Caspar David Friedrich, Village Landscape in Morning Light, 1822
Caspar David Friedrich, Morning in the Riesengebirge, circa 1830
Caspar David Friedrich, Meadows Before Greifswald, circa 1827
Caspar David Friedrich, Easter Morning, circa 1828
Artists have been responding to modern life with horror and disgust for so long it’s hard to tell when they are addressing themselves specifically to personal struggles with violence and war. Some artists grew up in hell, others made one for themselves, and the artists in this exhibition seem to have done a bit of both, beginning with the show’s organizer, Israeli born artist/activist Dr. Ayala Leyser. A semi-retired psychologist and veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, she opened a gallery/studio in Humboldt Park where she makes outlandish sculpture and conducts a weekly salon to discuss life, art and our sad planet. The highlight of this show is the “End of the World” series by New York painter Doug Blanchard, whose exceptional blog, Counterlight’s Peculiars, brought him to her attention. A serious student and teacher of art history, Blanchard witnessed the Twin Towers burning from the rooftop of his building in Brooklyn and has borrowed the calm intensity of fourteenth-century Italian painting to comment on religious fanaticism in six panels that look like they belong on an altarpiece. Several of the other artists have also been effective in creating dark, chaotic worlds, especially in the turbulent abstract-expressionist paintings of another Israeli, Ruth Eckstein. Leyser herself contributes a wonderfully manic pink-tongued demon. Constructed from a swirl of wire, tubing and a variety of salvaged objects, it looks like a dybbuk that escaped the pages of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Pious killers, crazy folks and demons do seem to be running rampant in our world, and the focus of this exhibition specifically excludes any happy, visionary alternatives to their destructive fanaticism. But is there any other way to overcome it?
Through April 30 at Out of Line Art Gallery, 2812 West Chicago.
One of your first public statements, when you were confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury last month, was to declare your support for discrimination against gay people: namely your support for the legal ban on same-sex civil marriage.
Moreover, although you have expressed your support for civil partnerships, it is reported that you have not approved civil partnerships taking place in churches or church blessings for same-sex couples. You claim that you are not homophobic but a person who opposes legal equality for LGBT people is homophobic - in the same way that a person who opposes equal rights for black people is racist.
After a while, if you say a word enough, over and over again, it loses its meaning. It even begins to sound a little different. Jesus morphs into Cheesus – the es getting steadily elongated. Those who talk about Cheesus do so with a creepy sort of chummyiness. This is what evangelicals call "a personal relationship", by which they mean that Cheesus has become their boyfriend or best mate. And when such people speak of Cheesus they have to wear that sickly smile too. It's that I-know-something-you-don't smile. Patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time. And if you disagree with them they will pray for you. It makes you want to bang your head against a brick wall.
It's a great strength of the movement for gay political equality that lots of important and influential people happen to have gay children. That obviously does change people's thinking. And good for them.
But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn't he take some time to think about how he might feel about other issues that don't happen to touch him personally? Obviously the answers to complicated public policy questions don't just directly fall out of the emotion of compassion. But what Portman is telling us here is that on this one issue, his previous position was driven by a lack of compassion and empathy. Once he looked at the issue through his son's eyes, he realized he was wrong. Shouldn't that lead to some broader soul-searching? Is it just a coincidence that his son is gay, and also gay rights is the one issue on which a lack of empathy was leading him astray? That, it seems to me, would be a pretty remarkable coincidence. The great challenge for a senator isn't to go to Washington and represent the problems of his own family. It's to try to obtain the intellectual and moral perspective necessary to represent the problems of the people who don'thave direct access to the corridors of power.
Senators basically never have poor kids. That's something members of Congress should think about. Especially members of Congress who know personally that realizing an issue affects their own children changes their thinking.
Portman's op-ed makes him sound like someone who, faced with a moral dilemma, has muddled through as best he can with the least thought and effort possible. The fact is, though, that most of us, most of the time, are more like Rob Portman than we are like, say, Mildred Loving, the woman whose Supreme Court case overturned the laws against interracial marriage. The marriage equality movement, like any moral movement, has been built by activists with great struggle and courage. But it's success is measured by the fact that it has framed the issues in question such that even the selfish and small-minded can, given a little push by their families, make the right choices. Portman is not an inspiring figure. But there is something inspiring in realizing that the movement has reached a point where even someone like him finds it easier to make the right choice than the wrong one.