Jewish World Review March 21, 2014 /19 Adar II, 5774
What changes and what doesn't
By Paul Greenberg
"Appeal or success?" he wanted to know.
Appeal. Success comes and goes. Like popularity. Or any other fad. Success is the thing that does not stay. It is an unworthy consideration. If it is based only on the desire for success and nothing more.
Appeal stays. It may even endure -- if it is
It's been said that art is science in the making, though the saying always struck me as backwards: Science is art in the making. It can be only the first formulaic steps toward intuition, toward an instinctive understanding.
For an example of science perfected into art, see anyone described as a natural in his profession, whether it's fixing shoes or playing second base. Or anyone who has a calling and responds to it wholly. Not just preachers are called.
Then there are those pitiables who don't so much develop their talent as exploit it. The politician who is interested only in success, and measures it only by elections and re-elections won. The scientist who is interested only in the prizes and patents, the degrees and prestige, rather than the awe of discovery. The businessman or inventor who is interested only in profit, rather than the chance to revolutionize or rationalize an entire arc of the economy, the way Edison illuminated whole cities and
There is the painter who produces only for the market and the moment, and the one who can turn a moment into an eternity, and lets us see it. A painter like
Yes, artists have their passing phases. They wax and wane like the rest of us. As did
Something was lost when
Whatever his travels and adventures and wandering thoughts,
Others have it, that power to evoke not so much a scene as a spirit. Others like
The local art dealer attributed
Despite his youthful fancies of not belonging -- what artist ever feels he belongs? --
Looking at these images, you know where you are. Yet you see it afresh, the way things look when you've been away for a while: the same yet different. Man the Voyager is always looking back in hopes of seeing home as if for the first time, and realizing, like astronauts in outer space, or Jacob in the Old Testament returning to where he had been, that this place was holy and he knew it not.
Here in these paintings, one after the other, the past is as well defined as the little, topmost limbs of
The best of show? It's not easy to decide. Your pick might change the next time you come back. And you will come back, drawn irresistibly. For the kind of observer given to wandering through cemeteries, those liveliest of places, it may be "Gibson Bayou Anthology," done in 1956. The detached dead stand posed row after row beside their tombstones, gazing outward without emotion at the viewer aswirl in the ephemeral present. Their ranks recede generation after generation into the fading past, and there is a peace like no other about them as they wait for us.
"While I was a boy I used to wander through
Oh, the names. And, oh, the South, the South ... the South! It is always changing and yet never changes. Always disappearing and yet never gone. In the painting, a little girl in formal dress seems to be the only one of the dead who doesn't cast a shadow. She appears outsized, as she may have been in
Down on the left, there is a small tombstone, as if it had not yet grown to full height. No one stands beside it. Not yet. Not when it was painted. The name on the tombstone also serves as the signature on the painting:
This exhibit at the
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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