Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 29, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
Thursday, August LETHBRIDGE Love of art gives balance to life From the Royal Bank of Canada monthly letter Editor's Note: The follow- ing excerpts from the Royal Bank of Canada monthly (August) letter will be of par- ticular interest to those interested in the art scene in Lethbridge and the need for an art gallery here. Some persons find it dif- ficult to associate art with such hard headed facts of life as their daily jobs and the dis- order of domestic and world politics. If, indeed, the chores and the excitements are poles apart from the arts, that is not a bad thing. In our present civilization, mechanization and industrialization make the arts necessary as a counter- poise if we are to retain our balance, our culture and our sanity. Art can take the chaos, the haphazard, the melee of daily life and set it before us in ordered simplicity, symmetry and perspective. It inserts evidence, as it were, between the shrieking headlines, that beauty, truth and goodness are not obsolete. The arts are not to be judg- ed by the standards of in- dustrial efficiency, with its absorption in mass produc- tion. Unlike useful things or the tools used to produce them, works of art are design- ed to serve no function other than to give enjoyment. Under the utilitarian code, creation of beautiful things is looked upon as the pastime of persons who might be employed in useful labor. Everyone knows that there are some things which we do because we must: these are our necessities. There are things we do because we ought to do them: these are our duties. There are other things we do because we like to do them: these are our play, a necessary offset to all the others. The humanizing influence of art is one of the most positive forces in the development of a well balanced mind, helping us to cope with and to rise above the multitude of mun- dane and materialistic affairs that absorb most of our atten- tion and time. timate test of worth is: does it give pleasure? To arouse the powers of enjoyment, of yielding to beauty, is the legitimate end of art. Tolstoy said in his essay on art: "Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them." This means that art is not an ornamental addition to life, but an organ of human life translating man's perception into feeling. Art is not a matter of deftness of hands only, but the work of the whole spirit of man. That the sense of beauty is inherent in most people without regard to the extent of their education is clearly seen when we look at the art of primitive people. It is also seen in the unconsciously es- thetic appreciation which today's man in the street will betray as he inspects the latest automobile, or in the presence of any beautiful building or machine which he is not asked to look at as a work of art. Many persons acknowledge that their attitude to art is purely emotional and inex- pert, but nevertheless they en- joy the experience. If one does not feel deeply stirred in the presence of great pictures, great sculpture or great music, he can be certain that he is living a vastly lower and more restricted life than he could be living. The mechanical world is of our own making, but the real world is one of deep emotional experience. Some people will say that art is real when it shows sound knowledge, mastered craft, vivid imagination, strong common sense, truth, and wise meaning. Others will say that the distinguishing characteristic of a work of art is that it serves no practical end. but is an end in itself. Or it may be said that if a painting appeals merely by the story it tells it is not art but an illustration. The ul- The esthetic sense should be deliberately and consciously cultivated in all sections and activities of life. We are all too likely to become highly developed in one faculty at the expense of other, more per- sonal, parts of our nature. Top notch executives, experts in electronics, designers of com- puters all these have hard intellectual force, but many of them have not been careful to preserve and develop their real, their beauty loving, selves. Granting that the fine arts are those of which the end is beauty, the question next arises, what is beauty? It can- not be digested into general laws for all peoples and all times. Every person needs to form a philosophy of beauty for himself, making his own appraisal of what is lovely. Without that he will be tossed aimlessly on an ebbing and flowing sea of passing beliefs, emotions and ideas. The term "fine arts" is conventionally used to designate those arts which are concerned with line, color and form (Painting, sculpture and with sound (music) and with the exploita- tion of words for both their musical and expressive values (prose and Architec- ture, Sculpture, painting, music and poetry are by com- mon consent the five principal or greater fine arts. The mechanical arts can be practised by strict adherence to rule and precept, but the fine arts, though they, too, have technical foundations which are matters of rule and precept, can be practised only by following, in a region out- side the reach of rule and precept, the free prompting of some of the finest faculties of the spirit. They call for im- agination: for, as Aristotle put it, bringing something into ex- istence. An artist's eye sees the sur- face of things but also dis- cerns and interprets the organic structure and the potentiality that lie un- derneath. It is when a work of art achieves a synthesis of these that it becomes a contribution to the viewer's understanding and opens up a wealth of cultural beauty. For art to live it must com- municate. It needs both form and meaning. It is not enough that it mean something special to the artist: it must convey meaning or feeling to the viewer. The artist painting a land- scape is not trying to describe the visible appearance of the landscape as a photograph would show it. but to tell us something about it, an original discovery made by him which he wishes to com- municate to us. This is why looking at fine art is different from looking at an illustration. We do not seek photographic accuracy but a portrayal of a slice of life that is intelligible, informative and perhaps elevating. Fine art addresses itself not only to the eye but also to the imagination. The eye takes notice of 10 different qualities of objects: light and darkness, color and substance, form and position, distance and nearness, movement and rest. It is through his depiction of these in his painting that the artist reaches our minds and animates our thoughts. Many pictures owe their permanent value in art and their chief charm in our eyes to the artist's excellent feel- ing for line, and his facility and skill in draughtsmanship. Others please us by richness or harmony of color, or by the delicacy of their effects of light and shade. The human eye tires of machine drawn straight lines. The curve is the line of beauty, whether in the draperies in portraiture or the profile of a landscape or ocean waves. Perhaps in nothing else is the skill of the landscape ar- tist more put to the test than in his rendering of tht effects of distance. Perspective, said Leonardo, is the bridle and rudder of painting, but perspective has been renounc- ed by some abstract artists. They seek to stress the independence of the world they create from the laws which govern appearance in the natural world. The changing art in our time is rather confusing to the lay observer, as when people trom one dream start dribbl- ing into another dream. Every civilization creates an artistic style of its own, but bits and pieces from former eras keep showing up. Art changes its outlook, just as so many other parts of life do. It is the expression of an age. perhaps even a revolt against the civilization of the age. One generation despises what its predecessor applauded, yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that the latest is always the best. What is displayed as the art of today may indeed depict the churned up or the squared off conceptions of life held by modern man. The artist realizes that life, especially mental life, exists on two planes, one definite and visi- ble in outline and detail, like the part of the iceberg above water, the other, the greater part of life, is submerged, vague and indeterminate. It is the advanced artist's aim to try to realize some of the dimensions and characteristics of mankind's submerged being, and to do this he resorts to various kinds of symbolism. This presents enormous difficulty to the average lover of art. Even if one possesses what may be called "a modern point of view" one must still work oneself slowly into this world of strange forms. Nevertheless, every person who seeks to be cultured and to understand life needs to become acquainted with the work of today's artists as well as the work of the great masters of the past. It is necessary to approach an exhibition of art with an There's one great reason why Acadian 400 is becoming so popular. Flavour! SUPERIOR CANADIAN KTE WHISKY ADO MEUOW open mind. You may not feel in sympathy with every ex- hibit, but you will at least appreciate admirable qual- ities. Do you have to visit the National Gallery in Ottawa, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, or the Pitti Gallery and the churches in Florence to see and enjoy art? Not at all. Art has been brought out of its privacy in palace, cathedral and gallery into the world for the enjoyment of all. While simply putting more art in more places will not make esthetes of us all, it gives us a chance to enjoy what was once the privilege of the few. There are galleries and museums in every province. Commercial and industrial of- fices display art pieces, some the product of Canadian ar- tists and others imported from abroad. Reproductions of the best of the world's art are to be had at little cost. We should not approach our adventure into art without some preparation. It is com- monly said that the onlooker sees most of the game, but it is small benefit to Mm unless he knows the rules of the game being played. The acuteness of our perception and of our judgment depends upon the wealth of our knowledge. The more com- parisons we are able to make, the more qualified we are to enjoy art and to express our opinions. The necessary technique of an art may be studied in day or evening classes operated by the continuing education branches of universities, the Y's, adult education groups and community associations. The comradeship of an art group in a church hall, a schoolroom or a home, engag- ed in sculpture, painting, ceramics, or some other art, is worthwhile aside from what a member produces. Here are people of kindred minds, with similar aspirations, interested in a fascinating activity. Art is useful because it raises men's minds to a level higher than merely existing. Here are activities that men and women put forth not because they need but because they like. In an age when material things have such prominence and such a deep influence on people's minds, it is increasingly important to be able to seek the relief to be found in esthetic activity. It releases them from the ar- bitrariness of life. Appreciation of art releases us from our claustrophobia and gives us a wider outlook. It helps us to rise above life's trivialities and to subdue its turbulence. Its purpose is not to help us to escape from life but to enter into a larger life. Schools and administration By Louis Burke, Lethbridge teacher Schools are opened once more for another year of academic activities. Much depends on the classroom teacher if these activities are to be turned into real educational experiences for the young. But quite a large share of the responsibility falls on the shoulder of those who administrate the schools trustees, superintendents, consultants, principals and the like. Due to a faulty philosophy, educational ad- ministration is remarkably defective today. Mobility at the upper level is just one aspect there is either too much of it, or too little. Some administrators in our system are mere travellers in education. They come to Lethbridge for a year or two to gain the necessary experience to lift them higher on the ladder to a post elsewhere. These people are transients in education damaging school systems as they flutter by on their way to another job. The city has had its share of them in recent years. The bright young man, theoretically well qualified with paper certificates galore, is hired over the dedicated local man. It is a theory of trustees that the outside man is a better performer than the local person. This is pure fiction upon which school board com- mittees often get sucked-in. It takes five years to learn the ropes of any system new to the person. By that time, the bright young outsider has pulled the same trick as he did elsewhere, and is off to a new post waving the same shiny scraps of paper to dazzle trustees in another, often larger, school system. A 10-year contract should be drawn up for these travellers in education. That leads into the problem at the other end of the scale. There exist office technicians who have been out of the classroom far too long and who are equally suspect. They have learned the tricks of paper pushing and play- ing politics. But such persons do not know the material for which they pretend to design education; the students. Some meet the few students who get into difficulties; others visit schools when time permits them escape the office and the paper work. They read what others write on matters educational, and in this secondhand, roundabout manner function as educational experts. Unfortunately, modern communities imagine them indispensable. All administrators in education need a sab- batical year in the classroom to keep them in touch with the realities of schools. A classroom year would make all the difference between real and statistical progress if our administrators faced a year of rejuvenation as proposed. To date, none have been brave enough to take such a revolutionary step. This, of course, applies to university per- sonnel, too. Theories worked out in the etherial tower have been disastrous in modern education. If such theory-workers were obliged to evolve them in the classroom situation, teacher trainees might arrive in schools with better and more practical ideas. Again, courage is needed for such in- novations. Education is about commitment on all levels classroom teacher, school ad- ministrator, superintendent, consultant, and university professor. People who drift in and dash off. or who dig in and entrench, or who theorize recklessly are guilty of educational crime. Education is a vocation, not just a job. Lethbridge. in size and climate, is almost ideal for the building of a near perfect system. It is not a rung on a ladder, or a hole for a mole, or a test tube for a theorist in education. It is time to re-think some of the philosophy related to educational administra- tion in our city. Lessons for us all By Noel Buchanan, Herald staff writer Changes in school curriculum was the topic of an article by Terry Morris in The Herald. Aug. 22. It set me thinking. I'm not a school teacher, but have exten- sive contact with young people through Scout and church programs. My observations are drawn from the past 12 years of quite heavy involvement in these programs. These are some lessons I'd like to see taught in more schools. of personal, group and community time. Lots of people adults and youth seem to dibble dabble in a mul- titude of activities, never fully deciding what they really want to do in life. A little tennis, a little reading, a moment with God, a three- mile coulee hike. And what a flurry when they meet someone who is organized! Pandemonium is sometimes too polite a word! and conscientious effort. Young people weep over the ills of the Establishment they dispute. Once in awhile they become sufficiently enraged to volunteer some serious action to help im- prove things. But. oh how lazy they can sometimes be. "That's not really part of my job." said one associate. In employment, if you want to get ahead, jump! Folks notice when you gladly give the little extra, and folks still remember. And then there was the man I asked to round up some workers for a Scout project. He's all eager-Beaver leader-in-training. What did he do? Asked his brother to find the volunteers. Smart, but lazy, and someone will remember extra mile. When did your teacher or your employer last say to you gently. "What are you doing still here? Don't you ever go I'm not suggesting we preach workaholicism; I am encouraging the extra mile of enthusiasm and loyalty. ANDY RUSSELL The wonderful insect migrations Books in brief "The Case for Immortality" by Allen Spraggett (George McLeod, Ltd., 154 For centuries mankind has pondered the question of im- mortality is there or isn't there? Thus far the agnostic has remained unconvinced. Allen Spraggett. a leading Canadian authority on psychic phenomena and ESP has carefully compiled authen- ticated cases of those who, by medical definition, had been dead. The sources for his testimonials have come from clergymen, mediums, respected doctors and nurses, and the cases include the names of Somerset Maugham and Ernest Hemingway. For some, the duration of death was brief, for others longer. Both believers and un- believers reported another world from which there was no desire to return. One interesting case was that of a young private whose nine minute death ended on the way to the morgue. The event changed his entire'life. If this book doesn't convince the agnostic, it should certain- ly weaken his arguments. ELSIE MORRIS "Jack the Bear" by Dan McCall (Doubleday, Jack is addicted to foul language, dope, and quite an accomplishment for a 12-year-old. He also has to contend with very queer neighbors and, since his mom is dead, look after his dad and a younger brother. How Jack survives against the odds in a hostile adult world is the theme of this new novel by Dan McCall. Interesting but not very inspiring reading. TERRY MORRIS WATERTON LAKES PARK When we think of migrants, we are likely to associate this interesting habit with birds and animals, but some ot the great travellers are insects. Some species like the locusts, aphids and dragonflies are one-way travellers going great distances, but usually with'a tail wind to help. Not very much is known about these intercontinental journeys as little research has been done on them, but great swarms of dragonflies have been observed in parts of Europe and North Africa flocks sometimes so dense they have obscured the sun. Locusts are highly gregarious and destructive travellers sometimes denuding everything green in their path. In parts of North Africa they occasionally form insect storms beyond the limits of imagination. One swarm observ- ed from the air over the Somali Republic covered an area of 400 square miles, numbered close to insects and ate enough in one day to feed about people for a year! Here at the foot of the Rockies ladybird beetles fly in mass in the fall up onto the bare topped timberline ridges, where they hiber- nate under flat rocks lying on the surface. In the spring they take off and migrate back to lower ground. They prey on smaller insects and in fruit growing areas are a major control of the green-fly which attacks fruit trees. We live in the path of one of these migrations here in southwest Alberta and there are days when it seems to be raining insects. The whole outer surface of our house literally crawls with them for a while, but this only lasts a day or two before they dis- perse. By far the most fascinating of the insect migrants is the monarch butterfly, which winters in California and Oregon, and flies across wide reaches of North America to concentrations of milkweed, a plant closely tied to its life cycle. The monarch lays its eggs on the under sides of the leaves and when the caterpillars hatch out. they voraciously feed on these for about four weeks. When they reach full size, they form the pupae. A week later, the adult butterfly emerges Beside offering food, the milkweed affords protection, for it is poisonous and the poison is ingested by the insect to the point where birds will not touch it. The beautifully marked monarch butterfly is a common sight in gardens across the con- tinent in summer, but before fall frosts set in, they are winging back towards their winter- ing grounds on the west coast. Usually they fly at a steady 11 miles per hour about 15 feet above the ground, though they have been known to go much higher. A high head wind will force them to take cover on the ground, but they can beat their way against a fairly stiff breeze When they reach their wintering grounds, they swarm onto favorite trees to a point where their weight bends the branches. The best known of these wintering grounds have been set aside as parks to protect them from people. Although twice in my life I have observed monarch butterflies crossing the Rockies from east to west, very little if anything is known of their inter-mountain migration routes. During the summer of 1962 two of my sons, a friend and I watched a migration for three days on a high remote pass in southeast British Columbia about half a mile from the international boundary. Because they were facing into a steady breeze, they were flying about five feet above ground; millions of them beating their way over the spine of the Continental Divide and on down the Pacific slope towards their destination about a thou- sand miles away. It was a wonderful spectacle in the world of nature of which we know so little. Growing older By Doug Walker My optometrist, Doug Grigg, warned me some time ago that I was on the verge of be- ing afflicted with bifocals. I believe him especially since I have dis- covered that I can only read telephone numbers if I take off my glasses and get close to the print. One day when Dave Wilson, United Way ex- ecutive director, was in my office with a contract for me to sign in connection with publicity for this year's campaign we decided that we should examine the fine print on the thing. Immediately we both took off our glasses and bowed our heads. We didn't know whether to laugh or feel sad at this sign of advancing age.