Monday, January 14, 2013

Alex Ross & Norman Rockwell

I think anyone can be taught the basics of almost any activity, that most adults, with sufficient dedication and instruction, can be brought up to a minimum level of proficiency. There are techniques for everything, and if I studied with a knowledgeable instructor and practiced what I was taught, I'm sure I could eventually become at least competent at drawing or painting.

What I will never be is an artist. I don't have the mindset for it. I'm just too mundane. I can't see things in the way a real artist needs to see them. It's such a fundamental limitation in the way that I function that I think it must be physiological in its roots.

Perhaps that's why love good art, because I know it's something I could never create on my own.

Or maybe I'm just romanticizing things. Plenty of people like art, after all.

On Saturday, I went to the Norman Rockwell museum with my best friend Tim to see their Alex Ross exhibit and I can tell you why I like Norman Rockwell and Alex Ross. Because they deal in mythology.

Someone once said that mythology not about facts, but it is about truth.

I spent a lot of time at my grandparent's house growing up and they had the old Four Freedoms War Bonds painting on their walls. I always associate that image with them, Freedom of Speech in particular.

Harry Chapin had a song called "What Made America Famous" about all the ugliness and divisions in American life, but it ends on a note of optimism about how America can still become the place they teach about in schools. This America was never a real place, but it's a TRUE place and it's an ideal worth aspiring to. That's what Norman Rockwell painted. The Myth of America. When faced with criticism that his art was out of step with the values emerging in society, Rockwell answered, "I paint life as I would like it to be."

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.

Alex Ross, like Norman Rockwell, is ridiculously, prodigiously, astoundingly talented. Unsurprisingly, Ross credits Rockwell as one of his influences. Superheroes are often just plain ridiculous, but Ross has such an abiding love for them that he paints them not as they are, but as they should be, and as they can be.

And to come full circle, here is a picture of Norman Rockwell as a superhero, as painted by Alex Ross.

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