Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Is It Art?

     Scanning the newspapers recently, I’ve noticed a most unusual art exhibit is once more making the rounds.
    Touted as a cutting edge celebration of the human condition, it consists of skinned human bodies (oh, did I mention they were dead?) frozen in various activities such as dribbling basketballs, riding bicycles, or juggling pizzas.  To prevent them from stinking like French longshoremen, they’ve been injected with some sort of Super Glue resin to keep them as stiff as Al Gore at the Senior Prom.
    The whole shebang is the brainchild of a German scientist (insert inevitable, tasteless joke here).
    Even though it strikes me as something of a freak show, it does a pretty good job of showing us what we actually look like on the inside (um, that would be pretty yucky).
     But, is it art?
     Fine art has always been somewhat of a mystery to me.  Whether it’s an impressionist rendering of man’s inhumanity to circus peanuts or a Flintstones jelly glass, most art to me looks like it belongs in the Monkey Flings Poo genre.
    Except dogs playing poker.  Or anything with Elvis on it.  Now, those I like!
    I’ve visited a buttload (caution: not to be confused with the eminently larger “shitload”) of museums in my day from the finest New York galleries to what you generally find scrawled on bathroom walls.  I distinctly remember my first such experience. There I stood, transfixed by what was before me, lost in deep thought.  Pompously stroking my chin, I waxed eloquent to fellow museum mavens on what creative message the artist was trying to convey with his bold, dynamic blend of colors juxtaposed against the tragedies of our daily lives.
    Until I realized I was looking at a “CAUTION-Piso Mojado-Wet Floor” sign.
    Since then, I’ve learned it’s better to just keep my mouth shut.
    It’s not just paintings, either.  Unless it’s a Greek or Roman statue (identified primarily by missing arms or genitalia), most sculptures to me look like something a kid whipped up with his Play-Doh Fun Factory.
    Take THIS ball of clay, smash it into another, differently-colored ball of clay, toss it into an oven and-voila!-we have the Creation of Man.  Or Oprah.
    Even the masters leave me cold:  Whistler’s Mother (Get a good TV), The Thinker (I’M thinking he should put some clothes on), Michelangelo’s David (I feel sooooo inadequate), The Last Supper (Separate checks?), and ANYTHING by Picasso (“Hey, didja get the license plate of the truck that hit ya?”) cause me to look at them and gasp, “Huh?”
    OK, maybe I’m not the most sophisticated guy.  To me, one of those velvet sad clown paintings, a Beers of the World jigsaw puzzle, or a statue of the Virgin Mary made of elbow macaroni are mucho classy.   
    Several years ago, I took a trip to Paris with some friends.  The City of Lights was nothing like I expected.  Clean and well-organized, its citizens were as friendly as can be (oops, sorry-that’s Epcot).
    Actually, though, we were treated extremely well, despite the sneezing powder in our escargot and the Jerry Lewis Marathon on the hotel TV.  At any rate, we were treated better than we probably deserved, given our propensity to amuse the unamuseable (CAUTION:  NOT a real word) with our Pepe Le Pew impressions and our complaints of “You call THIS French Toast!?”
    While there, we did all the goofy things tourists are supposed to do:  gawk at the Eiffel Tower, marvel at the Arc d’Triomphe, sashay (or is that mosey?) down the Champs Elysee, and take in a show at the Moulin Rouge (YOU know what type of show I mean!).
    After nearly a week of carousing around the city, we grew tired of idling away in tourist traps and cheesy trinket shops-“Hey look! A statue of Napoleon made of butter!”  Drawing upon the cultural aspect of our natures, we thought it would be a good idea to stroll through the Louvre.
    Even though my distaste for artsy stuff was well-known, I still thought I should give the most famous museum in the world a try.  What could it hurt?
    Plus, I might get to see some dinosaur bones or a mummy.  Cool.
    Unfortunately, we hadn’t allotted enough time to adequately tour the joint, as it is truly the mother of all museums.  We were practically forced to run through each of the galleries and didn’t even have time to see any caveman exhibits.
   Despite the seemingly endless assortment of objects d’arte, we were dead set on viewing DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, the Louvre’s biggest draw.
    Like a pack of bloodhounds fixed on the scent of a fleeing bank robber, we dashed through the museum, stopping only scant seconds to view anything which remotely caught our eye.
    Thank goodness there were signs leading us to our destination because, without them, we would have gotten hopelessly lost.  Still, I’d really like to catch that joker who swapped some of the signs around.  We wasted a half hour in the Men’s Room trying to find which stall was hiding the Mona Lisa.         
    Finally, as we smacked into the back of a huge queue (Fun with English Tip: a snooty, ten dollar word for “line”), we knew we’d arrived at our destination.  Somewhere up ahead was arguably the most famous painting in the world.  Even I was moved by the experience as we prepared to view history.
    As we drew up to the head of the line, though, we couldn’t help but feel disillusioned.  Rather than some huge production or jaw-dropping masterpiece, our Holy Grail came across as a bust (which, incidentally, can also be a ‘sculpture’ for you art aficionados.  It’s also a much more sophisticated term for boobs.).
    Not much bigger than a postage stamp, the Mona Lisa was safely segregated from the crowd by Plexiglas and looked no more impressive than some kid’s paint-by-numbers set.  We felt that all the hype amounted to little more than a P.T. Barnum sham.
    Of course, we took the obligatory photographs, if for nothing else than to prove to our families we actually did more in Paris than drink cheap wine and wolf down cheese which smelled like feet.
    Once done, we proceeded to look for an exit, our thirst for culture dashed and our feet weary from our madcap race through the labyrinth which is the Louvre.
    Shuffling into a huge gallery, we were startled by the many tapestries covering the walls.  An ancient smell of must hung in the air.  We knew we were in the presence of masterpieces which were several hundred years old.
    One tapestry, in particular, held our interest.  Despite being dulled from the passage of centuries, it excited our senses through its riotous display of colors and imaginative themes.
    Depicting the pomp and majesty of a king holding court, the tapestry illustrated dozens of courtiers (strangely, NONE of whom wore pants-except the king) and their ladies paying homage to their noble sovereign.  Interestingly enough, it also showed quite a few animals cavorting about with each other and half-men/half-goats chasing chickens.
    The thing was massive, as it fully covered an entire wall.  At a good ten by twenty yards, we knew it would never hang in somebody’s trailer or rec room.
    Craning our necks to the ceiling in an effort to take in its full scope, we felt our visit to the Louvre was vindicated by this wonderful expression of some unknown artist’s muse.  We each stood, enthralled, knowing we were in the presence of something larger than ourselves.
    My awed concentration was quietly broken by one of my companions.  In one brief instant, he gave voice to a heartfelt sentiment.  A sentiment which shook me out of my revelry and brought me back to the role for which I am best suited:  Art Non-Snob.  A sentiment I identified as my own.
   “Gee, I wonder if you buy a couch to match it or buy it to match your couch?”
    Or your collection of plastic dead guys?

















3 comments:

  1. I struggle with Art, and Artifact- there are artifacts that are thousands of years old, and beautiful- were they artists, or craftsmen? Anything pleasing to my eye that my brain can appreciate is Art in my book...

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  2. Which is exactly why I like 'Dogs Playing Poker' and 'Velvet Elvis.'

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