Friday, September 21, 2012

Is it Art?

As I walked into the kitchen of the house above the trading post, Grange nervously pushed aside the book he had been reading. Glancing over his shoulder to see what had made him react so uncharacteristically, I realized my young son had been closely scrutinizing Kira’s art appreciation textbook. Noticing I had observed his actions, and thinking he might need to justify his keen interest in the subject matter, Grange anxiously inquired, “Why do those sculptures always have to be naked? Why don’t they have clothes?”
Barry, that ain't art?
Making him all the more jumpy, I reached over, positioned the book in front of us and randomly flipped through the pages, stopping briefly at the statuary that had interested him. Remembering I had been warned the day would come when issues such as this would arise, and trying to appear thoughtful rather than critical, I replied, “Because that’s the way God made us. We are not born into this world fully dressed, and many people, me included, feel the human form is beautiful, elegant . . . even when it’s not. It’s nothing you need to be ashamed of or uncomfortable about.” Having advised him on the virtues of nudity, I hoped he would not interpret my comments literally and begin disrobing in inconvenient locations or packing around magazines illustrating the point.

Looking somewhat relieved, Grange scooted off the stool and into his bedroom, skillfully avoiding further discussion. Continuing to thumb through the text, I noticed Robert Mapplethorpe’s androgynous self-portrait. Mapplethorpe was the American photographer who ignited a cultural firestorm when his exhibit The Perfect Moment was scheduled to go up at the Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Remembering 1989, when the controversy arose, I decided to investigate further. The text associated with the image explained that one reason Mapplethorpe’s work is considered important is that it illustrates the ideal that art is not always pretty and can, in fact, be genuinely disturbing. Although it does not directly acknowledge this theory of disruption,, my favorite reference resource, gives it a slight nod by defining art as, “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

The subjective nature of art and beauty has always caused me great confusion. I am often confounded when one artist succeeds and another fails, especially when their work seems equally pleasing. I was, for example, taken aback when a version of The Scream recently sold at auction for approximately $120,000,000.00. If someone had brought it into the trading post, in my ignorance, I would not have paid $1,000.00 for the painting.

Indeed, Barry, Priscilla, Danny and I were discussing this topic just the other day. Barry was trying to convince us he is a work of art. Nobody, however, was buying it. During our conversation, Grange, arrived home on the school bus. When asked his opinion, much to Barry’s chagrin, he quickly responded, “Dad, that’s not art!” Then remembering our earlier conversation he added, “with or without clothes.”

With warm regards,
Barry, Steve, Priscilla and Danny; The Team

Great New Items! This week's selection of Native American art!
Our TnT's purchased new treasures! Check out Traders in Training!

Enjoy artwork from our many collector friends in Living with the Art!

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