Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Meaning of Art and Other Deep Questions

I don't know jack shasta about Art. I go to the museum, and I look at Art, and sometimes I like it, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I don't even have an opinion about it; it's just there.

Because I have benefited from Mr. Peevie's liberal arts education, I adore Pieter Bruegel (the Elder, as distinguished from his replicator son, Pieter Brueghel the Younger), and I have a passing acquaintance with miniatures and armor thanks to the Art Institute of Chicago.

But that's it. I'm virtually completely unschooled in most forms of visual art, and yet here I am getting ready to comment on the "art" that "adorns" the walls at my place of work. And by "art," I mean random pictures, paintings and crafts that hang from a nail; and by "adorns" I mean "takes up space on, and when you walk past it, you think, "Hmmm. Weird."

I would like to know what went through the mind of the person who put this disturbing piece of alleged art--a grapevine wreath with Mexican dollies stuck to it--on the wall in the work room at my office. It is unfortunate to the point of being menacing.

Here's a close-up of one of dollies lashed to the dried grapevine wreath: She looks like something Stephen King invented. She looks like she'll come down off that wreath at night and pour cyanide into the coffee maker if you smile at her wrong. She makes me shiver, and not in a good way.

And then there's this Thai temple rubbing-esque piece that hangs on the wall by the emergency exit. The style looks like a buddhist temple rubbing--but the content is definitely Christian. What is up with that? I'm so confused. 

If you dare to walk through the rest of the office, you'll see "art" that is unambiguously Christian, like this one, which contains four New Testament story images in fabric splotches. I get this--we're a Methodist organization; but seriously. Is this the best the Methodists can do?

Then there's the obligatory anachronistic painting of two little black children kneeling by a bed, praying. Again--sort of predictable, but also un-original and slightly ironic at an organization that in many ways keeps its faith-based roots firmly in the past. 
And finally, there is a quilt. There is always a quilt. This one has the names of ladies' auxiliary members (or some such secondary volunteer group) hand-stitched on squares that have been sewn into a plain, blue-and-white quilt.

Why did they sew their names on the squares? Why was that important to them? Did they want to be remembered for their good works? Isn't that sort of antithetical to "be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them?" 
I guess the purpose is so that when we walk past it, we can realize that even if we take the trouble to sew our names onto a piece of Art, there is still no chance that anyone will remember us, or care that we were a part of making history.

It's sort of a life lesson right there, hanging on the plain white walls right outside the three plastic-coated walls of my pathetic cubicle.

The art in my office is so random and disconnected that it makes me wonder: Who picked it out? Who decided what would hang on the walls, and why? 

Sometimes I just have too much time on my hands.


Leslie Wolf said...

I don't know much about art either, but I think that the decorative style of your work place would be best described by the term "eclectic".

I think that you should hang some Noh masks on the walls of your cube and place a few well chosen African statues on your desk to complete the tour of world crafts. Perhaps you could also hang a narwhal tusk in honor of the native peoples of Canada.

Whoa. Let's slow down on the snark. Oh yes, I forget, I haven't had my morning coffee yet!

One more thing. I really, really hope that you will write a blogpost on medieval armor and weapons. Ok, ok, getting the coffee already.

E. Peevie said...

LW: I think calling the art in my office eclectic does a disservice to actual eclectic collectors. (Say that three times fast!) Eclectic is mixed, but it's also thoughtful and/or intentional, no?

If I put a narwhal tusk in my cube, it will be in honor of Buddy the Elf, not Canada.

Anonymous said...

The names on the quilt are names of children who are cancer survivors. The quilt was bought at a fundraiser for the hospital.

E. Peevie said...

Anon--What hospital? I think you must be thinking of a different quilt. This quilt has names like Dr. John Smith and Mrs. Jane Doe and First M. E. Church.

But thanks for reading!