A Valuable Workmanship
Posted by Jim Grieme
David Hockney is best known as being the artist who sold the most expensive painting to date: his “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” sold for $90.3 million dollars (USD). The portrait initially sold for $18,000 back in 1982.
Granted, I’m not really an art critic; I’m an observer of human behavior, a teacher, counselor and pastor. Yet as I looked over Hockney’s portfolio I noticed there are inconsistencies which I would have thought would have caused rancor in our egalitarian and politically sensitive culture.
There exist many themes in Hockney’s paintings. Homoeroticism reoccurs often. Yet just as often the portrayal of women has a perceptual twist. With only a very few exceptions over the course of Hockney’s 81-year lifetime, the portrayal of women is minimally Cubist-leaning and his perceptions reveal an inability to come to terms with the female form. His depictions of women are misshapen, as if M. C. Escher chose to paint portraits.
His depictions of men are clear, detailed, vivid and exhibit proof of their importance to the eye of the painter. Yet Hockney’s rendering of women is nothing like his perception of men. Women are either vague in detail and appearance or they are horribly distorted. Some may say, “As with his depiction of men, Hockney is merely reproducing what he sees.” So, are we to believe Hockney purposely chooses beautiful men yet he seeks out women who possess no innate beauty and lack humanizing attributes?
This is much more than seeing a glass that is, “half-empty” or “half-full.” Those who applaud the beauty of simplicity, the vividness of color which exists in Hockney’s works, should also observe an inability to see the beauty extant in both sexes equally. Hockney routinely mars the mouths and noses of the women he portrays; symmetry is exchanged for twisted asymmetry. When Hockney deigns to sketch a female subject, they are just that: a sketch, lacking detail, life, reality and color.
Again, this is not a judgment of Hockney as a person but rather his work. No one in this world is above either the influence or the distortion experienced in the circumstances of life. The art world loves to pile approbation and applause on Hockney and his work. Hockney exhibits a clear eye, colored with his unique perspective of his perception of light, color, space, depth and subject. Yet as the critics exhaust their adjectives on the product of his mind, they overlook the lack of clarity he selectively uses on female subjects.
The person who purchased “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” made a choice to buy this work yet passed by so many others of this artist. The questions regarding why Hockney chooses to depict his female subjects as he does should not cause us to judge him and to demean the genius of his work. Yet it is legitimate to query his raison d’etre.
All humanity is art. True, the canvas has been ripped, ablated by time and circumstance. Poor choices and lifestyles also affect who we are. To a degree, there exists a truth in the beholders ability to perceive beauty; yet we cannot overlook the innate, intrinsic value extant in all human life.
How is this possible? If a picture, a photograph, is worth a thousand words, who chooses the words? The words which are chosen, what do they reflect? Are not the words of description, the adjectival efforts put forth to describe the perceived reality, are they not also affected by the person doing the describing?
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” What is fascinating, is the word translated “workmanship” comes from the Greek word poiema, where we get our English word poem.
Those of us who know Jesus Christ as our Lord because we have accepted salvation by the faith given to us, we are the “poem God created us in Christ Jesus to accomplish good works.” The poem itself did nothing; it is a creation of the mind of the author. Its beauty, its meter, the rhyme and the measure are all reflections of the author. The poem didn’t create itself; it became a poem when it was written.
Hockney’s paintings received no applause, no accolades until he set them on canvas or whatever medium he chose. His perceptions demonstrate the flaws extant in all of humanity. Yet within those flaws, we can understand the need for correction. God, through Jesus Christ, provides the correction to all of our flaws—and He is available to whoever desires Him to fix their plight.
Our value was determined by the price paid. Jesus Christ died for those who accept the gift of God. What kind of value could we—a finite, sinful and rebellious creature—put on the life of the Son of God?
Posted in Apologetics
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