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Volume 8, Issue 2: Similitudes

Peanut Gallery

Douglas Wilson


Six months ago our town enjoyed the prospect of an art gallery opening in our community. I was glad to see our university and business leaders come together for a project such as this and looked forward to the opening of the first real art gallery our town had ever had.
In the months following that grand opening your paper has carried three stories on the gallery with generous photo spreads for each showing. Initially my thought was that your photographer was on drugs, but after your last story ran, I decided I needed to have a look for myself.
My granddaughter and I go on a date every Saturday, so we decided to include the Mitchell Gallery on our usual rounds of the library and donut shop. I do not mind telling you that when, after forty minutes in the gallery we sought refuge at our beloved donut shop, I thought I detected more sound aesthetic sense in how Sally was glazing the Persians than in what we had just been witnessing.
In the three weeks following that visit, I have found myself shaking my head on more than one occasion, and my granddaughter Lynn has broken out laughing several times for no apparent reason. She was greatly affected when, coming out of the gallery, I answered her in the affirmative when she asked if what we had just seen was the work of "grown-ups."
I graduated from the university with a degree in art thirty years ago. During my undergraduate experience, I thought it prudent to keep my questions and observations to myself. After all, I was trying to get a diploma from open-minded people, and one can't be too careful these days. In the years following, I have, of course, seen the usual parade of monstrosities to which our long-suffering citizenry has become accustomed. Random splashes of paint adorn dentist office walls, and badly-built UFOs take special care to crash only on college lawns. Such things are ubiquitous. But there, too, apart from the occasional comment to my wife, I have behaved myself, confining my mutterings to jeremiads delivered sotto voce . But I have now decided, after much meditation on this general subject, to tell you guys what I think. I know I run the horrible risk of being thought gauche by the philistines, our modern monks of chaos. But I take considerable comfort in knowing that when the little kid hollered that the emperor had no clothes, the emperor also would have laughed up his sleeveif he had had one. So here it is anyhow.
If I make reference to particular exhibits we saw, I have no desire for the reader to limit the sentiments expressed to those exhibitions alone; he may feel free to apply my sentiments to virtually anything produced in the art world over the course of the last century or so. But I should say, in advance, that if some readers think anything I say is over the top, I can only assure them that, in what I say below, I am holding back.
When our local soi-disant artistic illuminati gather together to cluck over their latest 3-dimensional ravings, they are pleased to use terms like "important," and "colossal statement," along with their other balloon juice turgidities. They do. I've heard them. I was at a reception one time where folks were careening their way down the corridors of the sublime, drinking wine and eating chips dipped in that cheese that looks like horse drool. Long before it was time to head back to their Volvos and toodle on home, they had all delivered themselves many times on the colossal and importantmeaning, apparently, anything devoid of nobility, beauty, or purpose.
Take the collection entitled Tomato Statements . Along one wall of the gallery my granddaughter and I spent ten minutes examining a line of the insides of Pizza Pipeline boxes, with the red remains of the former occupants still clearly in evidence. The battle had apparently been a heroic one, followed by great loss of life, the first casualties being nobility, beauty, and purpose.
And then, of course, there was the Navajo Neon , which brought a vivid new meaning to the color turquoise. Perhaps our artist . . . and by the way, we need to find another word to describe these trained professionals who give themselves and sacrifice so much for this most important task of cultural demolition. I suggest artoons . Anyway, perhaps our artoon was getting dangerously low in his energy levels and was in need of an aesthetics Snickers bar. He had been flailing away at nobility, beauty, and purpose with a ballpeen hammer for the several months spent in creating this particular puppy, and perhaps he was getting tired. The word on the street is that Navajo Neon exhibited more vestigal nobility, beauty and purpose than is safe for an up and coming artoon to exhibit. At least around here.
Womyn Screeeeeeming was a little better, but only because my mind's eye was able pull off a most satisfactory editorial substitution. In place of the many scissors and knives piercing the tattered souls of, um, womyn screeeeeeming, I was able to visualize the prospects of Artoons Screeeeeeming and stood there greatly comforted. Perhaps there is such a thing as nobility, beauty, and purpose. But when I opened my eyes the fleeting vision had departed, like the mists of Lorien.
When the chronicles of our doofus age come to be written by some dispassionate historiographer, at a great removal of several centuries, the greatest obstacle he will no doubt face is that of getting his editors to believe him.
They will think his photographer is on drugs.

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