“We are mocked with art.”
-Billy Shakespeare (A Winter’s Tale)
In the midst of helping my partner-in-crime (don’t worry, it’s just a colloquialism, we’re law-abiding citizens) move out of his apartment, I found myself reviewing some of the art in the apartment. My eyes fell upon one particular piece, presumably crafted by his six-year-old nephew. I took it upon myself (another colloquialism, I did not literally take anything and place it upon myself) to comment on the piece.
“Bobby* did a nice job on this one,” I said.
He stared at me. “Bobby didn’t make that. It’s from a real artist.”
I regarded the piece thoughtfully and responded, “Are you sure?”
“Yes I’m sure. Could YOU have drawn that?” he asked, poignantly.
“Well no…” I said, thinking proudly of my propensity to stay within lines when I’m using crayons to draw two-wheeled cars with purple and green wheels. I suppose I wouldn’t have thought to draw scribbles all over my work either, and write “GO!” in handwriting akin to one who is just learning how to put crayon to paper for the first time.
He assumed my response signaled an acceptance of the piece as art, so I continued, “But I bet Bobby could have.”
Looking offended, he shook his head in disbelief.
“What?” I asked.
“I just can’t believe you’re so close-minded about art,” he said – a real slap in the face (Rest assured, not a physical slap. It’s yet another colloquialism!).
The remark stung. (Not literally of course, it’s a colloquialism, you see. No bees in the room!) It was true. I was being a bigot – dismissive of modern art, unappreciative of its ingenuity and reluctance to seem to adhere to classical aesthetic tastes. “No one can know!” I thought to myself about my newly discovered intolerance.
To hide my bigotry and possibly improve my understanding of modern art, I’ve decided to compile a list of go-to phrases next time I am face-to-face with a piece of art that challenges my notion of beauty. Key words in my arsenal (figurative arsenal of course, it’s a colloquialism) include:
Compelling, as in, “I find this so compelling. It really makes me think.”
If the listener nods and grunts, I win.
If they say, “Think what?” I dig into the reservoir for round two, responding with use of the word…
Derivative, as in, “Well, I’m glad you asked. It makes me think there are so many derivative pieces out there. We are bound by our predecessors, intellectually, emotionally, and of course, spiritually. Not so this one, however. Not this one my friend!” If the listener thoughtfully replies, “Oh yes, absolutely, I see,” I win.
If they say, “I disagree.” I have to resort to my secret weapon, the word…
Controversial, as in, “At the least, it’s controversial; in fact, I daresay it’s downright offensive.” And then I stare, as if hurt. If they considerately reply, “Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” I will generously respond, “Oh, it’s nothing,” and then I win.
If they say, “What do you find offensive about it?” I have no choice but to use the word…
Racist, as in, “The color scheme used in the piece is racist.” And walk away quickly, especially if it’s something like a paperclip recreation of the Sistine Chapel or something.
*Names of artistic minors have been changed.