About Me

My photo
I am a painter. www.StephenCefalo.com, http://twitter.com/#!/CefaloStudio

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Pieta Retold by a few of my favorite painters.

I have a thing for pietas.

Michelangelo did the famous one. The pieta is traditionally a depiction of Mary holding the dead Christ across her lap. Literally translated "piety", the word means something more like "mourning". in this case.

In art, though, the pieta is less a story than a form through which to express a certain emotion or pathos. It is not at all necessary to know the story, because the message is in the shapes and in the bodies. As in most of the classic motifs, they usually come from an ancient source predating Christianity, and are recycled and reinterpreted much like what a "standard" is to a jazz musician.

Above is an example of something like our pieta predating Jesus by nearly 600 years. It is by the greek painter, Douris, and represents the mythological characters, Eos and Memnon.

In this entry, though, I'll be focusing on some interpretations on this theme by contemporary artists.

Here are three by Bo Bartlett. The one above is a commentary on the Civil War.

Bo's use of the flayed lamb here is a clever parallel, and I like the way the sky itself looks like there is a fire for the sacrifice somewhere just outside of the frame.

This (above) is probably more accurately a descent from the cross. If you're offended by the female with nail wounds, remember that many women too were crucified in the days of the early church. I love all the urban debris scattered in the background, the red couch, and the guy pointing as if making some kind of accusation. I don't remember Bo's exact explanation for all of the stuff in it, but I don't really care. It's a staggeringly beautiful piece that cuts right down to the soul.

Vincent desiderio with his son. Check out the projected images in the background.

My rendition. Actually it's more of a "Madonna and Child" foreshadowing a "pieta." Ok, I said my "favorite painters". If I wasn't at least one of my favorites why would I continue bothering?

Steven Assael's parents.

Another steven Assael above. He did a few of these firefighter pietas with my pal David as the model for the little boy.

Here's a political pieta by Harvey Dinnerstein, a teacher of Assael. It is probably more accurately a "deposition" in which a group of disciples is carrying the body to the tomb, but in essence the same form. I'm not sure if he ever did a full painting of this, but I find it incredibly powerful. An image like this transcends the political message and becomes something universal and timeless. These are probably vietnam protesters, but could just as easily be a much older event or a future event. I enjoy the contrast between the limp, dead arm at the bottom and the defiantly raised arm, stabbing diagonally toward the upper left corner. I feel the outrage myself just looking at it.

Max Ginsburg is a great painter, but to me this one is a little overstated. The message here seems to be carried more by symbolic bits such as the flag, the screaming woman, the fire, and the blood, rather than in the shaping of light and the movement of the bodies. I might like it better in black and white.

Ooh, sepia is kind of nice. Actually I LOVE that!

1 comment: