As you may have seen on social media yesterday, my colleagues at The Federalist very kindly asked permission to reprint Tuesday’s blog post, in which I reflected on the devastating fire at Notre-Dame de Paris. It was a rather difficult piece to write, and involved several hours of initial scribbling in one frame of mind, a phone call to an old friend who helped talk me down off a particularly argumentative ledge, a lengthy email thread, and finally a total rewrite complete with several pauses, a late bedtime, and fitful sleep. While I usually find writing to be a breeze, occasionally I have to force my way through a number of conflicting thoughts until I can reach something approaching a balanced presentation.
I realize that this is going against Otto von Bismarck’s maxim about not explaining how sausages are made. Yet I share it because, while writing at length is not difficult for most people, sometimes online media gives the impression that churning out a blog post or online magazine article is no different than writing, say, a long email about your latest theories based on the Episode IX teaser trailer. Sometimes it *is* just like that, and you can quickly set out your thoughts and impressions in a way that readers find helpful, informative, and entertaining. Other times, you have to struggle a bit to try to come up with something that makes sense; hopefully I did on that piece.
And speaking of Episode IX, before we turn to this week’s art news, let’s all enjoy my friend Father Roderick Vonhögen watching the first teaser trailer from the Star Wars Celebration on Monday.
If you suffer from vertigo, you may want to hold on to your chair while watching the latest video of building progress at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. As you can see in this somewhat dizzying rooftop footage, courtesy of La Vanguardia newspaper, construction of the Basilica’s six massive, central towers is now well underway. As they rise, they’re not only changing the city skyline, but also fundamentally altering the way that we mentally picture the building itself. So far, the church is still on track to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of Antoni Gaudí’s death in 2026. (Dare one hope that the occasion will also serve as a perfect moment to announce his Beatification?)
There’s an interesting essay by art critic David Carrier this week in HyperAllergic, comparing the work of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) and the late Dan Robbins (1925-2019), a commercial artist who invented the “paint-by-number” art kits back in the 1950’s. Mr. Robbins, shown below in a self-portrait that recalls his invention, was inspired after reading about how Da Vinci would teach his apprentices using a numbering system on his design diagrams. Appropriately enough, I have a vague recollection of being a grade school student and working on a large, paint-by-number reproduction of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in acrylics on artist’s board. By all accounts, Mr. Robbins was a kind, modest man, as well as a World War II veteran who was married for 73 years (!) to his wife Estelle; he lived long enough to meet his five great-grandchildren. RIP.
The stunning portrait below is of Julie Packard, marine conservationist and Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a work recently commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery from artist Hope Gangloff. Unlike most Contemporary artists, Ms. Gangloff is famously press-shy: she won’t even allow her face to be photographed when she gives interviews. When it comes to her art however, when she is good – such as here – her art is anything *but* shy. In her paintings, which are often quite massive, she creates visual environments that envelop her subjects, mixing a colorful blend of influences such as Symbolism, Expressionism, and Fauvism into a kind of glowing sumptuousness that is uniquely her own. The portrait of Ms. Packard will go on display at the National Portrait Gallery here in the Nation’s Capital on April 23rd.