Wednesday, April 2, 2014

History of Art 101

A cave painting in modest, abundant ocher started it all
When some cave-dwelling hominid who was probably suffering
After eating some tainted meat or poisonous berries
Or perhaps, having eaten nothing at all, starved and half-crazed;
Either seems more likely than a divine flash of creativity.
Whatever the cause, the product of this act represented so much.
It shows: the work of an amateur biologist depicting
The flora and the fauna in the simplest of form of stick figures;
The story of a hunter and how big that one mastodon was
And how it got away from the thrust of his flint spear;
And these simple works also show the high priest storyteller
Whose words take shape in these rudimentary drawings.

Later on the medium changed but the purpose remained the same:
To depict the human condition in all its glory and all its misery.
When words and art were interchangeable as hieroglyphics
And almost every trinket and building created was ornate and
With such opulence it would be fit for a pharaoh's funeral.  

Other noteworthy achievements in art came naturally with time:
The adding of a third dimension broke barriers and
Working with proportion gave shape to simulated reality.
Along the human timeline much changed, but still seemed the same.
The mediums expanded and contracted in posterity and innovation
With Sunday morning funny pages echoing the style of cave paintings,
And ancient mosaics now resemble my aunt's master bathroom.

As we approach modernity (and still even post-that),
The simple act of a utensil giving tone and form to the medium
Has become more than that. Seldom do painters define
A movement characterized by brush strokes and color palates.
Instead the focus has shifted to lenses and light imprinting
Form with movement and stasis. Simple, solitary acts of creation
Can manifest in the mass orchestration of Hollywood productions.

Yet something humble remains.

The individual, an amateur with the drive to capture
and not so much intending to create,
Takes their everyday trinkets, abundant in possession,
And captures the human condition to share with the world,
So that others can look on and say, "Yes! That's exactly how it is!"