Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Art as Culture: Preface and Chapter 1 Review

Back in March I wrote a brief post about Evelyn Payne Hatcher's book Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art.  Afterwards I ordered a copy and promptly read the first chapter, but have not gotten beyond that as of yet.  However, what I've read so far has been very interesting, and I think that instead of trying to read the whole book and then write one review, I will review the chapters individually (or in groups perhaps) so that I can discuss more details and concepts throughout the book.  So in today's post I will begin with the book's preface, and then Chapter 1, "Contexts and Comparisons: The Anthropological Approach" (the first eight pages can be read here).

In her preface, Hatcher establishes the purpose of the book as "primarily to help provide a way for formulating questions concerning whatever aspect of the subject [art objects] is of interest, at whatever level the reader wishes to pursue it" (xi).  In order to assist the reader in this endeavor, she seeks to simply the multiplicity of theories surrounding the anthropological study of art and culture.  Hatcher rejects the idea of finding a single model to explain art in all societies, if that model is built upon only one viewpoint or way of looking at culture.  Rather,

one can perceive many theories and models as belonging to different categories, rather than as competing explanations... When various levels, aspects and viewpoints are sorted out in very basic terms, relationships between these different perceptions can emerge... Until the basic similarities are laid bare, the subtleties between different formulations of similar concepts make for confusion, misunderstanding, and unproductive controversy (xiv).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Terracotta Warriors Unearthed

Although not related to Christianity, here is a post by Hans van Roon at Mongols, Ancient China and the Silk Road about some of the latest terracotta warriors discovered in Xian, China, which show more traces of their original colors than previous figures.  I'm reposting it here in order to show that many examples of colorless art and architecture from the ancient world were originally brightly colored.  Something to keep in mind today as artists create new art based on ancient sculpture and the Gospel!

For more info about current excavations and the efforts to preserve the original colors of the warrior figures, check out this article at National Geographic as well as their recent photo gallery of painted warrior details.  The article explains how the original colors crumble from the terracotta surfaces within four minutes of excavation– "vibrant pieces of history lost in the time it takes to boil an egg."  So finding a way to immediately stabilize them was imperative.

The article is also accompanied by this short "fly by" video showing a reconstruction of the warriors at Xian with their vibrant colors intact: