I’m William Collen, and I like to think about art and aesthetics — specifically, the ways in which artists get their point across through the choices they make in their art. Thus my writing usually takes the form of analysis of specific artworks, or things artists have said about their work. I don’t try to thoroughly ground my interpretation of an artwork within a cultural moment or within an artist’s career arc, although I will do both those things from time to time. Since I’m a Christian, I will also bring matters of faith to the fore occasionally; one of my major preoccupations is how Christians, specifically, can approach the art world — a place which can often seem foreign and unfriendly to Christian sensibilities, but which doesn’t turn out to be as hostile as some Christians think. My aesthetic tastes run towards the decorative and the clever as opposed to the profound and the propositional — to the beautiful more than to the good or the true. Of course, everything I say about my own views and ideas can probably be contradicted by a passage form my own writing. “I am large; I contain multitudes.” I prefer the local to the global, and the present to the past; but my guiding principle is “here are the remains of the works of past ages; what can we learn from them in our current cultural moment?” My point of view is essentially that of the writer of the Saxon poem “Ruins” (from which this blog takes its name).

Well! You probably want a tour around the place. Here is a list of what I think are my best writing:

AESTHETIC / ETHICAL CRITICISM

On the tendency to use aspirational imagery to shape our view of reality

On the Male Gaze as a problem of Christian ethics

On what to do with damaged artworks

On the enduring significance of cathedrals, and some thoughts on their potential future insignificance

On humility in art criticism

On aesthetic subcultures (such as punk, goth, and cottagecore)

Against Kate Wagner

MUSIC

On what will probably always be Arcade Fire’s best album

On vaporwave

On mashups

On Pogo’s Alice

AI ART AND OTHER COMPUTER STUFF

The results of, and subsequent philosophical musings on, an attempt to get the AI image engines to create a picture of Sailor Moon making a salad

The first of a two-part series on the artistry inherent in Conway’s Game of Life

On a certain Pharisee’s philosophy and how it relates to AI-generated art

On the strange affair of the war between the furry community and the NFT boosters

FILM REVIEWS

Whiplash

The Batman

Dune (The Villeneuve version)

Silence

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS

On Craig Thompson’s Blankets, interpreted as a cautionary tale

On some of the aesthetic theory espoused by Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

On the strengths and weaknesses of graphic novels

Speaking of which . . . Rusty Brown

On the artistic / critical “Culture Care” philosophy of Makato Fujimura

More about art criticism as Culture Care

On Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word

On James Elkins’ thoughts about how images communicate meaning

On how the contemporary art world and the institutional church could interact beneficially

PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURES

On the animal paintings of Josh Tiessen

On a sculpture of a vacuum by Jeff Koons

On the local college’s student art show

On two heavily symbolic paintings

On how we should approach art which communicates pain and sadness

On an exhibition at Omaha’s contemporary art center

And if that’s not enough for you, you can always do a deep-dive into the archive. Do you want to communicate directly with me? You can do so via this link.

I’m the one in the chair, yawning. This is an old photo but it’s still really funny.

Subscribe to RUINS

Art theory and criticism from a Christian aesthetician

People

William Collen

I'm a Christian from Omaha, I'm curious about the human experience, and I care deeply about the arts. Email w_collen@hotmail.com Discord @williamcollen