Get news updates from WGBH
Mon November 12, 2012
Examining Art with Camille Paglia
Cultural critic and provocateur Camille Paglia has put the art world in her cross-hairs. In her glossy new book, "Glittering Images," she writes essays on more than two dozen works of art from ancient Egypt to the present day. She covers artists you know, those you don't and the one person she considers the world's greatest living artist. But in a blistering introductory essay, Paglia also takes the art world to task. Here are highlights from her recent interview with Jared Bowen.
The Art World is a Wasteland
What I’m saying in ["Glittering Images"] which is directed toward the general audience, is that the avant-garde is dead. Andy Warhol, my hero, killed it. The last truly avant-garde work would have been the photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe of the gay, sadomasochistic underground in New York City in the late 1970s. But since then the art world is a wasteland. I’m talking as a career teacher of 40 years in arts schools. I think that creativity has migrated into industrial design, to animation, to video games. I was looking for strong work in the contemporary art scene to end [my book] with a bang. I couldn’t find anything. Nothing that could hold up to the great masterpieces that are in the world from before.
An Atheist Declares War on Atheists
What I’m declaring war on in this book is this very snide, supercilious type of atheism typified by Christopher Hitchens in our cultural scene, where people just sneer at religious belief and believers as if they are rubes and we are the sophisticates and so on. I say in the introduction that sneering at religion is juvenile.
If the art world wants to recover its creativity and if academe wants to come back from its wasteland, it needs to be more honest about what religion contains. Religion contains a view of the universe that is grand. It is awesome. If you don’t have a sense of the grandness of the universe and human existence then you have nothing to say. That is why our ivy league is a dead zone creatively. And why our art world in New York is another dead zone. And I’m trying to cure those ills with this book.
We are living in a kind of visual chaos right now. Every time we turn the computer on or we go to check our e-mail or look at our iPhones everything is bombarding. There’s like a flashing, strobing effect also coming from advertisements that I think is contributing to children’s problems with Attention Deficit Disorder. I think we’re affecting children’s brains very negatively.
I want to get people to sit with a book and look at an image and let their eyes explore the image. I say that you get a sense of serenity, tranquility from this contemplative act that I think is very close to religious. I want for people to recover that sense of reverence toward art. I don’t look down at art in this post-structural, post-modernist way where you are looking at all the hidden power plays in the artwork: the racism, the sexism, the homophobia. What a cheap and silly way to diminish art.
The World’s Greatest Living Artist Is…George Lucas
Not only have George Lucas’s contributions to the digital age been enormous, but in this the last film he directed, "Revenge of the Sith"…the grand finale of that film…is like grand opera, like an apocalyptic nature painting. It has politics in it, it has industry in it, there’s an incredible amount in it, plus dance theater with the longest duel ever filmed on this lava river, on the volcano planet of Mustafar. This is the most powerful work of art of the last 30 years. People who have not seen it don’t know what they’ve been missing.
BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO