jurors' statement - bob langnas & michael quintero
“I value only those artists who really are artists, that is, who consciously or unconsciously, in an entirely original form, embody the expression of their inner life; who work only for this end and cannot work otherwise.”
– Wassily Kandinsky, “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”
“The mystery of life is and always has been the central focus of the contemplative mind…Spiritual teachers ultimately agree that true wisdom does not come from outside of us, but from within.”
– Rabbi David. A Cooper, “God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism”
“First, one seeks to become an artist by training the hand. Then one finds it is the eye that needs improving. Later one learns it is the mind that wants developing, only to find that the ultimate quest of the artist is in the spirit.”
– Lawrence Brullo, artist
Shortly after meeting and becoming colleagues at St. Louis Community College’s Florissant Valley campus in 2007, we began to recognize some overlap in our worldviews (influenced by both Western and Eastern thought) and in our approaches to art and teaching. Among our shared values is the striving for spiritual enrichment through art-making, rather than by subscribing to traditional religious dogma. We each seek an enhanced spirituality and grounding through creative exploration, and we each rely on art as a facilitator of meditative contemplation and spiritual restoration. We each attempt to address life’s big questions through our studio work. Given these commonalities, among others, it was a distinct pleasure to collaborate in this effort, jurying works by – in some ways – like-minded artists.
This exhibition borrows its title from Wassily Kandinsky’s seminal essay “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” (1911), an imperfect but important and inspirational work that deserves a place in every artist’s library. Kandinsky has been rightfully criticized for his overwrought theory of colors, and his hopeful prediction of a coming anti-materialist “great spiritual epoch” surely never materialized. But the little book has many gems that, taken together, promote meaningful art that serves as an outlet for spiritual expression. Kandinsky writes:
“The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From (the artist) it gains life and being…It has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life. It exists and has power to create spiritual atmosphere; and from this inner standpoint one judges whether it is a good work of art or a bad one…It is only well (produced) if its spiritual value is complete and satisfying.”
It would seem that for Kandinsky, bad work is that which is academic, banal, and limiting. He wrote that from such works – works that do not express inner meanings – “hungry souls go hungry away.”
The challenge we faced, as jurors of “Concerning the Spiritual,” is that – in our estimation – almost all 340 submissions were “good works of art” that evoked a “spiritual atmosphere” and implicitly embodied something of the artist’s “inner life.” In short, almost all entries met the exhibit’s criteria and all truly deserve an audience. In the end, of course, we had to make some tough calls. At times our decisions were based on intuition (call it the immediacy of aesthetic response, if you prefer), in some cases – with our instructors’ hats on – we based decisions on our assessment of particular works’ form or presentation. The process was definitely challenging and tiring, but rewarding.
Congratulations and thanks to all participants!
Bob Langnas, Michael Quintero