Trompe L'Oeil

There's an old story you'll sometimes hear in art history or painting classes about a contest that was held between two renowned Greek painters, Zeuxis and Parrhasius. The story goes that a challenge was laid down to see who could create the most realistic painting. In the story, it was said that Zeuxis created a still life so detailed that birds would try to fly down and eat the grapes he had painted. Worried about the competition, Parrhasius asked Zeuxis to see the painting he had done that was behind a pair of tattered curtains to see how it measured up. Feeling his painting was better, Zeuxis gladly accepted the challenge and reached to pull back the curtains so he could see what he was up against -- only to find that the curtains were part of his rivals painting -- making Parrhasius the winner.

You'd think in our ever-advancing digital world we might lose our ability to appreciate the art of the past, but I kinda think it's the opposite. As we become more and more capable of instantly and damn near perfectly recreating images, textures, behavior, and perhaps even intelligence digitally -- the more impressive the feats of artistic masters becomes.

To be able to reproduce the tricks of light and shadow, the curves of the body, and even the moods and impressions created in the slightest look in the eyes of their subjects is a skillset that more than ever seems to border on the magical.

And while realism isn't the only thing that matters in painting or sculpture, it is I think something that humans gravitate towards the easiest when looking to appreciate works of fine art.

Perhaps the reason is that people really like seeing themselves represented in art -- or at least feel the work they are experiencing reflecting something back that they can identify with. In a lot of ways, the things that draw us to certain kinds of song lyrics or movie genres are the things I think we seek (more subjectively, of course) when we look at paintings or sculpture.

I think that's why sometimes people may have trouble initially engaging with modern or abstract art. They want that emotional resonance, and it might not always be immediately available when you're looking at a Picasso. It's there, of course -- but it's layered in different ways, and presented through different contexts.

What's interesting of course, is that in our current culture -- so much of the debate and discourse about popular art seems to center around the ways people seem to misunderstand the simplest of things.

Movies that cast white actors in roles centered in Asian source material -- the lack of representation of marginalized cultures in popular genre works, and the arguments that seem to inevitably follow when creators do try to make simple changes to try to bridge those gaps.

You'd think it would be simple to make a Stormtrooper black or a Ghostbuster into a woman

-- but apparently, not everyone can find ways to be comfortable seeing themselves reflected back in heroes that don't look exactly the same way they have come to expect them to. It's almost like they aren't willing to try to see the values of heroism they embody into their superheroes reflected back if it means they have to search through layers of gender or ethnicity in order to do it.

You can find out a lot about people by seeing the art they appreciate. How many of us have found ourselves almost swiping right on a dating app until we scrolled down just a little bit further and found out your potential match had terrible taste in music?

How many bad dates could have been avoided altogether if you just knew in advance that your potential partner for the evening really thinks The Big Bang Theory is the funniest show on television?

So when you consider our inherent ability to project parts of our personality through the art that we tend to gravitate to, it only makes logical sense that having a deeper appreciation for as many kinds of art as possible can make you a better-rounded person.

Perhaps that's why I was so interested when I found out about a new app from Google that lets you browse artwork from more than 1,000 museums from around the world. While nothing can replace the experience of standing in front of an original work from a truly gifted master, it's not always possible to get to the places where they are. So this creates a nice little workaround, if not a way to plan trips for future vacations.

Even more interesting though is one of the apps side features, which enables you to take a selfie and then have google compare it to pieces of art all around the world to see which ones you resemble the most. Facial recognition technology has advanced to the point where it can actually analyze and search for features in you that have been captured in paint or stone by some of the greatest artists the world has ever seen.

Just within a few clicks you'd be able to see yourself reflected in artwork commissioned by royalty, studied by scholars. Sculptures valued in the millions, paintings too priceless to mention.

I mean seriously, what could go wrong?

[Now Playing:  Caroline & The Treats "Me and My Vibrator" ]


Werdna said…
Dude is a dick and you could tell by looking at him. I fully expect karma will nail me for this comment.

Good to see you back on the writing rampage.
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