Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chandelier Mistaken for God

This installation by James Croak is entitled "Chandelier Mistaken for God."

An article posted in NY Press says, "The boy is startled, empowered, and utterly absorbed by the light from the interlacing flock of bulbs and crystals, as if he is experiencing the same exhilarating, inexplicable excitement of someone encountering an angel’s halo, a golden religious icon, or the glory of Aurora Borealis."

OK. That's a possible interpretation. On the other hand, I've experienced being mesmerized by any number of lighting situations, natural and artificial, without confusing my experience with divine intervention. I may even have gone further on occasion and crossed over into the numinous and sublime. So, I can relate, I guess.

This piece could be a thoughtful social commentary, a meditation on transcendence, a revelation of naïveté -- or perhaps "It is a spontaneous, subliminal and physical experience of absolute truth that cannot be controlled or explained," as the article goes on to say.

The title of a work of art is important, of course. I often give my own work titles that direct the viewer's attention in unexpected ways, as Croak seems to be doing. One of the most famous instances of this is Magritte's "The Treachery of Images." The French phrase in the painting, of course, reads "This is not a pipe." The title, along with the phrase, transforms the painting from representational into conceptual - and in fact, in this case, the concept is the very idea of representation.

But one must be cautious about this. The danger is that the clever title turns what could be a subtle, ambiguous and thoughtful piece into a one-liner or visual pun.

I haven't decided whether I think Croak's piece steps beyond it's title or not. What do you think?

The NYPress article says Croak's work is installed at the Stux Gallery in New York. I found additional examples of his work, many of which I like better than this one, at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery.

The image of "Chandelier Mistaken for God" is from the Stux Gallery website.


  1. Assuming the title is the creation of the artist, not their publicist, the artist has the same creative choices they had in making the art work. Maybe their title was an intuitive idea or a rationally deducted one. Or maybe they titled it to impress the market. Regardless, I think we can decide if we like the title or not just as we do with the art work. Prejudices about what is stylistic acceptable or on trend or caters to a reactionary construct have no place in the freedom of art making.

    It is too bad so much of the visual art world has gotten in the habit of staking out positions on what is "acceptable" or not. I would posit that this stifles creativity and narrows its scope. With that in mind I believe we should accept the title being discussed without judgment and decide if we like it or not depending on the usual bottom line, -- does it contribute understanding and growth to us as the viewer?

    1. OK. So, do you think the title of this piece contributes or not?