Dan Nelson. Pascal’s Blood
You may remember Dan from around the Oakland art and music scene. The man is an institution, at least in my mind. If you want to learn more about him type his name into the search bar at right and see the glorious history. In any case, Dan moved away last year with his wife Lexa Walsh, to Portland, City of Dreams. This show marks a remarkable homecoming for him and his particular flavor of fun, wild, beautiful and wonderous art. I shot the pics below on a recent sojourn through Portland where I stopped and stormed into his basement studio. -obi
Dan Nelson’s recent works illustrate 40 of the fragments of Blaise Pascal. In his words: “They are all done with red, grey, and black paper, and will afford you ample opportunity to contemplate death, infinity, passion, God, Jesus, knowledge, caprice, and futility whilst masticating cheese and partaking of the grape. I’ve been working on these images and thinking about Pascal for almost 4 years, and think this is my best artwork yet. I hope to see you there.”
The Reception is this Saturday evening at The Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery. 1165 65th Street. Oakland. California
Pascal’s most influential theological work, referred to posthumously as the Pensées (“Thoughts”), was not completed before his death. It was to have been a sustained and coherent examination and defense of the Christian faith, with the original title Apologie de la religion Chrétienne (“Defense of the Christian Religion”). What was found upon sifting through his personal items after his death were numerous scraps of paper with isolated thoughts, grouped in a tentative, but telling, order. The first version of the detached notes appeared in print as a book in 1670 titled Pensées de M. Pascal sur la religion, et sur quelques autres sujets (“Thoughts of M. Pascal on religion, and on some other subjects”) and soon thereafter became a classic. One of the Apologie’s main strategies was to use the contradictory philosophies of skepticism and stoicism, personalized by Montaigne on one hand, and Epictetus on the other, in order to bring the unbeliever to such despair and confusion that he would embrace God. This strategy was deemed quite hazardous by Pierre Nicole, Antoine Arnauld and other friends and scholars of Port-Royal, who were concerned that these fragmentary “thoughts” might lead to skepticism rather than to piety. Henceforth, they concealed the skeptical pieces and modified some of the rest, lest King or Church should take offense for at that time the persecution of Port-Royal had ceased, and the editors were not interested in a renewal of controversy. Not until the nineteenth century were the Pensées published in their full and authentic text.
Pascal’s Pensées is widely considered to be a masterpiece, and a landmark in French prose. When commenting on one particular section (Thought #72), Sainte-Beuve praised it as the finest pages in the French language. Will Durant, in his 11-volume, comprehensive The Story of Civilization series, hailed it as “the most eloquent book in French prose.” In Pensées, Pascal surveys several philosophical paradoxes: infinity and nothing, faith and reason, soul and matter, death and life, meaning and vanity—seemingly arriving at no definitive conclusions besides humility, ignorance, and grace. Rolling these into one he develops Pascal’s Wager.
Learn more about Dan Nelson’s artwork at his art project website http://www.eyeoftheblackbird.net