Art can be a sculpture, a painting, a photograph, a poem or a play. It can be the Blue Man Group or Van Gogh. It can be a concept or something tangible. A crumpled piece of paper in a wire wastebasket can be art if someone deems it so. Art is about expression. If you're good, it can be iconic. If you're great, immortal.
There’s art, and then there’s “art.” One person’s art may be another’s “art.” What determines the difference is usually up to the beholder. Dogs playing poker, Velvet Elvis paintings and Karaoke generally fall into the “art” category. “Art” is Thomas Kinkade and Nicolas Sparks. “Art” is Bob Ross and his canned oil paintings of happy little trees. “Art” is a formula that doesn’t involve much risk. Most people like it for its camp factor, or else they're indifferent--but also--they don’t spend much time thinking about it.
After last week’s election of Obama, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is quite a bit of “art” yet to come.
Yes, I know, it was a historic election (or "an" historic election, if you're into saying it that way). Yes, I cried, hell, my eyes were puffy for two days straight. Yes, I understand the significance, the importance, the great amount of hope and faith exercised in voting for a man whose story might not even be possible in another country. Yes, I know the newspapers were sold out. Trust me, I get it.
What I don’t get is the inevitable “art” that is spawned from events like these. "Art" that boils down to people banking on others' desire to capture a piece of the moment and keep it in their homes. NBC’s already pitched their DVD. I’m sure there were a number of bootleg t-shirts and stickers that in no way benefited Obama's campaign. Americans are enterprising people. When you see a man hawking Sean Taylor #21 skill caps and t-shirts outside the metro station less than a week after the man died, you don’t think it’s because the seller really wants to keep Taylor’s memory alive; it’s because he wants to make a buck of off someone else who does.
Can we talk about this?
I don’t even know where to begin. The unicorn? The "God" rays? The “aura?” The strategically placed twinkles? The roses? The bridge to nowhere? The open shirt? The “B” belt buckle? The “water”? (or is it fire? Or is it water on fire?) This is just the beginning, folks.
I get feeling proud. I felt proud. I don’t get the reasoning behind someone who buys these things. The following popped into my head on a train ride home: oil on canvas of a scene involving Obamas entering the White House. Around the perimeter? Ghosts of slaves with beaming faces as they watch their descendants enter the house they built with their own hands. The image is heavy handed enough to knock you over. I couldn’t find anything online, but there’s a feeling deep within me that someone is working away on this very thing as I type. If you read that, nodded your head, and thought “I’d buy that,” well...if I ever come to your house and see the aforementioned oil painting, please excuse me if I look like I’m trying not to laugh. It’s not so much that it’s funny, it’s more that it’s awkward.
Like when you go to a home and there’s a life-sized statue of Jesus on the cross hanging from the wall? Awk-ward. 16X20 bridal portrait of the bride (and only the bride because it was her day, y'know) over the fireplace? Awk-ward. These are the kinds of things that leave me lost for words. I respect your convictions, but you don’t need to clobber my eyeballs with your questionable taste.
Is there anything wrong with this? No, not really (okay, sometimes there is). I have seen all kinds of “art” in the shops downstairs from where I work. I’ve seen framed photographs of the patron saint of conservatism, Ronald Reagan, I’ve seen a painting of presidents (dead and alive, Democrat, Republican, and Bull Moose) playing poker, I’ve seen an embroidered throw pillow with the letter “W” on it. The difference is that while it’s hokey, I don’t feel too embarrassed because these things come without the weight of history in the making (and I know it’s highly unlikely that anyone I know would buy it). Obama hasn’t even taken office and people are already talking about his “legacy.” I want him to do well too, but at least allow the man some time to get started. I can see keeping a newspaper, or making a shadow box to commemorate the election, but there’s a certain point when you realize it’s gone too far!
Over the next 4 years, and possibly the 4 after that, I can only hope the worst that comes out of it is the "art" that results.