Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Posts Tagged ‘Michelangelo

The cathedral of the self

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Michelangelo knew that the meaning of the Greek humanities for his time involved making Christ—the man, into Christ—who is God; that his plastic problem was neither the medieval one, to make a cathedral, nor the Greek one, to make a man like a god, but to make a cathedral out of man…I believe that here in America, some of us, free from the weight of Euro­pean culture, are finding the answer, by completely denying that art has any concern with the problem of beauty and where to find it. The question that now arises is how, if we are living in a time without a legend or mythos that can be called sublime, if we refuse to admit any exaltation in pure relations, if we refuse to live in the abstract, how can we be creating a sublime art?

We are reasserting man’s natural desire for the exalted, for a concern with our relationship to the absolute emotions. We do not need the obsolete props of an outmoded and antiquated legend. We are creating images whose reality is self-evident and which are devoid of the props and crutches that evoke associations with outmoded images, both sublime and beautiful. We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of West­ern European painting. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or “life,” we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings. The image we produce is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history.

Barnett Newman, “The Sublime is Now”

Written by nevalalee

September 29, 2018 at 7:30 am

“Look up!”

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The Delphic Sibyl by Michelangelo

You can go into the Sistine Chapel, and believer or nonbeliever, you get the picture. Michelangelo sees to that. And at some point, the place at which we all believe is illuminated and opened, in a genuinely breathtaking way.

Start with the fact that Michelangelo is very insistent that there’s only one direction you can look, which is up. You’ve spent your whole life looking at your feet, and now, guess what? Look up. That’s very beautiful. That sense of lifting people out of their usual sense of their own cosmos, into a higher vision of what’s going on up there, is an artist’s strategy.

You feel it physically, in the back of your neck, as you stand in the Sistine Chapel. It’s exhausting. You can’t look that way for a long period of time, and suddenly you realize how out of practice you are, in terms of living in that stratum of experience. It’s a strain…

As soon as you acknowledge that you may not be here five minutes from now, or five days from now, you ask yourself, “What is important to do?” Death is the best guarantee against wasting time.

Peter Sellars

Written by nevalalee

June 23, 2013 at 9:50 am

Quote of the Day

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When Michelangelo did the Sistine Chapel he painted both the major and minor prophets. They can be told apart because, though there are cherubim at the ears of all, only the major prophets are listening.

John Curtis Gowan, in The Journal of Creative Behavior

Written by nevalalee

March 5, 2012 at 7:50 am

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