If you’ve been on the Internets™ a while, you might’ve heard of a nifty little series of videos called Everything Is A Remix, where Kirby Ferguson takes a look at how a lot of music and movies borrow heavily from each other, sometimes to the point where copyright and trademark infringement becomes a matter of debate.
There are some pretty notable examples, such as Led Zeppelin’s music, which borrows almost verbatim in some cases from old blues songs, and the huge influence of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai on George Lucas’ Star Wars.
Of course, remixing is a huge part of the creative process. (Copy, transform, combine.) So much of what an artist creates in any medium is influenced not only by the world around him, but the work of other creators.
MonomythAgain with Star Wars — it follows very closely the idea of Monomyth, which is the concept of a basic story that takes on about a dozen variations. In Star Wars, you have a young hero who goes on a journey, meets a wizard who gives him a special gift or ability, he has the blessing of a beautiful princess, and he defeats the black-clad villain in the end. It’s classic storytelling.
So how does this work in visual art?Since I like to talk about visual art so much, let’s dive into some of the ways themes recur and are remixed from a two-dimensional perspective.
Madonna and Child
Two takes on mother (or Madonna) and child. One Renaissance, one modern.
This is one of the classic themes of all of Western art: some variation of mother and child, whether it is religious (depicting Mary and Jesus) or simply a mother and child. It’s probably one of the most emotionally charged themes. While Madonna and Child themes were common in the Renaissance, especially for Raphael, it was a huge part of Mary Cassatt’s work.
Ones’ physical surroundings are a constant source of inspiration for many artists, whether various scenes, or repeated looks at the same scene in different kinds of weather. Claude Monet painted Rouen Cathedral in all sorts of weather and lights, and the result is extraordinary.
Self-portraits by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Andy Warhol
Rembrandt probably popularized the self-portrait, but it’s been done forever: you are your own cheapest model.
Nudes/the female form
The Human Body in Art
There’s no denying the beauty of the human figure. It’s also easily distorted and sexualized, and can symbolize so many things. Shown here: Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, Man Ray’s Ingres’ Violin, and Jenny Saville’s Hyphen.
Velasquez’ version on the left, Picasso’s on the right.
In recent years, I’ve seen quite a few attempts by photographers to recreate the iconic works of the Dutch Masters. It’s relatively easy nowadays to mimic Vermeer’s sumptuous lighting. Why not go all the way and recreate Vermeer’s paintings altogether? Or turn the Dutch Masters on their heads and swap class, race and gender within a form we are already familiar with?
The most recent thing I’ve seen is Photoshopping modern hipster-style clothes onto classical sculptures. It’s a little silly, but at least it exposes the great sculptures in the Louvre to people who might not otherwise know this art even exists. What’s funny is those wooly beards and curled mustaches are right at home in today’s hipster culture.