Thursday, December 18, 2003

LoL#43: Christmas, Weird Al, & Laredo Taft

Christmas is almost here!!!! Less than a week til the big day and if you're like me the Christmas cards are just starting to be sent and the shopping is a task that you've put off way too long and now are overly scared to approach the dreaded location known as The Mall. But before I get too deep into talking about Christmas (and the connection between holidays, Weird Al and Laredo Taft) it's, of course, time for some shoutouts!!

Wonderful December birthdays include Jacklyn B and Natalie U!! And for the sake of just giving some random shoutouts to generally cool people, here's shoutouts to Emily H, Lauren J and Tony G because not only are they three of the superest spiffiest people I know, but they were part of the insanely fun experience that was the midnight trek out to see Return of the King on Tuesday night and it ROCKED!!! Seriously - it was just downright awesome! And although I could make this entire e-mail about the coolness of Lord of the Rings, I do have something of another point to talk about.

Big surprise here, I'm gonna talk about Christmas. Now I'm assuming that everyone on this list is at least pretty familiar with Christmas. You might not think it's the superest holiday ever and it's possible that your family doesn't even celebrate it in the remotest sense of the word, but I'm gonna go with the idea that at least through the psychoses that is modern media you're all at least vaguely familiar with the ideology and iconery that is associated with Dec. 25th.

I came up with a little metaphor/idea here that holidays in general are sort of like inspirational subjects for artists to have their way with. Take for example a beautiful Elizabethan noble woman. Now one artist may have her sit in some distinguished pose and have her image amazingly captured in oils on canvas. Meanwhile another inspired individual sees the same lady and carves her likeness in shallow relief into wood. Still another chooses words as his media and composes a sonnet to tell of her astounding beauty. As years pass by new artists draw on the originals and the oil painting is redone into a threaded tapestry. The wood carving is taken as a template for a new abstract cubist portrait. The sonnet is suddenly embellished with music and transformed into a choral masterpiece accompanied by a full orchestra.

Now let's talk specifics. Christmas is sort of like that beautiful noble woman. The actual holiday started so long ago that maybe it seems too distant to truly appreciate. Every celebration is just a reworking of a reworking of a reworking of the original. You might feel like commercialism and modernism has choked away all sense of what it's actually about. Maybe the artist you most see working with the holiday for you is Werid Al. Don't take this as any sort of a dis on Weird Al - I've long been a fan of his and still can't here "Money For Nothing" without thinking "Beverly Hillbillies". I'm also not endorsing any Weird Al Christmas albums (if they even exist). My point is that maybe you look at Christmas as something that was really cool and fun and made you smile uncontrollably as a kid but lately as every holiday season approaches you realize it's been years since there's been a good hit. You can still look at the older ones with fond memories, but you're tired of just looking back and you're longing for the smiles to be about something new, something current.

If this is the case, I want to offer a new perspective. I've decided that the artist metaphorically designing my holidays is going to be one along the lines of Laredo Taft. Consider this a little journey into Art History 115 but Taft is an amazing American sculptor that most folks from Champaign know solely for the Alma Mater. And actually when I first heard of Taft, that's all I knew him for too. But the then I started to look deeper. There's actually a couple sculptures across the campus, all his, and my favorite is one located in the Krannert Art Museum called "The Blind".

The subject of the sculpture is a story of a group of blind men and women stranded on an island who discover that there is a sighted child among them. All the individuals are groping around in the dark, reaching out to everything but seeing nothing, suddenly they lift a small child up above their heads with the exclamation and realization "The child can see!! Let the child lead us!!!!" It's hard to describe the emotion captured in that single moment if you've never seen the sculpture - and actually it's one of those pieces of artwork that's cool and yet eeriely disturbing (none of the people have eyes, it's kinda creepy). But it's the type of art that I can look at a hundred times and see something new about each time. There's no limit to the emotions it can draw out of me and every angle I study it at reveals something new.

My point is that this is more how Christmas can and should be. Let every angle of the holidays bring about a new emotion. Sure each year is the same thing. And maybe each year doesn't bring happy memories or warm thoughts. But every look is a chance to see something new. And every year is a chance to look deeper and remember a true meaning deeper than Santas and Rudolphs and Frostys. It's not about lights and cards and shopping and wrapping.

It's about the truest gift ever given. It's about God's love for a very dark world.

The child can see. Let the child lead us.

Christmasfully Yours,

lisa :)

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