Spotted horses probably existed way back then, says a new genetic report. This means that the cave painters weren’t just having a great time making a cool, fun, repetitive dot pattern on their creations, but were somehow representing AN ACTUAL HORSE. DNA now proves that the cave painters were “good.” Good means realistic in painting. We wouldn’t want cave painters painting their dreams, now would we?
I salute the writer, Alicia Chang, for pursuing this connection. And the article in the NY times is more fleshed out… or more boned out, because that’s where they got the DNA. But these articles proceed from a number of assumptions that make me a bit crazy. Here’s a list. Ancient artists couldn’t paint realistically. Ancient artists make “primitive” art. Ancient artists just sorta prayed to animals or grooved on them but didn’t observe them. Ancient artists didn’t really know about paint application, media, and drawing. Ancient artists weren’t da Vinci, or even Dali (who is actually a super-realist using the images in a surreal way).
In fact, recent research strongly implies that ancient people observed the animals so closely that they recorded the small changes in appearance and behavior in different seasons and during mating times. They applied paint with brushes, air, organic materials like moss or hide, and fingers. They always used as many colors as they could, including greens and purples. They used lamps and scaffolding to paint in high places. And as Werner Herzog’s new film Cave of Forgotton Dreams shows, they clearly used the three-dimensional stone as part of their media, as well as animation techniques and a convention called “twisted perspective.” Which I love, because it’s twisted.
But the thinking remains either/or. Was it realism or surrealism? Science or art? Why not both?
And now I have an excuse to put in my favorite little spotted horse, the Dawn Horse from my dad’s 1963 high school science textbook. I also found newly released Lascaux cave photos from the 1940’s in this amazing Life photo essay. I adore Lascaux with all my stone-and-iron-oxide heart.
I did a little Honey Bear sketch of to honor Hezog’s cave bears, whose skulls decorate the floors of Chauvet . My father, Bob Edminster, who passed away this year, loved honey and told a mean Eeeeeeyow Bear bedtime story. This picture is for you, Werner Herzog and Bob Edminster.
Mythic News: Hey, it’s 11-11-11! I give you here a link to my favorite visionary, Caroline Casey, who talks about eleven, and de-apocolizes the day. Eleven is a threshold number: go ahead and step over.
Studio news: the divine Laura Hoffman, along with her ladies, women, folk-art motifs, resins, and power tools– yeah, baby– will be our guest artist on the blog next week. Don’t forget the A Street Studio’s innocent-yet-decadent Winterblast! Tomorrow!
A special thanks to Susan Cornelis, who has been encouraging me to sketch and shared her super-secret material list with me. See her wonderful travel sketchbook-collage techniques here.