Art is a communication, and hermeneutics is how we can skillfully interpret its messages.

“Integral” — holistic, comprehensive, inclusive.

“Hermeneutics” — the art and science of interpretation. From the Greek hermēneutikós, related to Hermes, the messenger spirit with winged feet who shapeshifts into whatever form is needed to communicate the message.

Wholes and Parts

Interpreting and appreciating art involves grasping the whole work and its internal parts. Hans-Georg Gadamer: “Thus the movement of understanding is constantly from the whole to the part and back to the whole.”

Wholes: depend on their parts to exist, but also ‘transcend’ their parts. “The whole is always…

Ai Wei Wei, Odyssey, 2017

Wallpaper doesn’t just decorate a room. It helps walls become windows that tell stories. Early European papers were literally religious icons. In France, Christian icons called dominos were placed on walls in lower-class homes, “where they performed a double function, being both a talisman against bad luck and a covering for the cracks in the walls.”

Iconography changed, and wallpaper soon began to simulate wood, stucco, brick, flowers, and trees. Nature was being eliminated by urbanization and bourgeois industrialization so its ghosts were printed onto walls. Of course, forests and real flowers get destroyed to make wallpaper. …

This is Chinese Zen master Mu Qi’s famous 13th-century painting of six persimmons. Notice that there’s no table and no shadows. It’s groundless, like the mirror-mind or groundless condition of all things–what Zen Buddhists like to call groundlessness. The floating persimmons also feel timeless and unplaceable.

The persimmons on the edges are empty. Like thoughts arising out of and returning to the nature of mind, the persimmons appear to emerge out of and then return to the paper.

We might also notice that this drawing is about repetition and order, but it’s also about diversity and spontaneity. Not only are…

Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk), Arvina Martin, Ineligible, 2012

Enlarged portraits against a white background by Tom Jones with text: “Arvina and Simone Martin are both Native children. Yes they are multiracial, but many of the family traditions they are exposed to are Ho-Chunk. Both girls are one-fourth “Native blood.” They cannot be enrolled in their Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge nations because neither girl has enough Ho-Chunk or Stockbridge blood quantum to be enrolled in either. They are not recognized as Native children by any tribal or federal governments. Hence they are not Native people.”

Another look at material religion in Japan

I took the high-speed bullet train down to see the Chiran Kamikaze Peace Museum, built at the site where 1,038 Tokka kamikaze pilots gathered, partied, rested and raged before dying in their rocket-powered Okah “cherry blossom” plane-bombs. The museum is surrounded by cherry blossom trees, and the gift shop is filled with cherry blossom-embellished trinkets.

Memory, Still Lifes, and “living hieroglyphs that stand in some peculiarly expressive way for the unfathomable mystery of pure being.”

Aldus Huxley described everyday things as “living hieroglyphs” in The Doors of Perception. Likewise, Rembrandt’s tiny drawing of a shell, De Schelp frames the ubiquitous as profoundly significant, in part because of its use of chiaroscuro — the tradition of spotlighting something against a dark background for a more dramatic effect. Imagine a performer on a stage in the spotlight or a storyteller lit by firelight surrounded by darkness. …

Drawing, dragging, is primarily a form of moving, and there are many reasons human beings synchronize eyes and hands to drag marks across surfaces, or take lines for a walk. Throughout history we see drawing used for tattooing, marking, mapping, praying, meditating; drawing as destruction, as crossing out, propaganda, agitprop, signage, literature, treaties, makeup, puberty rites. Tibetan monks spend days drawing cosmic diagrams in colored sand on the floor and then destroy the drawing as an offering to all beings and a lesson in impermanence.

We find drawing as prophesy, sigil magic, hunting magic, automatism (surrealist automatic drawing) and drawing…

Wet. Some guys have multiple wet dreams a week if they stop masturbating, but most guys I know never have wet dreams. They have erotic dreams, sure, but they don’t actually ejaculate in bed because they masturbate and have plenty of sex in their waking lives. Most boys growing up are already masturbating, so they don’t have the big “nocturnal emission” they were told they would have in Sex Education class. But we waited for it. Some of us feared it, because that’s when our parents would find out about our dream sex life. …

The materiality of making out.

Kissing is like dancing, or speaking in tongues — each person has their own style, their own preferences.

Are you a good kisser? With so many kinks and styles, who’s to judge? Some like it controlled and dry, whereas others like it sloppy and wet. Biologists and psychologists can argue that kissing is a kind of ancient smelling ritual, an easy way to get close and sample a partner’s suitability. On another level, it’s a subconscious chemical and bacterial interview, and maybe on another, it’s a way to get beyond our own minds, a way to take the other person…

David Titterington

Painter and Art Instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University

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