A Jaume Plensa quote I read last summer, on why he uses faces in his art:

For me, a face is not a reproduction of someone, it is a way of talking about the artist. The face is also a gift for others, one part of our body that we cannot see naturally. I am interested in the relationship between body and soul, and the way, as they say, the face is a portrait of a soul.

from Crown Fountain’s Creator adds pieces for 10th anniversary, by Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune, Arts & Entertainment, Tuesday, June 17, 2014. The context of the quote was Plensa discussing his work in Millennium Park, Crown Fountain and the new sculptures (including Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda) which were installed for the park’s 10th anniversary.

“Actually, they’re not funny… they’re art”

Another quote from the aforementioned article on ugliness, from Architecture Boston: this one’s from our local Museum of Bad Art‘s “permanent acting interim executive director,” Louise Sacco, on the role the museum plays in the Boston art landscape.

The Museum of Bad Art has had a lot of experience with people who know nothing about art. Some art educators have developed a program in which they bring a group of high school students to our museum and then take them to the MFA. MOBA somehow frees kids to laugh and point, to have their own opinions and argue about things. They then take that experience to the MFA, where they might otherwise feel intimidated, or feel that there is a “correct” response. Maybe the ugly plays a similar role in our culture. It frees us, and by freeing us, it opens us up to new ideas and directions.

Emily & I visited MoMA in New York this morning, and saw both the Matisse Cutouts show and a show of contemporary painting. The Matisse show was (to me) beautiful; against that backdrop, the (to me) ugliness and perceived insincerity of the contemporary show was frustrating, as I could only think of work that felt (to me) like it better deserved to be on display. I don’t think I let myself feel intimidated by art, but I should try to be more cognizant of what it is I react to when I do not like a piece I see in a museum.

Pretty Ugly

While going through stacks of papers in a friend’s room, I found an article from Architecture Boston entitled Pretty Ugly, a roundtable discussion between architects, art curators and educators on the concept of ugliness, included in AB’s 2006 “Ugly” issue. Two quotes about the variable roles of dissonance & ugliness in Architecture and other art stood out: for one, Architecture is both restrained in how confrontational it can be (due to the time, money and publicity involved), and also the need to utilize a space regardless of its appearance can push concerns of ugliness out of the forefront of people’s minds:

The artist as renegade, especially as renegade genius, is an enduring image in Western art. […] But renegade architecture is somewhat different; for one thing, a building quickly outlives the moment when it’s so confrontational. ~ Robert Campbell, Architecture Critic, Boston Globe

Second, the deliberate pursuit of ugliness can be used to “fast fail” out of unproductive design decisions: Once you have defined a territory which you consider to be unproductive, it is easier to identify whether an idea extends into that territory, and to subsequently abort that train of thought:

I’ve heard that Lebbeus Woods … asked his Harvard students to design something ugly, something undesirable, the idea being that through examining what you wouldn’t want, you eliminate a series of bad decisions and arrive at something more desirable. I don’t think students today aim for ugliness. They aim for the grotesque, meaning exaggeration or distortion of form. ~ Hansy Better, principal of Studio Luz Architects, and member of RISD, BAC and MIT architecture faculty

On Creativity

A quote shared by Helen Hou-Sandí in her talk today at WordCamp San Francisco:

“If you’re going to be a musician, you must be interested in new things all the time.” ~ André Previn

Helen’s talk shared her thoughts on the shared skills and transferrable creativity between musicians and developers; Helen’s a personal hero of mine, and it was one of the best presentations I’ve seen at a WordCamp. Check it out when it’s up on WordPress.tv!

“Not available on the App Store”

I ran across a fun art intervention project today while catching up on Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction blog: Stickers that read Not Available on the App Store. Intended to be stuck to basically anything that isn’t a portable touchscreen device, the stickers (and associated website) are a fun reminder to look away from the glowing rectangles every once in a while.

Tangentially related: when Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he called out the absurdity of spending so much of our time staring at our digital watches. He’d have had a field day with smartphones…

Developer, DJ, and several other things beginning with D