I never really got it. I’m an educated man. If you were to put my intelligence in a “neighborhood,” I’d like to think it was middle to upper middle class. I’m not knocking on Mensa’s door but I’m not drooling and dragging my knuckles either. Good grades and all that.
So you’d think I’d be able to appreciate Art more than I do.
I was open-minded enough to give it a shot. I remember taking the courses in college. We’d look at sculptures, paintings, drawings, etc. and then dissect them ad nauseum.
“What do you think the artist is trying to say with this piece?”
“Why do you think they chose that color?”
“How many hairs do they have on the hand with which they paint?”
Ok, so the last one is an exaggeration but that’s what it felt like.
One particular sculpture stands out in memory. The piece was called “RAM” and it consisted of deer antlers (painted pink), surrounding a rubber mold of a vagina, and mounted high upon a wall. Somebody’s paying money for that? Depending on who made it and who is selling it…yes… a LOT of money.
So Art and I never really saw eye to eye.
Don’t misunderstand me. I appreciate the classics. I’ve been to the Louvre and stared Mona in the face (But I’m also the guy who tried to make her smile wider by winking at her.)
Sometimes I think…Impressionism. Cubism. Expressionism. What’s the pointillism? (See what I did there?)
This may be a strange opinion from someone who lives in a city that holds one of the largest open art competitions in the world with ArtPrize.
And my colleagues at the local art museum, if they’re still reading this, might be surprised to learn all of this as well. But I’ve danced Rauschenberg’s Synapsis Shuffle when it came to town and had a decent time doing it. And ArtPrize always brings something that I find beautiful or fascinating to town.
I claim no expertise, but have a hard time holding my opinion back when it might be socially unacceptable. Some of it, especially contemporary art, I simply won’t ever understand. Handing out small jars of yogurt and asking patrons to use them to catch honey dripping from the ceiling may be Art to some. To me, it’s a messy lunch line for 10-year olds.
I suppose my problem with Art is that parallel line it runs with completely false or self-entitled people. While some of the artists themselves may be genuine, the society that surrounds them is often at the very least pretentious and more than likely leaning more towards gregariously speculative, dealing in imagined worth, and searching for meanings that for many, just don’t exist.
(Art’s sister High Fashion has a similar problem.)
True artists and designers have a gift, a talent from a higher power. I can appreciate that. But an art gallery breaking it down over cheese and wine while charging whatever the price is fixed at that week turns me away. When I watched the 60 Minutes special on Miami’s Art Basel, I was squarely in Morley Safer’s corner.
I suppose it simply comes down to what a certain piece means to the person viewing it. Some want to delve deeply into the meaning. Others like it because it’s pretty and makes them feel good. Both are fine, I suppose, but more than not the former seems forced.
But if there’s one thing I can now appreciate on a deeper level, it’s the actual artist.
Personally knowing someone who has created something, chosen the colors with meaning and purpose, taken brush to hand to take a blank palette and transform it into something heartfelt and wonderful. Having a connection with an artist, who focuses and concentrates on each brushstroke and shape, inherently increases its value.
Now that I know an artist with that dedication, I have a much deeper appreciation for Art.
I’m doubly blessed that the same artist would freely give me a piece of her work.
I look at my new treasure and can visualize the effort put into it.
I see the thoughtful process. I see the careful execution. I see the big red heart and the word “Daddy”.
It’s beautiful. It’s purple. I can drink coffee out of it.