by cheri sabraw
I’m almost finished with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein titled “Genius.”
In it, Isaacson spends quantum verbiage trying to simplify Einstein’s remarkable equations that, post Newton, explained the significant physicality of our universe such as light, gravity, thermodynamics and the relationship (or relativity) of heavenly bodies to such invisible natural occurrences.
Einstein was able to conceptualize and then master equations that proved his theories largely by his early focus on thought experiments, his boundless creativity, and his feisty defiance of authority.
I’ve had to up my caffeine intake to understand this material.
Relativity isn’t confined to the subject of physics.
I remember during class discussions with bright high school juniors and even brighter university business students, often using the phrase, ” It’s all relative, isn’t it?” Here I meant that the subject at hand could only be discussed in relation to something else. For example, if we were discussing The Scarlet Letter, Hester’s decision to have sex with her pastor invariably came up. Was this wrong? A moral sin? Were there extenuating circumstances that the puritan community might have considered before banishing her to a life alone and to the branding of a large capital A on her bodice? The puritans saw her behavior in absolutes.
Some of us think in absolutes; others, in relativity.
Here, Ms. O’Keeffe is advocating for abstraction. Her point, I think, in this quotation is that painters who paint realistically aren’t as capable of communicating reality as are painters who leave things out…say one breast or a purple scrotum or a decapitated teapot. We the viewer are left with spaces, so to speak, to fill in with our own sensibilities. Surely, according to Ms. O’Keeffe such artistic expression is superior to the art of Maynard Dixon or William Keith who painted grand landscapes with recognizable trees and stony edifices called mountains.
It’s all relative, isn’t it Ms. O’Keeffe?
Which painting do you like? This one?
Or do you like this one?
When I tell you that the first painting is Cezanne’s and the second one is Louis Collin’s, does that color your opinion?
Here is a close-up of the lacy gloves.
Einstein girded his relativity theories with hard-core mathematical equations. They become absolute, do they not?
In art, we do not have E=MC 2.
All we have is a pool of relativity.
It’s up to us to decide the value of art by taking a close look.