a Transmission and a Crucifix
By Joel Haas
In the early evening, I went out into the studio to make a coat rack
and wound up making a magnificent crucifix instead.
Per an ad in “Sculpture” magazine, I had gone to a website of
Bruvel, an artist of whom I have never heard. It is important to
me that I analyze why I did not like his work. He is technically
flawless; he’s personally appealing; he has wonderful
marketing/website and he obviously works very hard. He has a $2
million commission to paint the ceiling, walls etc. of zillionaire
Paul Frame in Houston, Texas.
On the surface, Bruvel ought to appeal to me as much as Varo, and, he
is much more accessible than Dali. That’s it. Bruvel is a surrealist
for those who insist on clear and pleasant dreams. Nothing wrong with
that. But, there is no there
there. It’s all pretty pictures and no edge or bite. Good work does
not have to have a negative bite or edge – that’s just what art critics
generally notice quicker. No, it’s not that he lacks a negative
it’s that he lacks a positive, too. It’s all surface with a
mystery underneath that is simply not very compelling. He is a sort of Maxfield Parish meets Star Wars designer and they go off to design
Cirque du Soleil posters.
Maybe this is the crux. There is no backstage in a
or even one of
Albert Handson Thayer’s (1849-1921, American) angels or
Heinrich Kley’s pen and inks. (Kley, 1863-1945, German) In
Bruvel’s work, though, you never quite shake the sense these are
really models or performers staging something for you and that if you
went backstage you might catch the actors wiping off make up or having
a quick smoke.
Mr. Bruvel is blessed with immense technical facility, good fortune,
and, I dare say, a tremendously likable and well balanced personality.
He is cursed with no quirks to work off of. There is no genuine grief
or belly laugh humor in his work
only a pleasant earnestness about
being “serious.” So. He falls back on a mannerist, stilted
a sort of Fragonard meets Dali to do a Cirque poster style.
There is certainly no “sweep of humanity” depth as with Bosch or
Brueghel the Elder (Bruvel is trying to do a 7 Deadly Sins series).
There are no ugly or real people in his paintings
posturing models of perfection.
He does not even seem to be as self absorbed or self referential as
Varo (talk about a woman with some personal quirks!)
Come to think about it, Heinrich Kley is a far, far better artist
technical skill, same surface surrealism, but Kley demonstrates the
full range of human emotion in his drawings
– from outrage to puckish
humor to belly laughs to gentle sentimentality.
All of this was going through my head while I worked on the coat rack
that transmogrified itself into a crucifix. It was as if God were
talking to me and saying “You can have all that, too. I can arrange
it, no problem. Is that what you want?”
“Well,” I thought, “It would be nice to have a $2 million
commission, … but not at the expense of making sterile art.”
I looked at the piece on my workbench. Horizontal, it would be a good
coat rack. My wife would be off my back about making it. I could
probably even sell it quickly for enough to work on the truck’s
transmission. (Then I would have to make another one.) Vertical, it is
a powerful Christian symbol and not likely to sell very soon or at
all. As a coat rack it is elegant; as a vertical abstract, it has
I chose the crucifix.
Joel Haas, Sculptor
crucifix I made
approx 30 inches high.