was originally trying to highlight pertains to artistic "sensitivity" - whether or not, in order to qualify as "sensitive" to "abstract" painting, one need believe that Rebay was - in fact - experiencing what she thought she was. Maybe the word "experiencing" threw things off. Rebay didn't precisely claim that she experienced "the primary essence of creation" via Kandinsky's "abstract" art. She said that his art was "conceived from the primary essence of creation." But she'd have to have had an idea of how the activity of "the primary essence of creation" can be recognized, so in that respect experienced, in order to make an identification that certain paintings were conceived from it. In any event, Jonathan brushed aside the factual issue of whether or not there IS a primary essence of creation from which art can be conceived. At first, reading Jonathan's post, I felt mystified by the non-contact between his reply and what I was asking. Slowly, however, I began to think that maybe the disjunct provides an opening for probing an earlier mystification. We'll see how this goes. Ellen
  8. Almost eight years ago - on July 22, 2008 - Jonathan posted a set of paired images which I'll feature as the "frontispiece" of this thread. I'll explain why, and why I started the thread, in subsequent posts.
  9. One must be lacking in not only artistic sensitivity, but also in general life experience and fundamental social interaction in order to not recognize the very simple reality that others often experience in art what one does not. Many people have differing views on what they think is the “essence” of creation, what is the “essence” of each of the art forms, and what is the “essence” of each individual work of art. There doesn’t have to be a single, universal, objectively definable/identifiable “essence” of any of those categories in order for one to accept the reality that another person is reporting that she experienced what she describes as an “essence.” She has an opinion on what is essential, then she experiences a work of art which meets her criteria of what she thinks is essential, and then states that the art work hit her essence button. We don’t have to agree with her on what is essential, nor do we have to even accept the idea that anything can boil down to a single “essence,” in order to recognize and accept that she experiences it as an essence, even though we do not. Accepting that the person "is reporting that she experienced what she describes as an 'essence'" is one thing. Accepting that the person in fact experienced exactly what she says she did is another. Apply your statement to people's reporting that God is talking to them. Don't you see a difference between believing that the person experienced something which the person believes is the voice of God and accepting upon the person's say-so that the person really is being talked to by God? Ellen
  10. Are you suggesting that in We the Living Rand is presenting the Soviet state as something of value because it stimulates Kira's will to resist? In saying he was going to "stop the motor of the world," Galt was talking about the altruist ethics. Rand presents that ethics as small, petty, a moral con-game, and only kept operative by the sanction of the victim. What the characters who go on strike have to overcome is their own mistaken views as a result of which they grant sanction. They learn that all they need do is "shrug" and the con-game will implode. Ellen
  11. No, that is not my position. Instead, that you're attributing an impossible symbolic capacity to those two paintings with your "Its meaning is [...]" statements. No matter how many times you intone "argument from incredulity," the incantation won't turn those paintings into discourse. Ellen
  12. Let's try this one, from the final paragraph of Hilla Rebay's Introduction to the 1947 English translation of Point and Line to Plane. (The Introduction was originally written as a comendatory piece upon Kandinsky's death): ==== // // Quote - Hilla Rebay said - link: // [...] conceived from the primary essence of creation. ==== In order to demonstrate that Hilla Rebay really was experiencing said "essence" upon contemplating Kandinsky's art, you'll first need to make a plausible case that there is said "essence." Good luck. Note: I'm not accusing Rebay of pretentiousness. I think that she really was sincerely, deeply, profoundly moved by Kandinsky's art. But must one be lacking in artistic sensitivity to doubt that whatever she experienced was in fact "the primary essence of creation"? Ellen
  13. No, I'm not saying that Rand thought viewers (responders generally) should morally judge art by "any method that they wish." But neither did she think - contra your description - that responders are supposed to make a "purely esthetic appraisal" before judging a work morally, or even that a conscious moral response should - or typically does - precede the "sense of life" response which she said is the responder's immediate reaction. As to judging morally, she hardly thought that one has to assess every detail in relationship to a theme, etc. Do recall that she thought one could have a moral response to the very idea of an imaginary art work. Specifically regarding the Peikoff example, he wasn't making a moral assessment either. Your "compliment" was as malapropos as if you were to congratulate someone for disregarding the rules of football when the person is playing baseball. No imagining involved. Ellen
  14. Minor correction to the post of mine Stephen quoted above: I was mistaken in saying that the "evil" story told by Childs isn't in the Walker book. Walker did quote that story, but it isn't indexed under the entries for the respective participants other than the one for Childs himself. It's on page 261. I came across it while looking for something else. Also: I suppose that Heller picked up the (incorrect) date from Barbara's biography. The year the Blumenthals split with Rand was 1977. They then moved to Palm Springs for a time but found that they didn't like living there (they enjoyed vacationing there). By the summer of 1978 they'd returned to New York City. Ellen
  15. Thanks. However, the quote button doesn't appear on my tablet. Ellen