13 April, 2014

Nobody Was Harmed In The Making Of This Artwork

Hanging Tree in Color
@7" x 15"
Casey Klahn

How many people consider nostalgia to be the pinnacle of art?  An astounding number in your circle, no doubt, see the number one function of paintings and drawings to be taking them back to a bygone era. The Victorian era, perhaps. Roaring Twenties, anyone? 

Once upon a time, I showed a drawing of a tree that I had just rendered to this man I barely knew. He thought to compliment me by suggesting that there, on the branch, I ought to place a man hanging. That would amp the emotional appeal, I suppose. 

That is precisely what practitioners of fine art are supposed to avoid: the appeal to sympathy or nostalgia. The reason is that it is an attempt to recruit the viewer based on an appeal to his feelings about something. How in Bloody Sunday am I supposed to guess people's feelings? Is it wisest for the artist to take a pole of the relatively specific feelings of the greatest majority of rubes who might wander past his artwork as it hangs, in perpetuity, seeking those whom it will conquer? 

It's a rather progressive approach to marketing art, and altogether wrongheaded for lots of reasons.  The most important reason it is wrong is that contemporary art should be my soapbox - my ideas. Not Aunt Sweeney's, and not Joe Q. Public's sympathies. My ideas are universal enough to appeal and conquer plenty fine, thank you. 

No criminal needs to hang in a tree for the advancement of my art today. Live and let live, I say.  

01 April, 2014


Riva Sole Reviso
8" x 9.75"
Casey Klahn

In 2015 I will be going to Italy to teach a 14-day workshop at La Romita.  I first heard about this wonderful art workshop center from a local artist and friend. La Romita was established in 1548 as a monastery. Workshops are housed and catered on site, and logistics for painting forays are supported by the staff.

Here is a blurb from their website:

La Romita School of Art first opened in 1966, under the guidance of Enza Quargnali, as the summer art program of Rockford College in Illinois. For over 50 years people have stayed at La Romita, painting the landscape, people, and towns in the beautiful Umbrian hill country, whose radiant golden light has charmed artists since the days of Perugino and his famous pupil, Rafael.

La Romita.

I am gathering interest for October or July, 2015. Contact me.

30 March, 2014

March 30 is Vincent van Gogh's Birthday

The Vincent & Theo van Gogh Graves

Vincent was denied a church funeral because of his suicide. Those were the days when it was considered a sin. VVG had plenty of that. Sin. His mother wished him dead well before his actual demise, and his father disowned him.

In the list of shared background that I have with VVG, there is the matter that I have my BA in the Bible and theology. One of the things in the van Gogh story that has been bugging me is the art critics who write the histories of the old boy have him renouncing his Christian faith. I find no evidence of that. Yes, he most definitely strayed "off the reservation", and had unkind things to say about the church. He cohabits with, and consorts with, prostitutes. Then again, Hosea the prophet (remember, he has a whole book of the Bible) was married to one of those.

But I see no renunciation of Christ. In fact, I see evidence to the contrary. Unlike myself, Vincent was a Calvinist. Strictly speaking, these guys think that one is "Once Saved, Always Saved". Which means, once you have been compelled, via Holy Election, to accept Christ, you will not stray, in spite of any evidence to the contrary. For you non-theologically minded, let's put it this way: if you were VG's father, a Calvinist minister, you would believe in the secure salvation of Vincent, no matter what he did after accepting Christ.

His parent's ungracious behavior towards him was understandable, in sociological terms. The first people you lose when you leave behind your sanity are your family. Turns out, more tragically, that many of Vincent's immediate family had dementia in their final days, due to the ravages of syphilis.

Of course, van Gogh is a father of Modernism. Yes, he exalted self, art, and nature. Certainly these things may crowd out the heart's room for God. I see nothing in that, however, to irrevocably overcome his place in the eternal. God knows, not I.

For the irreligious this may be a painful and seemingly unnecessary post. But I don't know how, without bald redaction, one can study the artist van Gogh without his faith, or art history (western) without Christ. It would seem to be impossible.
Certainly, it needs to be said, that the trend among VG's historians to strip him of his salvation is probably ill-informed, at best. I don't think I would be too surprised, standing on the other side, that I should meet the great artist, Vincent van Gogh.

It appears that others have covered this same ground, and agree with my thesis.
This article by Cliff Edwards on VG's faith.

Also: (In both articles the errors are left as is)
"Few images in modern art have so captured the attention of the public as Van Gogh's Starry Night, a painting that reveals all the light and glory hidden in an ordinary evening sky. In this very readable study of Van Gogh, essentially a spiritual biography, Kathleen Erickson explores the intense spirituality of the painter, from his early religious training and evangelical missionary work to the crisis that occurred when the church rejected his more radical way of following Christ. Erickson argues (against many Van Gogh scholars) that the artist's mature work reflects not a rejection of Christ so much as a rejection of a dogmatic church, seeing instead in the famous images of his art a profound connection to Christian symbols. Throughout, she helps us to discover the source of the power in Van Gogh's stars and sunflowers." --Doug Thorpe in this review of At Eternity's Gate: The Spiritual Vision of Vincent van Gogh.

From Publisher's Weekly:
"Erickson's account of the spiritual dimensions of van Gogh's work is an important corrective to two widespread assumptions: first, that his background was theologically Calvinist; second, that he abandoned religion when he began his professional career as an artist. Drawing extensively on van Gogh's correspondence, Erickson argues convincingly that the so-called Groningen school?(sic) more Arminian than Calvinist?was the foundation for van Gogh's religious outlook and that his abandonment of institutional Christianity (precipitated by disillusionment with his uncle and theological mentor, Johannes Paulus Stricker) was not so much an abandonment of religion as a move to synthesize Christianity and modernity via mysticism. Her discussion of van Gogh's late work is particularly compelling in this regard. Erickson's diagnostic discussion of van Gogh's mental illness is intriguing, though such extended discussion of whether he was epileptic, bipolar, schizophrenic or a combination is more of a distraction than a contribution to artistic or religious appreciation of his work. This work is a lucid and accessible contribution to understanding the religious character of van Gogh's artistic vision."
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. (Pasted from Amazon)

I won't argue the Arminian vs. Calvinist parts, here.

This post was first published in 2007.

26 March, 2014

22 March, 2014


I just returned from teaching my See Differently workshop to an attentive and fun group in New Braunfels, Texas, which is between San Antonio and Austin.

Tall Tales Told To Texans

The second demo of three.

Casey Klahn

Big Bonus!
Musical accompaniment provided by Lyle Lovett,
That's Right, You're Not from Texas.
Austin is called a big music town, and I found out that is true. 
One of the artists at the workshop told me about this song.

13 March, 2014

I...don't like it when people write about art

Everyone is wise until he speaks. Irish Proverb.

"I refuse to confide and don't like it when people write about art,"  Balthus.

"Words may show a man's wit, but actions his meaning, " Benjamin Franklin.

"I had placed my stick on the table, as I do every evening. It had been specially made to suit my height, to enable me to walk without too much difficulty. As I was standing up, a customer called to me: 'Monsieur, don't forget your pencil.' It was very unkind, but most funny," 
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

"But often it's doubtful whether the logic of the work itself and the words used to describe it really have anything to do with each other," 
 Thom Mayne.

"Never trust the artist. Trust the tale,"  D.H. Lawrence.

"Stealing someone else's words frequently spares the embarrassment of eating your own," 
Peter Anderson.

"Hear the meaning within the word,"  William Shakespeare.

"Self expression shouldn't be the goal,"  
Wolf Kahn.

First published in 2010.
Abstract Expressionism, Art Criticism, Artists, Colorist Art, Drawing, History, Impressionism, Modern Art, Painting, Pastel, Post Impressionism