Thursday, April 16, 2009


Maybe the magical thing that turns something into “ART” isn’t bothered by the fact that anyone can do it. Probably that magical thing turns something into “ART” simply because that person is the one person who did do it.

Allow me to explain.

Many people come to me after having seen the works of Jackson Pollack, or even Henri Matisse and proclaim something on the order of: GEH! THAT’S NOT ART!

A co-worker of mine even went so far as to say that a reproduction I had hanging on my office wall, an image of spring tulips originally painted in watercolor, was not ART. Because he didn’t like it, you see. Nothing wrong with the image, it just wasn’t something that fit his definition of ART. I immediately took the bait, called shenanigans and demanded to know what he called it then. Well, he didn’t really bother with that sort of thing – it just wasn’t ART and there wasn’t a soul alive who could convince him otherwise. Because he didn’t like it, you see.

Here I sit now, with two walls in front of me. One bears a large 2-foot by 4-foot, cartoonish rendering of the entire compliment of office-members. It’s pen and Ink filled in with watercolor. On the next wall is an 8 foot long foam-core sign bearing the company name, the logo, and some nifty graphics in the corner there. It’s bolted to the wall. If I look over my shoulder down the hall I can see another very large framed poster. That poster is a highly stylized image of a geriatric Anasazi (probably) woman, three similarly stylized earthenware pots in front of her. Text at the bottom of the poster is too hard to read from here.

I hate that question that academics throw around: “What is ART?” as if they can somehow dismantle the equation of aesthetics vs mental capacity over martinis.

Upon visiting new York’s Museum of Modern Art, and seeing an installation including a heap of unspooled thread on the floor and several mirrored rectangles randomly jutting out of said heap, today’s co-worker just rolled her eyes and proclaimed not only that she “just didn’t get it”, but also that “anyone could do that, I could do that, my cat has thrown up stuff that looked like that, that *crescendo* is not ART.”

And yet, the photograph she took of this mirror-y. threaded heap was captivating to us both; so much so that we talked about it for a good 10 minutes.

She was not about to be convinced though, and my frustration grew at the notion that somehow, somewhere, humans have lost the ability to discern between what we “like” and what is, after all, ART.

Modern art always brings up the slippery slope arguments including thoughts like “well if I crap in a plaster bowl and call it art, is that art?” and ultimately I have to say “yes”. Eventually I end up giving in and admitting that nobody’s going to like it, that odds are against anyone making a living selling it, but that yes… it’s probably ART. Art, especially the “MAW-durn” variety, doesn’t have to mean all things to all people.
It doesn’t even have to mean the same thing to most people.

Embroidered jeans, footprints in the concrete, silvery chandeliers and absent-minded doodles in high school textbooks all, ultimately, share a stage with “Winged Victory” just as much as anything ever painted by Degas.

I’m having a hard time coming up with some thought-summarizing grand statement to close with. SO I’ll just say the following. The company logo in front of me is efficient, sanitary, and unassuming. The cartoon of the office-members is childish, cute-sy, and tedious (while also pretty effectively pulled-off). The poster over there – what can I say… it’s a monstrosity, but I LOVE those pots. I don’t have to like it, nobody does. It doesn’t have to have a soul or a statement or some over-funded brainchild with a really interesting backstory, and like, a meth habit or something.

Maybe the magical thing that turns something into “ART” isn’t bothered by the fact that anyone can do it.

It seems to me, the magical thing turns something into “ART” simply because that person is the one person who did do it.

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