|BABY FOOD ART
It's warm, smooth and creamy and slides down with assuring comfort.
How do I know? I'm eating some right now. Beech Nut Naturals - Spinach, Zucchini & Quinoa. You cannot say I don't do the actual research, can you? As I'm eating, I'm feeling increasingly ridiculous, which I should be. If not, we've got a serious problem here. It would mean that even though I'm grown, I haven't grown up. Hold that thought.
REWIND SEVERAL YEARS
Earlier today, I went gallery hopping in Chelsea with artist friend Wolfgang Stiller. Wolf is the creator of his intriguing sculptural works called, "Matchstick Men." He also does very inventive installation work and edgy, even crude drawings.
I consider myself to be pretty honest and direct, but not like Wolf. He can be stunningly direct and candid ... not blunt, which I consider inconsiderate, just shockingly honest and real. In short, he doesn't sugarcoat things or dress them up for your approval. Friends like this are hard to find.
Anyway, as we entered one gallery, I caught myself admiring a yellow, minimalist, abstract painting on canvas.
"Wow, I really like that!" I said to Wolf.
"What's there to NOT like about it?" Wolfgang replied. Wolf is great at shutting things down.
Basically, my interpretation of Wolf's response was that the painting was designed, "to be liked," so how could anyone not like it?
Beautiful, pleasant, warm and sunny art exists in part for the purpose of making us feel comfortable and happy. Nothing at all wrong with that. That's great. However, that's only ONE function of art.
FAST FORWARD BACK TO PRESENT
I was just listening to a radio commercial about an upcoming contemporary art exhibition. It's focusing on country landscapes. Ahhh ... so nice. Who doesn't love a picturesque landscape captured on canvas? I knew I had to go see it.
Then, something occurred to me. I felt like I was buying baby food. All I needed was a spoon and maybe a sippy cup. I was prepping myself to consume baby food art. On the surface, this seems like an insult to the art in question, but hang with me for a moment.
Many museums and galleries show “beautiful” art that they know will appeal to people and boost admissions. Hey, that's how it works. Museums and art centers need foot traffic and sales. They have to pay the bills, salaries and expenses just like everyone else.
Yet there's always a balance and museums know this all too well. Do we give people exhibition after exhibition of lovely, warm and elegant artworks that make people feel comfy, yet ultimately lull them into a state of Pleasantville?
So many people - who don't know much about art - believe that this is what art is ONLY about; loveliness, charm and elegance. But art is much more than that. Contemporary art is charming, edgy and profound. It's also ugly, maddening and incites loud and violent reaction. True art challenges us, makes us uncomfortable and makes us think. True art can rattle us and cause us to rethink everything that we thought we knew.
But who wants THAT?
Far too many of us have been lulled into a Disney-esqe yearning. We want childlike wonder, excitement and fantasy. In short, we want to revisit and even remain in this suspended state of immaturity. Life is hard. We don't want to be challenged on our days off from work. We'd rather spend all day watching marathons on Netflix or maybe even staying a little too long at the fair. How else can you explain the extraordinary success of amusement parks?
Reality sometimes makes us want to regress ... if not recoil into a fetal position. Sometimes, we'd rather have baby food than yet another disappointment. Give 'em flowers, landscapes and bowls of luscious fruit. They feel really good. I'm not gonna lie. I love 'em too. Life is difficult and short, why not feel good for as long as you can?
I'm starting to get a funny feeling. Apart from feeling ridiculous about eating it, that baby food has left a weird taste in my mouth. Why? What is it?
When you stay too long at the fair and don't eventually put away childish things, you just don't grow. You don't continue evolving and at some point you can even unknowingly become a burden to other people. You can even lose the ability to engage in healthy, mature dialogue ... about anything other than childish things.
Everything becomes about being stuck in the oral-anal phase of psychological development. Yuk. You know things are bad when you have political candidates exploiting your fears rather than encouraging your aspirations. Do we really need to be spoken down to ... like we're children?
So what's the takeaway here?
I guess it means we should really give ugly, challenging and even infuriating art a chance. Art isn't meant to be only beautiful and elegant. Great art plays all of the keys on the piano and not just a couple of them. We need the WHOLE experience of art so that we can grow.
I wonder what Wolf thinks about what I've just said here. I’m not sure but here’s my guess ... Wolf?
"What's there to NOT like about it?"
P.S. I was done with the baby food after three spoonfuls. That's all I could get down. They expect babies to eat that goop?
Why Is Art Important?