Exploring Depths of Experience in Arts, Letters, Science and Ideas
Challenging “Postmodern” CriticismGo Back to Table of Contents
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If such integration is possible between the Humanities and the Sciences, it is, as well, among historical periods. To catalogue time into historical periods alone can be a way to no longer experience, know, and share with that which came before us--and thus to dramatically impoverish human experience. By structuring history into periods, one runs the risk of constructing a tomb. But Anthony Panzera, at Hunter College, finds in our time a new opportunity to merge perspective in time with a true Humanism.
As Stryker casts an eye on other media and other ages, Panzera focuses on the historical period of the Renaissance as a tremendous triumph of consciousness over historical alienation and finds, in the merging of the Classical and Medieval, an unsurpassed acceleration of human in-sight. By taking the forms that were “before” (anterior) to us, and placing them “before” (in front of) us, a new horizon of perception and understanding of time are engendered. The resulting synthesis yields a constellation of time that is expansive, inclusive, and holistic.
Reading the notebooks of Renaissance artists, Panzera illustrated Leonardo’s texts on human proportion, which--like Weller’s play with the concept of illustration--demonstrate “the strong and necessary intersection of art and science as simultaneous and complementary acts of discovery.” To dis-cover is to take the cover off, to find. Thus discovery is not to create the world, but to have it open up before your eyes and see elements within it that may have been previously concealed. In this case, Panzera points out, the Renaissance “may have had an advantage over our era because they had a myth in place that the `Modern’ age did not.” The Judeo-Christian structure in the Renaissance was so strong that it was universally understood that only God had created anything at all, and this gave Renaissance artists the understanding that the artist’s job was not to create the universe, or anything in it, because all had been perfectly created by God. It was rather humanity’s role to find what had been created and to interpret and reveal it; and this helped in that happy Renaissance synthesis of science and art. “When I look at the human form, guided by Leonardo and others, I realize that a face, a hand, an eye, any part of our anatomy has everything in it. All the phenomena possible to know are there in an infinite possibility.” This emergence of mind over the centuries is miraculous for Panzera; as is art’s ability to act as the medium though which humanity comes to know itself, and contact itself, in time. Thus time may be composed merely of human “presence” united in a medium of moments. Each moment, in light of human presence, rapidly becomes a past; each projection, from a center of presence, a future; the presence of every generation, a communion with other generations that have been, and are yet to be, born. Art becomes vital to the manner in which we access the fleeting presence of one another in time; and in communion, time becomes tactile: something that must be seen, witnessed, experienced, and known in the depth of our Being. Time is thus sensible. It is touched, tempered, and formed by our own existence.

By playing with historical periods in art, Panzera’s work also creates a visual “masque” of historical “manners” and style, encouraging us to see the world that is immediately “before” us. To have something before you is to have something precede you, as well as to have something in front of you, as well as to have something ahead of you. Thus to be “before” is to be simultaneously past, present and future. By investing visual experience with temporal possibilities, Panzera’s still lives and portraits expand the possibilities of Being in time and consecrate history as communion. Playing with images of the secular and the sacred, his work richly suggests grounds for a new perception of historical Being.

Like Panzera, Rita Baragona, a teacher at Blair Academy, has found the commentaries of other artists from other periods more helpful than contemporary art criticism. Her historical discourse is with Cezanne. She also prizes in-form-ation from contemporary and classical physics on the properties of light and quantum mechanics. Baragona finds that “... light is information. It is formed from within, and in dissemination, carries that form without. Through a prism, it divides into a spectrum. The spectrum disseminates into color, and color into time--all around us in wonder... each spring, summer, fall and winter.”

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