Fame as a conceptual Framework

We all see images every day of famous people.  I think that often times, we don’t really think about what the images are or why the people or other material which are portrayed are famous.  I also think that there are different levels or types of fame that we are faced with.

For example.  If I say to someone, “Who is Michael Jackson?”  Most people will know who I am talking about and probably even have an image of him or some of his work come to mind.  Jackson represents one of the types of fame that I am referring to.  He was a very famous musical artist in his lifetime, in fact many would argue that he was the most famous musical artist to ever live.  But in another way, he is often seen as even more famous now that he is dead.  He lives on and will likely continue to live on for a long time, if not for all of history.  Another type of fame comes form someone like Vincent Van Gogh.  During his lifetime, he was not well known, but after his death and continuing on into modern times, he is very well known for his paintings and his work is now worth millions of dollars.

Why is this?  What causes people to be seen as famous?  I would argue that there are many different factors which can contribute to this.  One of these is the way that people live.  I think that anyone can be famous if they place themselves in the public eye and live in a way that causes attention to be drawn to them.  Michael Jackson was a good musician and singer, but I think that one could argue that his music is not what made him infamous to the extent that he is.  It was instead, his lifestyle and actions that created this infamy.  The way that the media portrays people can do this also.  Many other people today do the same thing.  Take for example one of the new shows on television that has somehow become a hit: Honey Boo Boo.  This child was never seen in the public eye until someone put her there and her family is taking every advantage they can and in a way selling themselves for fame and money.  Van Gogh, on the other hand, became famous after his death, and because of people’s interest in his life, we know a lot about his story and his work.  

This happens with many people, and a good example of this, I think is Salvador Dali.  (Dali also happens to be one of my art heroes.)  Dali started his life as a nobody in the art world.  He created images that many people did not like, and that even today many people do not like still.  He became famous in his lifetime because his lover and muse walked to every art studio she could get to and took his paintings and eventually someone fell in love them and through the process, he became a famous artist.

Imageimage courtesy of deathandtaxesmag.com

Most people today, if shown an image like the one above would know right away who it portrayed.  Dali, once he became known as an artist, began living an eccentric lifestyle and throwing himself into the public eye.  He built buildings that were life-size works of art, interactive and able to be lived in.  He dressed strange and wore a crazy mustache and acted in a way that many would call crazy, all to fulfill an image that he created.  The public ate this up and followed him and he became more and more famous until he eventually reached a level of infamy and will now likely live on in the media and in the hearts and minds of many forever. 

ImageCourtesy of salvador-dali.org

I think that this idea, this framework of fame is something that is naturally given to some people.  But I honestly think that it is something that many people strive for and unfortunately, because of the way that people think, anyone who is willing to be crazy enough or strange enough for a long enough period of time can grab the public’s attention and at least for a time, achieve a status of fame.  I am not sure what this says about people or the public, and I am not sure that I like what I think it may be saying.  I simply do not know what it is about people that makes them so desire to follow the life-choices of the extravagant.  I don’t know why people have this need to be fed in this unexplainable way. 

I also think though, that for some people, fame is inevitable.  People like Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and many others became famous for reasons that are explainable.  Their fame will likely live on into eternity… and i think that this is rightly so.

So what will you do?  What do you think?  When faced with the decision to follow the life of some idiot who desires nothing more than to make money from your willingness to cave to the reality that your culture and media tell you is right… will you?  Or will you think for yourself and ask the questions that I think need asking?

Is this something that benefits me or society in some way, or is this just some person who will be famous only because I let them for some time?  Is it worth my time to invest in this, or am I just fulfilling some strange desire that for some reason dwells within the human nature to see just how extravagant or just plain stupid some people will allow themselves to be portrayed for the sake of a moment of fame?



Religion as a Conceptual Framework in Art: My project and perspectives

For our most recent study in the Visual Literacy class at Holy Cross College, we have been looking at religion as a conceptual framework.  This idea covers a lot of ground and we looked at art from historical perspectives, positive points of view, neutral points of view, and also a lot of art that can be seen as or considered controversial.  One of the artists in particular that we looked at for this section is a very controversial artist who has created what is seen as one of the most controversial pieces of art in history when looked at through the lens of religion.

Andres Serrano created an image which he titled Piss Christ.

courtesy of googleimages

This image has been torn apart by people from many religious circles, but one of the reasons that we looked at it is to try and gain a new perspective on the art and what it is/means.  We talked about the image, along with others, and tried to gain perspectives that would help us to see an mage in a positive light regardless of how we personally feel about the image.  This is a necessary thing for people who look at art to be able to do so that they do not just put aside art and artists because they do not understand.  This concept was hard for me to learn and understand, but after discussion in class, we were able to look at the ideas and outside views which could be seen concerning a piece of art so that we can appreciate them for art, again, whether we personally agree with them or not.  For example, this image is a beautiful image, if you do not know the title.  It has an air about it that is mysterious and attractive.  Also, if you do think about the contents of the image and think about the humanity within as it relates to Christ’s humanity and His life and death, then there can be some new insights gained.  This idea works across the board for different forms of religious art and other art as well.  We have to be willing to look at different perspectives and ideas and not just judge what we are seeing.  As we have discussed previously in these blogs, and in our class, the viewer is a big piece of the art puzzle, but we must still be willing to put ourselves aside and look deeper into the subject matter in order to be able to call ourselves respecters of art.

The other part of this section involved a personal project where we had to create original images to represent different viewpoints on art.  The following list of information is a direct quote from our syllabus for this assignment.  This was presented to us by our instructor as guidelines for the art project.

“This project will require you to create 3 photographs that explore the concept of religion from 3 different
1…Affirmative: An image that affirms religion as a positive social convention that leads to the
betterment of humanity and eventual spiritual salvation.
2…Critical: An image that critiques religion from a social or political point-of-view. This image
should depict religion as a cultural construction that may lead to the social or
political marginalization of a person or a group of people.
3…Neutral: An image that depicts a religious subject without affirming or critiquing religion.
This image should be a mere representation of religion that does not convey your
own personal insights or religious ideologies. This image may need to be more
“spiritual” as opposed to “religious.””   (Rhett Poche)

As I discussed above, this section covered critical perspectives, but it also covered neutral perspectives and positive perspectives.  For the project, we were to create one image that gave a critical perception of religion, one that created an affirmative perception of religion, and one that created a neutral perception of religion as outlined in the guidelines for the project.

The following are the three images that I created:

Handgun with rosary

Holy Bible and Rosary

Notre Dame Golden Dome

In the above images, first, I put together an image of a semi-automatic handgun with a Rosary wrapped around it.  Specifically, the Crucifix part is on the trigger.  For a critical point of view, I wanted to create an image that would represent how some people feel that all religious people are trying to force their religion on everyone else.  (others stated that they saw a link to how many mob people and drug dealer types are “religious” and keep Rosaries and go to church but still kill and use violence as a way of life and that this gives a negative perspective to religion.)  Either way, I felt that in conjunction with our class discussions, this image represented well the idea that some art can be seen as a critical representation to a topic.

In the second image, I placed a Bible on an all black background and laid a Rosary across it.  This image is meant to represent an “affirmative” point of view on religion.  It simply shows an image that many would see in a light of reverence or something that is used for the purpose of being a “betterment of humanity and eventual spiritual salvation.”

The final image is a view of Notre Dame campus from a distance.  It is highlighting the “Golden Dome” but does so in a simple way.  I used this image for my neutral representation as it is one that many would see as a beautiful image of something spiritual, but in my view, not something directly related to any particular religion.

Finally, I think that it is important to point out that in many cases, when someone sees a piece of art that may be questionable but has not yet come to their own conclusion, they can be easily directed to an opinion by a critic who places a negative perspective on the work.  Often times, culture follows the ideas that they are told to when it comes to things like this, but I believe that it is critically important for people to understand that they must have their own opinion when looking at art or anything else for that matter.  If we simply give in to anyone else’s opinions when considering a piece of art, we are soon going to find that the only art we ever see is that which we are told is good or beautiful.

Just as I would expect a person to have their own opinion of what food tastes good to them and not just eat what they are told to eat because someone else says it is good, I too would expect and hope that a person would be willing to place their own personal judgement on artwork and again, not rely on the opinion of someone else.

Race as a Conceptual Framework

I think that we have come a long way as a country…  Along with that, I truly believe that we have a long way to go and that should be obvious to most people.  One of the areas in society that there has been clearly a vast amount of growth is in that of race-relations; however, I do believe that there is still much growing to be done.

In light of that, this blog will consider the idea of Race in fine art, particularly painting, and how it has been seen throughout the last two or three centuries.  It will also discuss the concept of Race as a conceptual framework and how it is seen today in art.  All of this is as a part of the current section of study on our Visual Literacy course at Holy Cross College.

In history, art has been a white man’s world so to speak.  Not so much in the past fifty years or so, but certainly in the past centuries, this has been true.  It is almost unheard of to see a painting from history that has a black person as the main character.  In today’s art world, this is not so.  Today we see many African-Americans and other “black” people creating art and depicted in art, and this is a highly-positive growth in the art world and in society around the world.  This idea of race as a conceptual framework deals with that.  It looks at how we view race in art and how race can and has effected art in history and in today’s world.

Two of the artists we are currently studying are Kehinde Wiley and Kara Walker.  Both of these are African-American artists who are currently seen very highly in the art world.  Both of these artists make work that is seen by many as controversial if not somewhat offensive in some ways.  I think that this is a good place to start:  Many people look at what is made in modern art and don’t understand it.  I believe that in this case, the art that these particular artists are making causes some people to misunderstand it even more so.  One question, in light of this idea, that must be asked is if this misunderstanding has anything to do with the people who make the art and also the subjects within the art.

Kara Walker, an African-American artist and a very highly educated one at that, does something with art that I see as truly interesting and beautiful.  Walker works a lot with silhouettes.  She cuts images (images that she creates) and puts them directly on the walls of the gallery where they are to be seen.  These images, most often, depict antebellum scenes that are all in black.  She creates imagery that is very open to interpretation, but when seen, most people can see what she is saying.  Many of the images are of what appear to be African-American slaves in scenes from the South.  These images may include other people and things and they may be very disturbing in nature.  What I love about them, and the idea is that she forces the viewer at times to be a part of the image as the shadows we cast fits right into her creations.  Walker works from her heart and depicts a controversial period of time that many try to forget about and by our becoming part of the images, she forces us to think about these things and see ourselves in light of the history from whence we come.  I think that is a wonderful concept.  Here are a couple of Walker’s images:  This image is called “Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress” and was created in 2002.  (courtesy of Google Images)

This image by Kara Walker is “Detail of Camptown Ladies” (1998). (courtesy of Google Images)

As can be seen from the images, Walker is an artist who creates questionable imagery that brings ideas about race and culture to the forefront.  The images are controversial in many ways, but again, I love how they make you think about race and history.  I love how they can make one question who they are and how they see the world.  This is the idea of race as a conceptual framework.  How do we see art, and how does this effect the way that we see the world?

The other artist mentioned above, Kehinde Wiley, takes images that were originally painted  in the past, images that show caucasian people who were seen to be in powerful roles and he reproduces a similar painting showing an African-American in modern apparel in the same pose or position as the original.  Wiley has many other images and he works in this way often.  This idea can be seen in the image to the left.  The original painting was of Napoleon.  One of the ideas behind these paintings is to show that in today’s world, these people, of African descent can be in positions of power and they are not seen in the same way that they were in the past.  One of the things that I think can be seen from this, and we also talked about this in class, is that one does not see images of African people or people from African descent in paintings of the past, or if they are in them, they are not in prominent positions in them.  Today’s society and culture is different.  Some may however see these in a different light.  Some people may find these images even offensive, and that is the point.  When one sees images that portray people of different ethnicities like this, they are forced to make a decision about the art, the artist, and the people being portrayed in the images.

  I hope that this blog has helped someone to look at art in a different way.  As Marcel Duchamp talked about, and I have talked about in my other posts, we have to look at art from different perspectives.  We have to get into the place of the author and give meaning to the art.  We have to see it for what it is, what it says, what it can be; and most importantly, I believe that we have to be willing to accept things that we may not understand and we must allow ourselves to grow through these things.

Kehinde Wiley, Napoleon Leading The Army Over The Alps


One of the things that we have been studying in our Visual Literacy class at Holy Cross College this semester is the idea of what makes art “art”?  In this process, we have spent a great deal of time discussing different artists from the past who have created new ideas of art that were not only controversial in their time, but are seen as such today as well.  Among these have been Jackson Pollock and others, but the one which this project focuses around is Marcel Duchamp.  Duchamp was a great artist, and if you search his name or images of his art, I think that you will be surprised, however, this assignment deals with one of his concepts that many people look at as simply absurd and even unartistic in any way.  Duchamp created many pieces that he called Ready-made.  The idea behind this concept is to find something, literally a “found object,” then, in some way alter the item, but not to an extent that it could not be recreated or reproduced easily; to make sure that the item has no meaning, and finally, to keep the piece about the idea or concept behind it more than anything else.  In doing this, he took some really plain objects, like a snow shovel, gave them a strange title, and then installed them in galleries as art.

So, that brings us to the project at hand.  Our assignment is to create our own ready-made art piece.  We have the same parameters explained above: found, meaningless, reproducible, and about the idea.  We are then to write about the item and explain how it is like Duchamp’s work.  So here it is, my ready-made:

The title of this piece is Emphysema, Hind-sight is 20/20.  This piece is a simple item, a child’s toy which my five-year-old daughter just happened to have lying around the house.  I found the item and thought of what I could do to make a ready-made piece for my project, and the title just sort of came to me.  One of the things about Duchamp that sticks out to me is how his titles can give a totally new idea to an item, so that is exactly what I did.

I hope that this title and image gives you an insight into the idea of what a ready-made is and also maybe an appreciation to the act of keeping art simple.


Today I looked up something, some of which I am quite sure I have seen in the past, but much of which was new to me.  As Rhett always talks about and is focusing some of our first homework assignments on Mr. Marcel Duchamp, I thought it only proper to familiarize myself with some of Duchamp’s works.  Anyone who has not done this should go into Google Images and put his name in.  Duchamp made some really great art and though much of it I had seen before, it was nice to catch up on his work and remember why I too really enjoy it.

Duchamp came through what I think is one of the best artistic time periods in history.  At a time when artists like Picasso and Dali were making some of the most amazing abstract and surreal art in the world, people like Duchamp were hanging right there with them.  Surrealism and Abstraction are, I think, two of the most beautiful, expressive forms of art that can be made and I can truly understand why our professor would hold Marcel Duchamp to one of his personal art heroes…  Duchamp was amazing!!!



I have to say that when one looks to artists such as Duchamp, one must be inspired to ask questions bout art and oneself.  I look at pieces like his Mona Lisa with a mustache and think of the gaul that it would require to do such a thing, bit at the same time, as he said, adding this to a postcard of the image is in fact art.  

I can remember when I first started studying art and learning about what is art and what is not…  One of the things that stuck out to me was an instructor making the comment that a simple tracing or copying of an image is in fact art.  There are so many ways that we can see, create and appreciate art in the world, and I fear that many people do not understand the beauty of simple work, and they are more than confused by the complexity that it can bring.  Look at Picasso for example.  Many of his famous pieces are simple enough that many would think they were created by a child.  It is for this reason that they are in fact so complex and so meaningful.  I cannot remember who said it…  but there is quote form a famous artist of the past that goes a little something like this: I spent my childhood trying to learn to make art like a master… now that I am older, I am trying to learn how to make art like a child…  

I know that I just butchered that, but the idea is there.  We must learn to not try and be someone else… WE must create art form within, fro who we are and what we know.  I have personally tries to paint like Monet, Dali and many of the greats…  My work is best, when I let the brush do what it wants to do and I get out of the way!

So, for all who look at art as I once did, in a way that makes it complex and unable to be understood and enjoyed, take my advice… Look at the beauty, simplicity, and complexity; take it all in and study it from the heart!  When this is done, the most technical and complex piece of art in the world will speak to you and you will be able to see through it to what is really important… its impact, its meaning, its beauty, and its true value which has nothing to do with monetary ideas…

My favorite artist and art hero is Salvador Dali…  I used to hate his work, then one day I looked at it for the right reason and ever since, it has not stopped speaking to me!

Getting Started

My name is Glen Ditz, this blog is going to be related to my life and a college course called Visual Literacy.

Alright…  So this is the first time I have ever written in a blog. (I guess that means I am asking for everyone to take it easy on me.)

   I am a 30 year old student who is currently and probably permanently disabled due to a work-related accident involving a semi-truck and a 97,000 pound trailer.  I was a truck driver/heavy equipment operator.  

Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, IN is my new educational home and I am definitely pumped to be there.  I am working on my Bachelor’s in Theology and a minor in studio arts, which brings us to the purpose of this blog.  It is actually for a class (Visual Literacy) which is focused on helping people with understanding and enjoying the things we see form fine art to movies and pictures and just about everything else that we see daily.  I think that this class is going to be really good for me as I have taken pretty much all of the art classes that were offered at the school where I was previously.  I really enjoy painting, drawing, and especially wheel-throwing ceramics, so a class to help me understand and enjoy the things I see in the artistic realm will be a lot of fun.

Along with this, I truly love looking at art.  One of my favorite pastimes is going to galleries and museums and looking at what the world of artists has to offer.  One of the things that I enjoy looking at the most is historical art.  This is especially exciting for me at this time as I am a somewhat new convert to the Roman Catholic Church so I loving the history and the artwork that is so closely tied in and through the Church.

Okay, so I think that is good for my first attempt, I know that I have a lot to learn about blogging though, so stick with me and maybe this artistic journey will become something that will be enjoyable for more than just me…