What is it about art that we can’t seem to get everyone onboard in some kind of general agreement?
Books, for example, never seem to face the same survival challenges as the visual arts. There’s always money for a library, especially a dandy new one that could be a source of civic pride. Whereas paintings and sculpture for some reason must always be pushed into a corner, swinging and punching their way out to us.
Consider the recent FOX TV sitcom, “Nude Trouble,” in which a small handful of zany Venice residents reach deep into their mixed-up brain pans for excuses to stop the installation of an unquestionably beautiful Robert Graham sculpture… because it’s going to be a nude female form.
Oh, wait, that’s not a FOX sitcom, that’s actually happening. The made-up story I’m thinking of is “Stacked,” in which a woman with neck injury-inducing man-made breasts hangs around a bookstore because the owners, who supposedly love books, think it will be good for business.
You see how I got confused there. On the one hand, you have world class art. And on the other you have video burlesque that could arguably make Americans targets for scorn when they travel abroad. Snooty French waiter in Paris to American tourists: “I’ll have Pamela Anderson bring out your ‘French Fries’!”
Art must fight, while banality hits a triple and gets a rerun four days later in a special encore presentation. Both involve the female form and its deployment in creative works. Of course one of them creates an especially good environment for beer commercials.
Which might be just the yin and yang of the high and the low were it not for the sad fact that California is in last place in state government per capita spending on the arts. So, when artist Graham and Venice donor Roy Doumani, a long time arts patron, offer to give Venice an artwork valued at more than a quarter of a million dollars, you’d think there would be a warm reception.
Not from a colorful alliance of feminists, church members, and several seasoned Venice activists who apparently never go to the movies or watch television or visit a shopping mall and are claiming they “deplore” Graham’s representation of a female figure. Gosh, if only there were some precedent for nude forms in, say, the entire history of art starting with cave paintings.
But we live in a period of time travel, when right wing politicians and religion-driven protestors feel they can, at any given moment, reach out and grab the hands of time then spin them wildly backward.
Okay, it’s also your America. But could you please focus your frustrations, even a little? If you really believe, as one appeal to Venice officials against Graham’s work stated, that you “deplore the representation of a woman as a headless bust, a shiny sexual object,” then what you seek, ultimately, is to educate people. Start with kids. Get with the movement that right this minute is exposing our Governor as a vacuous liar who hasn’t done anything for our children’s education.
And quit picking on art. Art is scrappy and often has some big-shouldered friends, like Mr. Doumani. But it will always take a pounding from banality. From the frightening banality of the ill-equipped seeking public office, to the irritating banality of human energy expended on the wrong issues, to the day-to-day banality of Internet porn stars in sitcoms. Get with the bigger picture. Until you do, we’ll be compelled to see you as a headless bust. Although, we have a pretty good idea where your heads are.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) Wall Street is fearful of
(a) a serious slowing of the economy.
(b) new McDonald’s entrees.
(c) “Robert Blake: The Musical!”
2) Protests continue in China over
(a) murals on the Great Wall.
(b) revisionist history books.
(c) one hour waits between meals.
3) Paleontologists have now identified
(a) a new species of T Rex dinosaur.
(b) how Barney sings.
(c) the ancestors of Teletubbies.
1) (a) “Let’s burn wine and drink gas.”
2) (b) “Who drew moustaches on the pictures?”3) (a) “He’s still T-riffic!”