The Scandal of Ronit Baranga’s “All Things Sweet and Painful”

15 April, 2022
[L] Crea­ture #2, clay, glaze, decals and acrylic paint, 24 x 16 x 15 cm, with Crea­ture #1, clay, glaze, decals and acrylic paint, 28 x 18 x 13 cm, Ronit Baranga (2020). [R] Crea­ture #2,  24 x 16 x 15 cm, Crea­ture #4, 35 x 22 x 15 cm, Crea­ture #3,  36 x 25 x 16 cm  & “Cup­cake #2” — clay, acrylic paint, mold­ing paste, 7 x 8 x 8 cm: Ronit Baranga, 2020 (cour­tesy Beinart Gallery).

 

David Capps

 
Stoicism and Perceptual Image

In a col­lec­tion of work fea­tured at the Beinart Gallery in Brunswick, Aus­tralia, enti­tled “All Things Sweet and Painful,” artist Ronit Baranga offers an unset­tling alter­na­tive to the “still life” with her white clay sculp­tures. These small ceram­ic pieces fea­ture dai­ly uten­sils, plates, bowls, teacups, cup­cakes, pies, yet over­grown with mouths, anthro­po­mor­phized with fin­gers grasp­ing from what would oth­er­wise be an ordi­nary con­tour of the object. As the the­mat­ic is described on the web­site: “On a deep­er psy­cho­log­i­cal lev­el, Baranga address­es the com­plex rela­tion­ship we have with lux­u­ries, espe­cial­ly with foods: the mix of need and the insa­tiable hunger for more — more sug­ar, more atten­tion, more love. There is a con­stant push against the bound­aries of ratio­nal con­sump­tion, crav­ing the sug­ar rush, for­ev­er tempt­ed to go overboard.”

It can seem upset­ting even, in the way that good art some­times caus­es a scan­dal; yet the art in ques­tion can reflect an under­ly­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal real­ism — as the artist remarks in the film series Israeli Cre­ators by Shachaf Dekel, “…You always have an under­cur­rent of vio­lence and pain and joy and tranquility.…It’s nev­er all beau­ti­ful or all bad.” Espe­cial­ly in con­nec­tion to one major aes­thet­ic of ceram­ics, its ele­gant sim­plic­i­ty — even to the point of skirt­ing the line between art and craft by becom­ing “mere­ly func­tion­al” — work like this threat­ens instead to expose the hid­den hor­rors of the “inan­i­mate” object, to sug­gest that even in the most func­tion­al there is an ele­ment of the wild, or the insane, star­ing back at us, grop­ing its way up the neat table cloth by the tea set to reveal that even in our most stead­fast dai­ly rit­u­als, there is the pos­si­bil­i­ty of dis­rup­tion and despair.

View­ing the col­lec­tion as a whole, one is struck first by the tac­tile spell asso­ci­at­ed with each piece — there are fin­gers clutch­ing, pinc­ing, strut­ting, and in some cas­es sup­port­ing, serv­ing as “legs” of a kind of hybrid crea­ture under the strain of its own weight. Each piece in the col­lec­tion seems com­plete­ly idio­syn­crat­ic, to have its own way of being, as opposed to hav­ing been divid­ed from its own species or else sprung togeth­er, jux­ta­pos­ing dis­parate parts in such a way that does not under­write an organ­i­cal­ly emerg­ing being (e.g. com­pare an image of Pega­sus as a horse plus wings).

In this way the pieces are rem­i­nis­cent of the sur­re­al­ist artist Yves Tan­guy, whose own com­po­si­tion­al reper­toire includ­ed fig­ures pos­sessed of an indi­vid­u­al­i­ty; yet while in Tanguy’s case, one is unable to spec­i­fy even a vague idea of what his indi­vid­u­als con­sist of, Baranga does pro­vide fea­tures which read­i­ly con­nect the human realm (mouths, fin­gers, lips, etc.) to the realm of arti­fact (tea set, cup, plate) — even to the extent that, when view­ing the col­lec­tion as a whole one sens­es in the fig­u­ra­tion of the pieces a macabre reca­pit­u­la­tion of a deca­dent soirée. 

As the quotes above sug­gest, I think we find these works some­what unset­tling in part because they reflect back to us in an imme­di­ate way cer­tain ideas we’d rather shelf: ideas of appetite, temp­ta­tion, sati­a­tion, dis­trac­tion, ennui, the fad­ing rep­e­ti­tions of delight, even regret. It is char­ac­ter­is­tic of humans to do this, to push away these ideas and the neg­a­tive emo­tions asso­ci­at­ed with them, focus­ing only on the objects at hand — the cup­cake, the fork, sip­ping Earl Grey from the fine porce­lain lip, unaware of our own lip that sips.

One dif­fi­cul­ty about expe­ri­ences, how­ev­er, whether or not they are apt to per­vert rea­son, is that they tend to not have clear­ly demar­cat­ed durations.

What seems “ugly” is often in this way opposed to what lacks sump­tu­ous qual­i­ty, that hard to pin down veneer or “aura” of the art­work that Wal­ter Ben­jamin wrote so glow­ing­ly about. Yet such a push­ing away is as beau­ti­ful as it is inac­cu­rate. To devel­op why this is, and bet­ter appre­ci­ate the aes­thet­ic of the present col­lec­tion that rejects such repul­sion, I pro­pose we reflect on a few delec­table tid­bits of wis­dom from the Sto­ic tra­di­tion. We turn first to a key pas­sage in Mar­cus Aure­lius’ Med­i­ta­tions (from Mar­cus Aure­lius, Med­i­ta­tions, VI.13, trans. G.M.A. Grube (Hack­ett: 1983), p. 50.)” 

How use­ful, when roast­ed meats and oth­er foods are before you, to see them in your mind as here the dead body of a fish, there the dead body of a bird or pig. Or again, to think of Falern­ian wine as the juice of a clus­ter of grapes, of a pur­ple robe as sheep’s wool dyed with the blood of a shell­fish, and of sex­u­al inter­course as inter­nal rub­bing accom­pa­nied by a spas­mod­ic ejec­tion of mucus. What use­ful per­cep­tu­al images there are! They go to the heart of things and pierce right through them, so that you can see things for what they are. You must do this through­out life; when things appear too entic­ing, strip them naked, destroy the myth which makes them proud. For van­i­ty is a dan­ger­ous per­vert­er of Rea­son, and it is when you think you pre­oc­cu­pa­tions most worth­while that you are most enthralled. Look at what Crates said even of Xenocrates.

The sug­ges­tion, accord­ing to this pas­sage any­way, seems to be that for each “image” (read: expe­ri­ence) which, through its sen­so­ry qual­i­ty, tempts one away from “rea­son,” there is an asso­ci­at­ed “per­cep­tu­al image” which rep­re­sents the ini­tial image as it is in itself, at the time it is expe­ri­enced. Thus, at the time Aure­lius is about to indulge in feast­ing upon the hon­eyed suck­ling pig, while his embat­tled troops are served some less­er fare, there is for this expe­ri­ence the asso­ci­at­ed per­cep­tu­al image of a dead pig (or less gran­u­lar­ly, a dead ani­mal) which serves as an impor­tant reminder to not become over­ly intox­i­cat­ed by the expe­ri­ence at hand.

What would be wrong with that? The triv­ial answer is that allow­ing the sens­es to take over when immersed in any giv­en expe­ri­ence would be too Epi­cure­an, too reflec­tive of a life that holds plea­sure, and not virtue — which need not always be accom­pa­nied by plea­sure — as the fun­da­men­tal good. To do so wouldn’t be in the spir­it of Sto­icism. The less triv­ial answer, and one rea­son for the philo­soph­i­cal rift between Epi­cure­anism and Sto­icism, is the recog­ni­tion that a life tied to plea­sure — even if under­stood mere­ly as a sort of tran­quil absence of pain — as the high­est good, is a life tied to the sort of state of mind which is held hostage to the con­tin­gen­cies of the world, and that is some­thing one has no direct con­trol over.

piece of cake - ronit-baranga-Clay, glaze, acrylic pain and, molding paste - 2020 - 11 x 20 x 20 cm
“Piece of Cake,” clay, glaze, acrylic paint and, mold­ing paste, 11 x 20 x 20 cm, Ronit Baranga 2020 (pho­to cour­tesy Beinat Gallery).

I want to high­light a cou­ple oth­er ideas sur­round­ing the per­cep­tu­al image, how­ev­er. First is that while in this pas­sage each per­cep­tu­al image is indexed to a time which coin­cides with the occur­rence of the expe­ri­ence, this need not be the case, and arguably isn’t. Here are two sens­es in which the dead pig real­ly is Aure­lius’ sump­tu­ous din­ner on the bat­tle­field: the same bio­log­i­cal descrip­tion serves part­ly to char­ac­ter­ize both, and a causal sense that if there were no dead pig there would be no sump­tu­ous din­ner. One dif­fi­cul­ty about expe­ri­ences, how­ev­er, whether or not they are apt to per­vert rea­son, is that they tend to not have clear­ly demar­cat­ed durations.

One could say that almost any giv­en expe­ri­ence is blur­ry about the edges. If, for exam­ple, I am play­ing a game of chess, and sup­pose I’m in the devel­op­ment stage of the game, I might be most focused on giv­ing piece activ­i­ty to my “bad bish­op”; of course this expe­ri­ence of desir­ing to, say, lib­er­ate my bish­op from a block­ing pawn is part of the expe­ri­ence of the devel­op­ment stage of the game; but as any chess play­er real­izes, there is no def­i­nite point at which this needs to occur. Indeed, cer­tain chess games appear to seam­less­ly tran­si­tion from the open­ing stage to the end game, so that one would be hard pressed to con­strue the con­di­tion for this par­tic­u­lar expe­ri­ence end­ing by asso­ci­at­ing the com­ple­tion of devel­op­ment with the entry into the mid­dle game. Now, analo­gies are apt to mis­lead, which is why at this point I’d encour­age the read­er to reflect on oth­er expe­ri­ences — watch­ing a sun­set, attend­ing a con­cert, writ­ing a poem, etc. and for the edi­tors out there, read­ing the present essay.

If many expe­ri­ences which tempt us away from our goals (be it a state of calm reflect­ed in the judi­cious oper­a­tions of Rea­son, or whatever—we need not adopt Aure­lius’ own goals to make the point), and we rec­og­nize that these expe­ri­ence need not have a def­i­nite begin­ning or end, then we can drop the way that Aure­lius index­es the asso­ci­at­ed per­cep­tu­al images to the time of the expe­ri­ence. When, for exam­ple, I see the lush oak tree drop­ping acorns on the path I jog and wish to savor the moment, the reserve I can expe­ri­ence which rec­og­nizes the fragili­ty of life might be bet­ter expressed by reflect­ing on how the great oak tree once was itself an acorn, as opposed to reflect­ing on the bark and seed lying at my feet.

In oth­er words, we might iden­ti­fy a cer­tain savory expe­ri­ence as hav­ing two causal poles described in terms of the causal ori­gin and future, respec­tive­ly, of the expe­ri­enced object. (How far into the future or past can we focus—well, one wants to say “not too far” oth­er­wise the objects of expe­ri­ence all turn out to be the same — end­ing in a state of flat entropy). Not that this means exclud­ing Aure­lius’ own tact of per­cep­tu­al images; the two ideas are complementary.

Con­sid­er the famous Zen sto­ry about two monks who were once walk­ing on their way to the tem­ple. Upon see­ing a woman stum­bling in the rain (there was a heavy storm) one monk decid­ed to pick her up and car­ry her across a stream. After they reached the tem­ple, the oth­er monk turned to him and rep­ri­mand­ed: ‘How could you have car­ried her across the stream — is not one of our vows to not be tempt­ed by the flesh?’ To which the oth­er monk replied: “I left her back at the path. It seems you are the one who is still car­ry­ing her.” The point of the sto­ry in this con­text is not just that mem­o­ry itself can be the sort of inter­nal expe­ri­ence which is sub­ject to attach­ment (the Bud­dhist ana­logue to the Sto­ic “per­vert­er of Rea­son”), it is that the sev­er­ance of attach­ment can be a process.

This brings me to a sec­ond point to high­light about Aure­lius. As the editor’s foot­note to Bk. VII.2 “Look upon things as you used to look upon them, for to do so is to live anew” puts nice­ly, there is an empha­sis on the con­tin­u­al reflec­tion of what Aure­lius per­cep­tu­al­ly imagines:

Images in the mind, [phan­ta­sia], are of many kinds, good or bad, and they moti­vate actions. They are good if they are under the con­trol of the direct­ing mind, in accor­dance with the right prin­ci­ples, and        lead to the right kind of actions; they are bad when they reflect pas­sions and unnec­es­sary desires, and thus lead to the sat­is­fac­tion of those pas­sions and desires. Mar­cus means that the con­tin­u­al appli­ca­tion of right prin­ci­ples to action, by way of the right men­tal images, keeps those prin­ci­ples and doc­trines alive.

Of course, what makes a giv­en men­tal image “the right” men­tal image to achieve Aure­lius’ pur­pose is addressed in pas­sages such as the one I began with, where the right men­tal image is a per­cep­tu­al image that pro­vides the essence or mat­ter of the expe­ri­ence. Addi­tion­al­ly, in Bk.III 2, Aure­lius under­scores his point by empha­siz­ing that we often suf­fer from a sort of myopia when we focus on the inci­den­tal fea­tures of expe­ri­ences with­out see­ing them in con­nec­tion to Nature as a whole:

For exam­ple, when a loaf of bread is being baked, some parts break open, and these cracks, which are not intend­ed by the baker’s craft, some­how stand out and arouse in us a spe­cial eager­ness to eat; figs, too, burst open when they are very ripe, and the very close­ness of decay adds a spe­cial beau­ty to olives that have ripened on the tree. The same is true of ears of wheat as they bend to the ground, of wrin­kles of a lion’s brow, of the foam flow­ing from a boar’s mouth, and of many oth­er things. Looked at in them­selves they are far from attrac­tive, but because they accom­pa­ny nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na they fur­ther adorn them and attract us. As a result, the man of feel­ing and deep­er under­stand­ing of the phe­nom­e­na in Nature as a whole will find almost all these inci­den­tals pleas­ant­ly con­trived…. (Ibid p. 18)

Now these fea­tures of the objects of expe­ri­ence Aure­lius is call­ing inci­den­tal seem to me the very stuff of life; and per­haps dif­fer­ent indi­vid­u­als will par­cel out which fea­tures are “inci­den­tal” and which are “essen­tial” dif­fer­ent­ly. But let it not obscure the main point here, which is that in addi­tion to sev­er­ing attach­ment and mit­i­gat­ing our own men­tal tur­bu­lence by focus­ing on the mat­ter and far causal poles of our expe­ri­ences, we can also facil­i­tate these goals by con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing our expe­ri­ences and their objects as parts of var­i­ous sys­tems — bio­log­i­cal, anthro­po­log­i­cal, mytho­log­i­cal, soci­o­log­i­cal, and per­haps in terms of the widest sys­tem, Nature — as Aure­lius states at the end of the pas­sage: ‘Many such things will not appeal to every­one, but only to the man who has come to be gen­uine­ly at home wit Nature and her works’.  (Ibid p. 19)

 

Ronit Baranga is a con­tem­po­rary Israeli artist who lives and works in Israel. As a sculp­tor and instal­la­tion artist, she cre­ates fig­u­ra­tive art on the bor­der between liv­ing and still life, deal­ing with emo­tion­al states and rela­tion­ships. Her work has been dis­played in muse­ums and gal­leries around the world and is a part of many muse­um and pri­vate col­lec­tions. Key exhi­bi­tions include Banksy’s group exhi­bi­tion “Dis­ma­land” and numer­ous solo and group exhi­bi­tions in New York, Istan­bul, Tai­wan, Chi­na, Ger­many, Tel-Aviv and Aus­tralia. Baranga holds a B.A. in Psy­chol­o­gy and Lit­er­a­ture from Haifa Uni­ver­si­ty, stud­ied Art His­to­ry in Tel-Aviv Uni­ver­si­ty, and Fine Arts in Beit Berl Col­lege (‘HaMidrasha’), Israel.

 

Now that I have explored a few facets about per­cep­tu­al images in Aure­lius, let’s return to the Baranga exhib­it, “All Things Sweet and Painful” and its hard-to-pin-down aes­thet­ic. We can begin by mak­ing an obser­va­tion about the col­lec­tion as a whole before relat­ing spe­cif­ic pieces to the con­cepts of per­cep­tu­al image and expe­ri­en­tial poles.

 In the first place one could say that the col­lec­tion as a whole is an artis­tic decon­struc­tion of the teatime expe­ri­ence, where the “mat­ter” that makes it up are the indi­vid­ual pieces in the col­lec­tion, each one high­light­ing a cer­tain aspect of the expe­ri­ence. Now when we gath­er the pre-reflec­tive data for that expe­ri­ence there are def­i­nite­ly asso­ci­a­tions we make: that it’s habit­u­al (as in the British cer­e­mo­ny), socia­ble and pleas­ant, deca­dent at times, per­haps inessen­tial when com­pared to the main­stays of the diet.

 It isn’t expect­ed that in an art­work there will be an exact map­ping between the fea­tures of the expe­ri­ence and the ele­ments of the col­lec­tion, but there is an inter­play between them, and this inter­play may be under­stood in terms of the Sto­ic prac­tice of reflec­tion upon the per­cep­tu­al image.

cupcake#6Cupcake #6, clay, acrylic paint, molding paste, 7 x 8 x 8 cm, Ronit Baranga 2020 (photo courtesy Beinart Gallery)
“Cup­cake #6,” clay, acrylic paint, mold­ing paste, 7 x 8 x 8 cm, Ronit Baranga 2020 (pho­to cour­tesy Beinart Gallery)

We not­ed before that Aure­lius views the per­cep­tu­al image as one which helps one ward against the per­ver­sion of rea­son by either focus­ing on the mat­ter, or essence, of the expe­ri­ence, or its part­hood rela­tion to a wider sys­tem, or, as I sug­gest­ed, its place­ment along the causal poles of the expe­ri­ence. Also recall that in this con­text we can drop from the pic­ture the over­all Sto­ic aim of allow­ing rea­son to exist unfet­tered by the pas­sions and so more con­ducive to a vir­tu­ous life (and shouldn’t we drop this, if art is allowed to be irra­tional?), with­out los­ing what is impor­tant to the process of reflec­tion on per­cep­tu­al images. The more mod­est goal here, I might ven­ture forth, is to reflect on our own habits, the ways we give in to con­sumerist ideals, and the way attach­ments to our own sati­a­tion might mask a deep­er psy­cho­log­i­cal turmoil.

I’ll now focus on a few works that stood out to me as the­mat­ic of Aure­lius’ per­cep­tu­al images. One is called ‘Cup­cake #6’; this clay sculp­ture depicts a cup­cake with swirls of white frost­ing which appear quite deli­cious­ly ren­dered, but instead of taper­ing to a nice, neat cup­cake top, a par­tial­ly opened mouth appears, rift­ing it with pro­trud­ing lips and a vis­i­ble tongue between teeth which do not seem delib­er­ate­ly bared so much as acces­sories to tak­ing a bite.

The longer one focus­es on the image, the more it seems to dis­con­nect from the gus­ta­to­ry expe­ri­ence one asso­ciates with eat­ing a cup­cake; one begins to won­der whether the mouth is tear­ing its own face in two, or whether the resem­blance between lips and lady bits isn’t in some way the real mean­ing of the rigid, for­mal tea cer­e­mo­ny, the four pm “high tea” Teapig-squanched bis­cuit notwithstanding.

If one pole of the expe­ri­ence of indulging in the cup­cake is visu­al — we look at the cup­cake, we begin to sali­vate per­haps, we see our­selves grasp­ing the choic­est one even before the moment arrives — the oth­er pole is tac­tile and gus­ta­to­ry — we unwrap the cup­cake from paper, we might lick the frost­ing if we are alone, if we are not, we dain­ti­ly take the first bite. Yet where does it all lead? Will we ever be satisfied?

Aure­lius him­self might encour­age us to reflect on the “mat­ter”: frost­ing, sug­ar, paper. Yet the artist treats the per­cep­tu­al image by bring­ing the two causal poles — tac­tile and visu­al — of the expe­ri­ence togeth­er into one sin­gle object. If we want­ed to talk about its mat­ter, we could: a mouth com­posed of lip, and teeth and tongue. The mat­ter of a lip qua lip is noth­ing but itself, it remains the same lip whether made of flesh and blood or clay. Yet its mat­ter is also inte­grat­ed into the mat­ter of the cup­cake, which we can under­stand in terms of the same under­ly­ing stuff.

“Pie #4,” clay, acrylic paint, epoxy resin, 18 x 18 x 3 cm, Ronit Baranga, 2020 (pho­to cour­tesy Beinart Gallery).

Reflec­tion on the per­cep­tu­al image, in turn, may lead the view­er to dis­so­ci­ate from his or her own expe­ri­ences of sati­a­tion, since by bring­ing togeth­er these two poles of expe­ri­ence into one main knot, the artist dis­rupts the expe­ri­ence from hav­ing its nor­mal effect — that momen­tary feel­ing you get after tast­ing and swal­low­ing the first bite of the cupcake.

What applies to the expe­ri­ence we actu­al­ly have applies as well to the antic­i­pa­tions of expe­ri­ences, espe­cial­ly where obses­sion can be involved, in that there can be just as much attach­ment to the expec­ta­tion of a plea­sure as to its occur­rence. In a con­sumerist cul­ture sat­u­rat­ed with Pho­to­shopped images of cup­cakes, steaks and var­i­ous del­i­ca­cies, I think we would do well to remem­ber Baranga’s works as a way to untie our­selves from our own poor­ly reg­u­lat­ed expec­ta­tions, even if the unty­ing isn’t derived (nor should we expect it to be) from a par­tic­u­lar eth­i­cal sys­tem so much as a sub­jec­tive, con­fronta­tion­al reflec­tion on the per­cep­tu­al image.

That we should not for­get that these expe­ri­ences with sati­a­tion and excess are a col­lec­tive phe­nom­e­non is brought out by ‘Pie #4’ which fea­tures what would oth­er­wise look like a cher­ry pie, were it not for the many mouths — some mid bite, mid chew, oth­ers mid swal­low, which brim along the sur­face of the pie. Again, the tech­nique of bring­ing the visu­al and tac­tile causal poles of expe­ri­ence togeth­er is illus­trat­ed here, but there is a col­lec­tive ele­ment as well — the many peo­ple shar­ing a pie become the many mouths each enmired in their own pri­vate vice, as the mouths are blind to each oth­er and teem across the sur­face of the pie.

For me this sculp­ture is rem­i­nis­cent of the mum­bling mouths in Dante’s Infer­no which mock and peti­tion him as he walks across, in that they each have the same sort of dis­con­nect­ed­ness from the indi­vid­ual. This is only one inter­pre­ta­tion, how­ev­er, as the work might also be read in terms of a sin­gle individual’s con­sump­tion of the pie, so that the mouths are meld­ed togeth­er to reveal all at once the dis­crete feed­ing stages, per­haps ratio­nal­iza­tions, of per­son­al excess.

“Hybrid Tea Set #15,” clay, glaze, acrylic paint, 16x12x9cm, Ronit Baranga, 2020 (pho­to cour­tesy Beinart Gallery).

Final­ly there are the ‘Hybrid Tea Set’ pieces, of which the one that stands out most to me is #15. Here the piece con­sists of three tea cups, stacked atop one anoth­er, as if they have been hasti­ly col­lect­ed after the tea par­ty has con­clud­ed, yet fin­gers pro­trude from the base of the bot­tom tea cup as if they were legs of a beast of bur­den, a horse or mule, judg­ing from their gen­er­al comportment.

Here again the sculp­ture can be read as a per­cep­tu­al image which merges togeth­er the rel­e­vant poles of the tea cer­e­mo­ny — the fin­gers in their whet­ted expec­ta­tion while the tea is still too hot to drink, on the one end, and on the oth­er, the clean up, where hands and fin­gers must aban­don their fet­ed pinky thrust, and become util­i­tar­i­an again. Not to men­tion the dis­junc­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ty and aban­don, of ser­vice and being served.

front view Ronit Baranga, Hybrid Tea Set #15—clay, glaze, acrylic paint
front view Ronit Baranga, Hybrid Tea Set #15—clay, glaze, acrylic paint

The expe­ri­ence itself, of hav­ing the tea, in these works, has been cut out like an unnec­es­sary mid­dle­man, revealed for what he is, and in this way we are shown how some of the “inci­den­tal” fea­tures of the expe­ri­ence, such as the clean up (and if you are famil­iar with the ser­vice indus­try in Amer­i­ca you will real­ize just how much goes on behind the scenes), are parts of a wider whole, which allows us to bet­ter appre­ci­ate what it is we deem valu­able with­in the expe­ri­ence, as it enhances our under­stand­ing of how the expe­ri­ence actu­al­ly unfolds — we there­by avoid the sort of myopia Aure­lius wards against in his frothy boar-mouth passage.

I have only focused on a few pieces, and chose these ones because they seem to me most direct in how they relate to the themes of Sto­icism and per­cep­tu­al images. It must be remem­bered, how­ev­er, that the philo­soph­i­cal dis­pute between Sto­icism and Epi­cure­anism lives on, and can­not be pushed aside or mys­te­ri­ous­ly dis­solved upon entry into the realm of aes­thet­ics. Epi­cure­anism, not in the sense of volup­tuous aban­don­ment to the sens­es, but in the sense of sim­plic­i­ty dis­tilled through the guise of refine­ment, per­sists as a prob­lem­at­ic of the present col­lec­tion, despite my focus on per­cep­tu­al image. As with any art col­lec­tion, Baranga’s sculp­tures are best con­sid­ered in view of the whole, and I would encour­age read­ers to con­tem­plate the remain­ing pieces in the col­lec­tion in light of Sto­ic phi­los­o­phy as well as their own lives.