Wednesday, May 02, 2012

where is ed when we need him?

I wish my friend Ed the Artist could see this ship.

When I am in Melaque, I have breakfast every Friday morning with him.  We have spent some interesting -- and heated -- discussions about the nature of art.

This ship is filled with art. Some of it falls into the decorative art category.  Almost all of it.  Its sole purpose is to complement the décor.  Like Imelda Marcos’s book bindings -- chosen for their color instead of their content.

But I recently ran across two pieces that take themselves more seriously.  In two completely different contexts.

The first was a piece of public art -- on the ship’s main street.  (To me, the “street”t looks far more like a discount California strip mall.)

The sculptor, Armand Fernandez, entitled the piece, not very originally, as ”Statue of Liberty.”  The label describes it as: “the artist’s interpretation of the American symbol.”  He does that by taking a somewhat Gothic image of the Statue of Liberty and deli-slicing it into sections.

I noticed a woman I had met earlier looking at it.  She is a retired nurse and the wife of a retired military man.  I asked her how she liked the sculpture.
Her scowl telegraphed her sentiment before she opened her mouth.  “It’s disgraceful.  This is a symbol of America.  He’s desecrated it.  It’s as disgusting as a flag burner.”

I was about to ask her if a flag burning could not have artistic qualities.  But I knew I would simply be goading her.  Besides, it was a red herring.  The question was whether the liberty sculpture had artistic value.

To me, it did.  My first reaction to the piece was that the artist was on to something.  American liberty is not merely a form.  It is made up of various pieces.  The separate liberties that help define American exceptionality, when added together, create substance beyond the mere form.

It was another reminder to e that people always filter art through their own experiences.  For her, symbols are important.  For me, symbols mean little without the substance behind them.

And that brings me to another art experience later that same day.  I was sitting in one of the lounges waiting for a trivia contest to begin.  Because an “art auction” was scheduled to begin after the contest, framed works lined the room.

A lady sitting in front of me looked disapprovingly at one piece and said: “I hate that cow picture.”  Her husband corrected her: “It’s a horse.”

”Well, I don’t like it.  It looks sad.  Who wants something sad in their house?  Not me.  Besides, it wouldn’t go with my couch.”

Her comment is not new to me.  There is a group of people who see art as serving no other function than as a decorative accessory.  And most of the pieces offered at this auction were just that.  Couch pictures.

But the piece that offended her was a reproduction of a serious piece of art.  “Horse of Spring” by Salvador Dali.

Admittedly, the quality of the piece on sale was a bit suspect.  A lithograph on ceramic tile.  Rivaling a Picasso on a coffee mug.

Dali’s “Horse of Spring” is a good piece of art.  And an original would be worthy of having a room built around it.

The woman who thought the sad horse – or cow -- would have no place above her couch was probably correct.  It would add nothing to her life.  But it would also be nice if she could see what Dali was attempting to communicate to his viewers.

I guess that is why they call it art appreciation.  When I am not calling it the blues.


Andean said...

Many of his surreal paintings have horses, Dali's that is, interpretations of can be somewhat freudian, but interesting. It would not be too hard to find a place for one of his originals, but with preference.

Steve Cotton said...

If I could affiord one, I would have one.  A Dali.  Not a horse.

Kim G said...

The Statue of Liberty seems to reflect the divided state of politics right now. We are increasingly factionalized, something the founders warned against.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where our life sometimes imitates art, but mostly not.

Steve Cotton said...

As always, an insightful interpretation.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

 Steve, I have two Dali's I want to sell.  Seriously.  And you could afford them.

Steve Cotton said...

We will talk.

Maybe I should rename this blog: "steve-bay."