Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Church of Our Lady of Essex County

I’m sitting here watching “La Strada”, by Fellini, definitely one of The Basics a writer or visual artist should know. I think of Kurosawa and Tennessee Williams. T.S. Eliot and John Irving. In a time where everything is about money and survival, the Arts have become a Religion and certainly a theology. We are of this Earth, but are thinking of the more ethereal aspects. History and the emotions are studied like the Torah. And what is the point of studying the Torah? To understand the Torah. If you understand the Torah, you understand Life, it’s that simple and necessary. Welcome to Reinhard’s Yeshiva. Take a seat. Yes, yes. I’m officially a Jew by female line, I can joke, I can kvell, I can nosh. Relax.

What is atheist art? Andy Warhol? I don’t know. He studies carefully the things we worship, like soup cans and Marilyn Monroe. There is no artist without some kind of faith and belief. Munch and Picasso showed the horror, the horror caused by man’s cruelty. This reminds me of Thomas Mann, who did not know if there was  a Heaven or a Hell, but felt so deeply their effects on life. Even the coldest Pinter or the most impenetrable Beckett brings us to the brink , wondering why are we here? Who made us and what, oh what are we to do with these days and nights? Dare I eat a peach? Is it over when the lights go out?

Art began in the churches and for the churches, trying to make tangible the shadows and lights of life. The glow of the halo in the Medieval portraits of saints also shines around the head of the man painting it. The soft chants of the choir and the music of the organ draws the people inside to the warm and camaraderie. It was only when money reared its ugly head that the churches became repressive or warlike, sending out Crusades to convert people to a religion in order to guarantee them eternal life. And even at the moment of Death, the most religious and certain person, be they Jew or Muslim or Christian has to have one brief second of fear and puzzlement, and that moment is where the Artist dwells.

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