Sunday, October 17, 2010

Assael's Superman

Steven Assael is a painter of fine portraits. He paints crowded buses, waiting rooms and singular portraits of the people he knows and sees.  His subjects pose in varying degrees of dress and undress. They range from  regular folks to trendy; heavily tattooed and pierced to those in ornate costumes. He is among the best of our times and a personal favorite. Assael recently chose to paint an ordinary man in a mock Superman costume; it is fabulous in it’s simplicity. He wanted to depict a Superman of non- extremes. His Superman as presented as a typical man becomes unique as a depiction of
Superman. It goes against all previous depictions of the character. The ordinary is certainly extraordinary in this case. It is also masterfully executed.
Why even think about Superman (as a comic book character) or the concept of a superman? Great minds like Friedrich Nietzsche have explored the ubermench (over man) as something greater than mere man. George Bernard Shaw’s play “Man and Superman” explores the subject of the eternal pursuit by man and woman to produce a superman. There is currently a movie “Waiting for Superman “that is another variation and inquiry into the idea of the quest and need for a superman in today’s society.
Humanity has the constant need to compare and to rate itself. We will always have “top ten Lists” and”the best of” compilations. We want to know who is the fastest, the most beautiful, the richest and the smartest. We once celebrated the biggest winners and now we even laud the biggest losers. This, if for  no other reason than we are  imperfect creatures and we do need to continually  improve , to want more and to be more in every possible way. We need standards to set as goals to reach. Something like an ultimate being such as the superman is inspired because it is unattainable. We are always striving for but we will never reach that summit of perfection.
Jerry Seinfeld is a huge comedic talent (a superman among comedians) and considered by many to have co-created the funniest sitcom of all time. He is also a huge fan of the Siegel and Shuster character we recognize as Superman. In 2002 Jerry‘s picture book “Halloween” was released. It is based on his childhood holiday experiences and at the center is his ultimate costume choice; the packaged official “Superman Costume”. The text and the illustrations are dead on. I read it every year and it never ceases to amaze and thrill; it is hilarious. “.  I won’t be revealing too much but I do agree with Seinfeld: In that Superman does live potentially within us all.
  The legend of the superman has lived through out all histories and cultures. There are both religious and secular versions. Our vision of Superman; “The Red/ Blue Blur” as he is called on the “Smallville” TV show, was born in the late 1930’s; the dream of two High School students. It was a dream that has fathered many other dreams. It was a dream worth dreaming in the 1930’s and it is still worth dreaming today.

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