Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Hand, The Head, The Heart: Ana Serrano

John Ruskin, the Victorian age art critic, said in his 1895 lecture titled "Unity in Art" that, "Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together." He explains that the heart is where emotions are formed, and those emotions are then sent to the head where they are processed, and finally those emotions, once contemplated, are sent to the human hand, which Ruskin regards as a perfect technology ("No machine yet contrived, or hereafter contrivable, will ever equal the fine machinery of the human fingers"). Only with the perfect coordination of the hand, the head, and the heart is it possible to create true fine art. 

One of the things that I like most about the how Ruskin defines fine art here is what he hasn't defined: he doesn't talk about subject matter, medium, or concept. He gives authority only to the sincerity of the heart, the intelligence of the mind, and the ability of the hand-- which means that any artist, producing a work that is honest and true, in any medium, creates fine art. 

That is why, starting today, I am starting a new feature for the blog called (unsurprisingly) The Hand, The Head, The Heart, in which I present the work of a visual artist I feel has these three elements working in harmony. 

The first artist to be featured is the Los Angeles-based sculptor/painter Ana Serrano. I saw her stuff and instantly fell in love with it. 

She works mostly paper and cardboard to create works that gaze openly and honestly at the urban environment in which she lives. A first-generation Mexican-American from LA, Serrano's work speaks eloquently with a Spanglish visual vocabulary to playfully express real hardship, pain, and danger in her home city, at the same time she captures the beauty, love, and persistence. 

The artist Ana Serrano, creating "Cartonlandia" 
On her website, her artistic vision is described like this: Her work bears reference to those in low socioeconomic positions, with particular interest in the customs and beliefs, as well as the architecture, fashion, and informal economies present within this segment of society. A current theme explored in her work is the socio-cultural aspects of drug trafficking, and the branding and acceptance of the drug lord lifestyle.

"Chalino" (detail)
"Tres Animales"
"Road to Malverde" (detail)
Serrano makes cardboard versions of buildings - in both small scale and life size. These buildings are definitely evidence that her heart, head, and hands are working perfectly together...

A year ago, the Rice Gallery in Houston, Texas commissioned her to do a whole life-sized neighborhood in their gallery. You can watch a short video of Serrano talking about that work (called Salon of Beauty), her creative process, and her artistic vision here:

You can keep up with her most recent work on her blog.

What are your thoughts about this artist?? What are your thoughts on Ruskin's idea of fine art??

Until next time!

No comments:

Post a Comment