Touch Up On The Classics

Posted: July 4, 2011 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life
Tags: , ,
I am currently taking a class called “Urban Art and Society.”  It’s an engaging class and the teacher is an interesting, bright and swishy gay man who is very passionate about the subject. His sporadic threats to “give us a big red “F” if we don’t start taking notes” brings a smile to my face.
It may sound like a silly statement that has lots of room for elaboration, but I like art.  It interests me.  My favorite artistic medium is film, but I can certainly appreciate illustration, painting and sculpture as well.
Andy Warhol once said that “Art is anything you can get away with.”  This is certainly true.  Art is anything you can get away with.  I’ll bet it’s even better if you can create something ridiculous, simple or funny and then get the “experts” to dissect, discuss and write about your “art”, and to pay a great deal of money for it.  I think the key is to act very serious and to say cryptic and seemingly profound things about your “work”.
With the exception of a brief flirtation with finger painting in the 70’s, I am not an artist.  None of my work from that period exists today.  I was troubled with how few people understood the meaning in my art, except for my mother of course, who has always been a bastion of the avant garde and exhibited my work in the “Refrigerator Door Gallery” to be viewed by small and discerning audiences.  I was way ahead of my time, and too angst-ridden to conform to the demands of the art community. I was too dark, and no one understood my blue houses with red roofs and our cat who was the same size as the house illuminated by a grimacing faced yellow sun.  Fools…  Imbeciles…
As we study various artists and their innovations and how they affected the times, while the times affected them and their work, I have come to appreciate how powerful art is, or can be. I started to have regrets that I had abandoned the arts. The rebellious artists have always appealed to me. To me the Gustave Courbets and the Vincent Van Goghs were the punk rockers of their time. Pissing people off can be fun.  It made me think of a lofty  and daring art concept.
What if a person were to paint themselves into the background of famous original works of art doing something silly or obnoxious.  They could portray themselves as a greasy spoon waitress delivering the check to Judas in The Last Supper,  or perhaps a small fellow, far in the distance behind the Mona Lisa with a “Hi Mom” sign, or a little tiny surfer or a rubber ducky on The Great Wave of Kanagawa. Maybe painting little “Timex” on Dali’s melting clocks  You get the idea.  Of course such a project would not only require a skilled artist, but also a top notch cat burglar to break into various museums, bypass the intricate security systems, then improve and enhance these famous works of art.  Would it be art or vandalism, or perhaps both?  The word “vandalism” of course derives from the vandal barbarians who pillaged areas within the Roman Empire, drawing little mustaches on statues of Aphrodite, and if my ancient European history is up to snuff, were the first to leave flaming paper bags of dog grumpies outside of temples and then watching from the bushes and giggling as irate Roman clerics and priests stomped on them with their sandals.
Yes, some would view my concept as destruction, but I disagree.  I see it as an enhancement.  We have plenty or reproductions and prints of the original art work.  This would be a simple before and after.  It would turn the art world on it’s ear.  New books would have to be written, new art classes would have to be taught.
It can be so difficult being ahead of one’s time, and completely unappreciated, but I suppose it is the burden that the creative have borne for centuries.


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