I recently became a patron of one of Boston’s leading art museums. I will admit to misunderstanding the terms of membership; I thought in exchange for my donation I’d be allowed to exhibit art works of my own making. However, I was mistaken and the very nice security guard explained it all to me as I was being taken away in handcuffs.
Some weeks after joining, I received an emailed invitation to the opening of a new exhibition. I was hoping this would be performance art and therefore involve some degree of nudity, but alas – the exhibition was largely comprised of paintings and drawings along with works in other media. While I believe many of the abstract figures were portrayed as nude or nearly so, it didn’t have quite the sense of… accessibility I was anticipating. Regardless, the art work could best be described as… well, rather than my fumbling for words, here’s a quote from the curator’s catalog notes regarding one assemblage of multiple images:
- “Taken together, they form an oblique and inconclusive narrative.”
I wrote that down — “an oblique and inconclusive narrative”. If being oblique and inconclusive are considered artistic qualities, then I am at least 90% of the way to setting foot back in that museum with no need for handcuffs to make a further appearance. Except as part of my “performance piece”.
As many modern artists now seem to do, this one branched beyond her original mode of expression to create in other formats. Among the newer works were several animations made on a iPhone or iPad using a drawing program. What a co-ink-ee-dink! I have also made animations — mine on a pad of Post-It notes — usually sketches of an ever-enlarging part of the human anatomy that convey a brooding sense of eroticism and immaturity. Working in pencil, ballpoint or Sharpie, when viewed as part of a collection these images form a narrative that is neither oblique nor inconclusive — they are clearly a penis getting bigger and bigger. The fact that this expansiveness requires the use of “flipping”, the use of the viewer’s hands to manipulate and display, is a clever commentary on the concept of auto-eroticism in our overtly-sexualized society, as well as indicative of the fact that I don’t have enough to do at work.
I like contemporary art, I really do. We’ve been to shows that were absolutely thrilling at this same museum, along with MassMOCA, Dia:Beacon, the Hirschhorn and other galleries. While I may not have admired the craft, inspiration or intent of this artist’s work as deeply as others I have seen, I surely was impressed with the cold beer and cheese board offered at the reception. And who knows? Maybe the alcohol and dairy products were artistic expressions utilizing yet more new media which, when taken together, formed another oblique and inconclusive narrative.
Or, in my case, intestinal bloating.