Icons of Affection

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Art is a loaded concept. To ordinary Americans, always sniffing about something, it smells of pretense, fastidiousness (or slovenliness), delusion, and wasted time. If and when we think of ART, we associate it with Europe, museums, odd living arrangements, and media stories about outrageous sales prices at auction houses. Or we think of it as decoration to fill empty spaces.

What has no price is worthless in most quarters. Art as a commodity is the order of the day. Art as an ordinary activity is…well, befuddling.

Forays into the forbidding world of art, though personally rewarding and mind-expanding at times, generally go nowhere – except to a box hidden under the bed or to the attic or, if elevated above dismal, on the wall of an out-of-the-way room. Still the mind carries on, trying to connect, trying to understand – and perhaps gradually evolving to see more and more in more places. With time, one relaxes prejudices and self-deprecations and learns to coexist in parallel planes. After years of misses, one sometimes begins to understand the nearness of the creative process to skilled labor and simple, clear-headed insights.

Images persist while everything but gene exchange and self-extinction lapses. Adaptation builds and fades. What remains, if anything, are images and the changing values placed on them. The world itself, and its history, becomes a string of disparate, discontinuous movie frames.

Actually, it is much funnier than that, but only rarely. It is humorous when we think about art and its creators caught up in existential questioning amid all the fuss. It is painfully funny when we imagine someone else, too much like ourselves in this respect, repeatedly stumping a toe on an award-winning sculpture used as a doorstop, then ditching the whole enterprise in philosophical and exasperated revolt.

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1 thought on “Icons of Affection

  1. Images from the past become more haunting as we age.

    The art of Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner is self-evident. Homer, Sophocles, Big Willie, Conrad, et al., are still worth the time for insights into the human condition. However, by and large the visual arts went off the tracks in the late 19th century and have yet to regain footing.

    More art is evident in the design of Porsches, Boeings and Colts, than in most modern objects d’ art on self-conscious display at various venues.

    The clich√© of form follows function holds up well as truisms go. If the only function is to surprise, annoy or in politically correct jargon challenge the viewer…well, then random objects, garbage or even feces heaped on the floor – with an appropriately urbane title and convoluted explanation – will do.

    The Parthenon, Greek black vase painting, Rubens and Raphael lead one to insights on what it is to be human – a spirit living in a material world. A crucifix in jar of urine? Not so much.


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