I wanted to describe two random images. I don’t know the story about them, but they came from a widget that grabs images from The Bible. A long time ago when studied art history, I kind of knew these stories because all of these painters and drawers painted the same stories from the Bible over and over again.
The Last Judgment (Detail of Hell 2) : Giotto : Three blue-fur covered creatures with goat fur or greasy feathers, furry bird legs, and the feet of doves circle two flesh-colored figures, a man and a woman. Perhaps it is the fabric in the man’s hand, the contrast of cloth to skin? These are not Adam and Eave, I think. They seem very much to understand they are naked. The man appears old, with streaks of grey in his hair. He is shaved, naked, his skin nude of even hair. He has a barrel chest and oddly skinny arms bent into triangles. He holds a pink satchel that appears that it could function as a purse, but given that neither he nor the woman wears any clothes the bag is more of a symbol really than even a purse. That is the symbols in the picture seem more meaningful than the actual objects the represent. The man for instance is a human male figure warped into the figure of a triangle – despite the damage to this triangle does to his arms and the angles of his arms and the general naturalistic structure of his body. His figure is made into interlocking triangles despite the resistance, the reality, of tendons and bone. One of the furry men holds a brush, but instead of fibers coming out of the top of the brush four long nails come out of the brush. The furry man is pushing the brush into the back of the naked male figure as if he were brushing his back, or scratching his back, so that the nails go into the man’s back. There isn’t any blood on the naked man. Although streaks do cover his back. They don’t look like streaks of blood. I do not know what substance they are represent. The man is also not howling. His expression is of a person having his back brushed. He is staring into the mid-distance, holding his pink bag, while the furry creature sticks the brush of needles into his back. Maybe it is a kind of acupuncture? The figure of the woman is that of a man. It isn’t a woman at all. It isn’t even a very good man in painterly drag. The figure of the woman is the same as the man – oddly distorted and skinny legs and arms. She has slightly more volume in her legs. She has a pelvic mound that buried in fur (most likely to conceal her penis). She has a round, fully packed stomach. Perhaps her stomach is intended to signify a pregnant stomach? Instead it looks like a man’s stomach who drank a lot of beer and the beer is still currently in the stomach. She has two pointy male-style breasts. They are breasts, though, with defined nipples in their down hanging line. I saw a documentary about weight lifters. Male weight lifters who take steroids sometimes develop breasts. These male breasts are mostly muscle with a tiny, jiggling terminal of fat. In the weight room, this documentary said, these are called bitch tits. They are a sign that the weight lifter is on roids. This male figure, who is supposed to be a woman, has these weight lifter roid breasts as well. The other signifier that she is a woman is that her very male face is paler than her other nude partner, and her long hair a uniform golden color is neatly combed. The man’s hair, in contrast, is wild and grey. A strange green dragon nearly the same height as the supposedly female figure clings to her. She has a bloody spot on her check. The dragon thing is green and articulated and has the head of a ferret. How it manages to hold onto the woman’s body is a mystery. Perhaps it is sticky feet or the figures are made of metal and a magnet holds it to her?
The Prodigal Son Among Swine : Durer : The drawing shifts from sketchy objects in the middle ground, to more well defined buildings in the background, and the busy, high-contrast strokes, coils, and folds of the figures in the foreground. Here a man is kneeling beside a trough. He doesn’t kneel like a man about to eat from the trough, but given the strange disconnection between symbolic action in the first painting and this one, I suspect that his being down on knee like a man about to be given a knighthood by the queen might in fact mean that he is supposed to be in the mud, kneeling at the trough. If it were me at the trough and I was hungry enough to eat the garbage being flung into the trough I would be on all fours rooting around and fighting those pigs for the best hunk of cabbage and carrot shaving. I would look just like one of the pigs there. Instead this man’s hands are folded together. He has long, beautiful coifs of hair. He wears a robe with a chain. He wears some kind of close fitting undergarment like long johns. He doesn’t have any shoes on, though. Maybe the artist, Albert Durer couldn’t draw shoes? But he seems pretty good at drawing a pig. When I was a kid I would draw animals by drawing their shapes. A pig was a circle for the head, an ellipse for the body, two rectangles for legs, a squiggly line for the tail, a peg for a nose, and two triangle ears. These pigs have essential cone shaped heads. A triangle in my second grade drawing ability. The triangle ears cupped. The end of their cone heads end in a rubbery blob for their nose. The bottom of the cone has been ripped open for the mouth. Sharp teeth and tusks haphazardly come out of the gash. Their bodies are crazy volume describing essentially my second grade ellipse, but in this case more of a blimp of fur. Their legs come down not really supporting the volume of their body, but they are pretty well drawn legs with the cloven hooves clearly defines. As in the first picture the man is not covered in fur. The animals he is with are covered in fur, even their faces. The trough is a long cylinder, cut along the top, and swirled on the side to indicate that it is wood. Where the drawing gets really interesting to me area all of the lines used to create the shapes and the volume and the plains. The shadow on the trough is a series of strong downward marks. By strong I mean they are each thick, individual, and a uniform width and distance apart. The floor of the pen is long thing lines that I could only draw if I took my pen and made a crazy fast slash with my hand. The houses in the distance are all drawn with fine lines, but the thing about these houses is that they have normal sized floors and then gigantically tall roofs that are defined by parallel, hand drawn lines. They vary just enough that you know they weren’t drawn with a ruler. They were drawn freehand and this Durer guy has a really steady hand. Unlike the first drawing, this drawing seems to almost celebrate the choices Durer made in making the image. You can see all of these choices. Giotto pretty much painted the whole drawing, even the corners, the same way. In the first one the animals torment the people. It seems like something they do. Not like something they’ve been ordered to do. Here, the animals are just eating with a fellow pig.