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Art in a TMI world

If I had $44 million dollars, I would not spend it on this. My husband and I recently went to a lecture entitled "Why is that art?". The speaker tried to explain why random paint splashes on a canvas were highly valued works of art. What I came away with is that the advent of photography removed the need for artists to capture realism. This freed artists to experiment. The process became more important than the finished work. To illustrate her point she showed a black canvas with various squiggles on it. The importance of this piece was that we could experience the artist's hands moving by following the squiggles. Art became all about the artist.

I left the lecture no more impressed with much modern art than I was when I arrived at the lecture. But now I understand. A piece of modern art is often a record of performance art done in private. The artist did not have an audience as he danced about the canvas slinging paint but when we see the finished canvas we can imagine the dance that created it. And I care about this dance because...

In a way, modern art is perfect for our narcissistic Twitter and Facebook culture. I enjoy sharing photos, funny anecdotes of my day, political thoughts etc with my friends and Facebook is a handy way to do it. The instant feedback is fun. Staying connected with friends around the country is a joy. The instant prayer partners in times of need are a blessing. But there are a whole lot of folks who think we need to see a new selfie posted every day or even every couple of hours and need to be privy to their every OMG. Their Facebook page and their Twitter feed are the equivalent of much modern art. They think we care about their private dance.

I am not going to judge the person who spent $44 million dollars on a blue canvas with a solid white line down the middle. For all I know he or she gives twice that much to feed the hungry. This painting that looks like a blue ping pong table is just their little indulgence to which we are all entitled every now and then. Discretionary income is just that. Everyone gets to spend it in any fashion that makes them happy.

I will just say that my preference is for art that does not require a narrative to be understood. I like music, visual arts, and literature that move my soul before I know the who and how behind their creation. Knowing whether or not the artist, composer, or author was wearing bunny slippers or dancing around buck naked during the creative process adds nothing to my appreciation of the work. I think art should be able to stand on its own without the back story. That doesn't mean I don't want to know the back story. On the contrary, once I am impressed by a piece of art I am drawn to know more about its creator. But this is a sidebar discussion, not the thrust of my appreciation.

Am I just a modern art Philistine? What do you think?


Rosemary Bogdan said…
44 million dollars? Seriously? I'm with you. I want to be moved by art. I want to be moved by its beauty.

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