The donor party/art cannibals

“There are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, and the third is useless.”

Niccolo Machiavelli

The inspiration for this work is the Isenheim Altarpiece. I saw a picture of it in situ thinking that to be an interesting way to present art. It’s in a former church of the gothic style and its glorious colors stand in serious contrast to the black and white of the setting. It’s a complex work — ten panels in three views with added polychrome sculptures – that contrasts with the spare nature of the former church.

My favorite scenes are the inner-most wings, a temptation of St. Anthony and a meeting of him and St. Paul. They are the only active and focused panels in the bunch and they contrast well with the polychromes; earthly tactile colors vs. smooth ethereal gold.

Mathis der Mahler painted from about 1500 to 1530. He was a peer of Dürer and perhaps a student of Holbein. He lived in that land that is sometimes French and sometimes German. It’s amazing that any of his work survived. Guess that says something about the value of art to everyone and how it’s a basic need in all of us to protect it. Art, Arbeit, Amour.

These drawings and even this text are statements of my opinion on and representations of the mixed-up natures of art; creation, consumption and contemplation. And the creation of an art showing consumption, contemplation and possibly contemplation of consumption or consumption of contemplation.


I’ve made my “paintings” like that altarpiece; opened and closed views and sitting in a gothic church-like space. In “Closed” I’ve added donor portraits but instead of them staring blankly out as is typical of old altarpieces, I’ve put them in a fund-raiser scene as these days they aren’t a solitary bunch; they frequent those parties, being more into being seen than seeing; being seen as supporting the arts more than supporting the arts.


In “Open” the party is over; only two “couples” remain. At the right a man is copping a feel, grabbing the breast of a woman. They could be a couple or not. I don’t know, I don’t read people that well. The other twosome, even I can see, is not a couple any more.  She’s no longer one of the consumers/donors; she’s shed her party uniform. She’s as much part of the art as she’s a consumer of it; and he’s left to drink alone and consume her as art; nude, at a distance.

But is this woman naked or nude? You can see her uniform draped over the edge of the painting and nudes never have street clothes near by, ask Manet.  She’s nude in this painting in a painting but while still in a studio, or in this scenario, au plein air, have the possibility of being painted she’s a person not art, she’s naked. She’s both.

She stands as out of reach to the art creator as she is to the art consumer. Sadly for both the creator and the consumer; they can know/see (nude) art, one in making it the other in taking it, but they can’t feel/touch a (naked) person. As opposed to the “feeling” couple on the right, for whom, I assume art is not all that important right now.

This is the creator/consumer oscillation thing and the isolation of the artists from the donors of the world. Consumers of art could be sitting in front of the art/altar taking in what is has to say or they could be like the donors and more involved with themselves being with art than being with the art itself.

And where’s the creator here? Was he contemplating his work, see his pen on one of the chairs? Did he get up and move into the painting to be contemplated, by himself, by the consumers? Is he caught some where in between? See that chair in “Open” no longer out side the painting in the painting but inside it, and the pen in one sense the same size it was in “Closed” and in an other much larger (an artist’s hubris?).

Speaking of the predella, which is the horizontal panel at the bottom of many altarpieces, here it’s sorta empty. Lots of ambivalence, paradox. Is it not a painting but a box?  Hard to tell; both and neither. The glass of wine is spilt by the opening of the wings (real) and it’s also split by the frame (art). Red wine spilt as black; wine (real) or ink (art)?  Or is it a mocking symbolizing of being color inside the art and being black and white outside of it – the art inside the art that is.

An aside: the landscape is the view I’d see if I got up and looked out the window right now. No I don’t own the land; I live in a cheaply-built townhouse development where I can hear my neighbors’ flushings which kinda takes away from the view.