Art that reminds you of this deity.
As a consummate Artist Himself, Indra seems present in every piece of art ever made. But art that exposes absurdity or uncovers hypocrisy, art that makes the viewer think or see the world in a new way, new forms of art, fusions, inventions, improvisations, and unconventionalities all remind me of Him. Below the cut, I’ve included just a few strong, clear examples.
Militaristic, stark, and stern on one side of the painting, flowing, grieving, and graceful on the other, The Oath of the Horatii displays brilliant composition and colouring, and sublimely shows off Jacques-Louis David’s austere artistry. It reminds me of Indra not only because of its subject, but because of its simple, strong effect. Much of David’s work is similar to Indra in this way: it may be enjoyed or despised, but not ignored – that is, it’s impossible to receive indifferently.
David was enormously respected and influential during his time; the other artist I associate with Indra was also very famous, and yet…not, simultaneously. He was a forger, named Han van Meegeren, who decided to take a unique and delicious revenge after his painting was criticised for unoriginality: he pretended to discover new works by the great Jan Vermeer, which he’d actually painted himself. The techniques, styles, subjects, and materials he chose were so carefully done that his fakes fooled pretty much the entire art world, and some of his works were, at the time, considered some of the most wonderful “Vermeers” ever found. Not only does this remind me of Indra because it’s incredibly amusing and exposes the absurdity of human value judgments – specifically, the world of art criticism – but it’s a favourite example because I don’t much care for Vermeer’s work anyway. (Yes, I appreciate the irony of offering an opinion on a story that makes popular opinion ridiculous.)
Even more than pictoral/two-dimensional works, however, it’s performance and three-dimensional art – that is, art displaying motion or expansion – which reminds me of Indra. Here’s a marvelous work:
The first time I saw this video, I thought Indra’d come Himself to dance at this festival, and I’d missed the performance. If I remember the interview correctly, the dancer Illan has stated much most of his dancing is improvisational, and here he invents a lovely and mesmerising style, combining balletic toe work with tribal fusion dance. Even aesthetically this evokes Indra, evidencing both grace and strength, using peacock (Indra!) feathers and donning the blues and greens of water.
Courage in art, too, is of Indra, as is the ability of courage to unmask people. There are certain projects, like the Third Wave and the Milgram experiment, that show an extremely disturbing side of human nature. This video briefly describes another such undertaking, the piece Rhythm 0 by performance artist Marina Abramović. (Warning: the images are NSFW, and the story is extremely disturbing.)
Turning now from people, and towards the structures they create, I give you these. It might seem strange that two Christian churches remind me of Lord Indra, but bear with me:
In La Sainte Chapelle, we see hovering chandeliers, walls blazing with light and colour, a ceiling that looks like sunbursts covered in stars, and the music accompanying this particular video doesn’t hurt, either. There is much contrast and even contradiction here; the bland, pale stone exterior hides a dazzling interior, and better yet, the chapel is designed after a reliquary, yet is jewel-like and lively and not at all redolent of death. The place is unique and, while not quite “off the beaten track,” is surprisingly unfamiliar or even unknown to folks I know who have traveled to France.
The perfect opponent to that little gem is here, in one of the most awful and grotesque places of worship ever built – for Indra, too, is terrible:
Frightening, freakish, fear-inducing, this church attracts controversy, and yet not without purpose; its essential message is quite well-explained from 5:00 to 5:35 in this video.
Light art deserves a mention here as well, containing all of the wonder of Indra and His rainbow. There are some truly beautiful works which move the viewer to think about light, space, and perspective, far beyond just flipping the daily switches.
And this is a beautiful example – “Sky’s the Limit,” by artist Michael Hayden. It links the B and C concourses of Chicago O’Hare Airport and consists of a moving walkway beneath flitting rainbow lights, soundtracked by the music of Gershwin. It’s one of the most wonderful public art installations ever made – and effective, too, as I’ve been known to schedule deliberate layovers in O’Hare just to visit this. You can also see/hear a video of it here.
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