I like just about anything made with mushrooms, potatoes or cheese. Peaches and strawberries when they are perfectly ripe are heavenly. I have yet to meet a key lime pie I didn’t like.
Foods like sushi and lamb? I want to like them. I have tried the best. I understand why people like them, but I just don’t. (And before you start in with the “You just haven’t had good sushi” or “but if you had my famous lamb recipe you’d love it”... I have had sushi in Japan from a top restaurant in Tokyo and I have tasted the lamb in Tom Colicchio’s New York restaurant.) I wish I did like them. I appreciate what they have to to offer and why people love them so much, but I just can’t enjoy it myself.
Then there are foods like mayonnaise and refried beans. I don’t get it. Mayo tastes like something went bad and has the texture of pond scum. Refried beans are the equivalent of the mud dredged from the bottom of that pond. Why anyone would chose to eat these foods is a mystery to me, but somehow they permeate so many recipes that for me potlucks are a source of never ending anxiety. Barbecues are one of the many levels of Hell in my world thanks to these two culprits. So, yes, if you like mayo, I am judging you.
Like my food appreciation, my Art appreciation falls into three basic categories: Art I like; Art I don’t personally care for, but appreciate for its talent and imagination; and Art that make me ask myself that age-old, eloquent question: “What the fuck?”
Art I like
There is a gallery here in Portland called Fernie Brae. It is a magical wonderland of Art, books and gifts all centered around a faery theme. They have amazing displays by some of my favorite Artists including Brian and Wendy Froud.
One day I walked into the shop and saw a display that captured my attention so much I had a hard time focusing on conversation I was having. That day I discovered the sculpture of Scott Foster. I was mesmerized. Foster’s "Strawberry Moon" sat in a corner of a dimly lit room. What captured my attention wasn’t just the sculpture itself (which was stunning) but also a light from within shone out of the sculpture to create the most fascinating patterns on the surrounding space. It was pure magic.
Every time I go back, I look at that piece wishing I had the money to throw down to make it mine, to support this Artist and the magical place that displays it. I want to set it in the middle of my living room and just watch the way it transforms everything in the room.
I like this piece of Art. I see the hard work and imagination that went into it. The end result fills me with joy and wonder. Not all Art is going to be this magical for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it.
Art I don’t personally care for, but appreciate for its talent and imagination
My husband and I have what may be referred to as “Artistic differences”, but we can always appreciate the Artistry in those differences. Okay. Okay. To be honest, maybe not always… Sometimes we just shut up and allow each other the Artistic freedom to explore the direction we are going at the moment and keep our marriage healthy. For the most part he’s a visual Artist and I’m a performing Artist. We play in our respective areas and enjoy what makes the other passionate in their realm.
Last summer my family had gone to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. My husband being a painter and sculptor loves Art museums, especially those holding the classics. We went into the museum not knowing what we would find. The featured exhibit was dedicated to the modern dance choreographer, Merce Cunningham, and the Artists he inspired. There were videos of his dancers, costumes and paintings along with interactive rooms exploring spatial relationships and colors. It was weird, wonderful and inspiring. My daughter and I were alight in every room. Hubby? Not so much. But he was patient with us and tagged along, but the museum was far from what he hoped the experience would be. While I continued to be inspired by the exhibit long after, I knew it wasn’t his cup of tea and probably fell into his “What the fuck?” category.
Eight months later he and I were discussing some movements for an act I’m working on. I’d been watching videos of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham for inspiration. I was ready to defend myself during this discussion and started with “I know you don’t really like him, but I think for this act…”
My husband jumped into the open space in the conversation before I found the words to continue, “I know you were really excited about that exhibit, but for me it was actually physically painful to look at.”
Okay, I’m probably not getting the quote exactly right, but these are the words that stuck with me. I was gearing up to argue with him, but I let him finish. I am a firm believer in listening to understand, not listening to respond. (There’s a difference, look it up.) This takes more time and patience, but usually ends better. Especially in a partnership like ours.
So he continued, “But for this act, I think it’s exactly the right kind of movement to convey what you’re trying to get across. That weird movement works for this character.”
I was shocked silent for a moment as I realized that while my husband didn’t like this Artist’s work he could see there was talent and meaning in what Cunningham was doing.
We don’t have to like something to appreciate its Artistry.
I’m personally not a fan of watching a poi-spinning performance and I don’t really like Picasso’s “The Weeping Woman”, but I do appreciate the work, Artistry, creatively and talent it takes to create these things.
“What the Fuck?”
About six years ago I visited the Guggenheim Museum. As an industrial design major, it was on my bucket list of places to see, if for the Artistry of the building alone. This beautiful spiral of a building is filled with some amazing works of bizarre, weird, wonderful modern Art.
And a shipping crate.
As I traversed up the spiral walk almost reaching the top I spotted quite a few tired museum goers approach a wooden shipping crate thankful for the small moment to set down their picnic laden bags, to drop a purse long enough to re-tie a shoe or to lean up against it to take a rest. That is until the nearby security guard barked at them not to touch the Art display. I watched them look around confused, sure he wasn’t talking to them, only to realize that this rough-hewn, nailed box indeed had a display label above it. Then, they would sheepishly glance from side to side hoping no one noticed their faux pas of not recognizing this box as a piece of fine Art. Who wants to be caught so uncultured?
Now, as an industrial designer, I have a fine appreciation for the Artistry of functional objects. I own a Philippe Starck juicer simply for its beautiful form with function and proudly display it in a curio cabinet. (Yes, we use it to juice citrus as well.) But a wooden shipping crate in the Guggenheim? I just can’t accept it. I’m sorry if that offends, but I’m not sorry about my opinion.
If the artist wants to come in and give a talk using their rich and high-brow words to convince us that a shipping crate is a piece of fine Art, that’s good with me. I consider that Performance Art. But, if in absence of the Artist, you need a security guard to keep people from mistaking it for a common shipping crate? Sorry, I can’t buy into it.
Some Artistic ventures I just can’t get behind. I don’t see the talent. I don’t see creativity. I just see a hot mess. Or at its worst, Art made into a mockery. Many would say things deemed Art by someone has its place in the Art world and should be appreciated for the effort. I accept this is where I become the judgemental bitch. I feel like a horrible person when I just can’t see it or support it. I’ll give credit for effort (if someone has truly put it forward), but I cannot call it Art. Go ahead, tear me down, I probably deserve it.
Art is in the eye of the beholder
Hate is a strong word, but I mean it when I say I hate mayonnaise. No amount of “you can’t even taste it” or “it’s just to keep the bread moist” will work on me. Ask my husband. I’m like the Princess and the Pea when it comes to most condiments: No amount of other layers will hide it. But I begrudgingly have to admit that a lot of people do like it. (Still judging you.)
If I can’t call it Art it doesn’t mean someone else is held to my opinions. They are mine and I have a lot of them.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am highly opinionated. (My husband diplomatically calls it “highly principled” and I don’t argue with him.) I am very opinionated when it comes to Art and I hold my convictions, but I’m not so stubborn as to think my opinion is meant to be everyone else’s. I am able to respect the opinions of others and accept we do not agree (at least most of the time).
How many times have I walked away from a piece of Art and then discussed it with someone else only to discover they saw a different story? I am swayed by my history; my education, my life experiences, my passions. So is everyone else. It affects what we like, how we appreciate things, what we hate. Are either of our interpretations of an Art piece what the Artist was trying to convey? Perhaps not. Art affects us all differently; no one has the exact same opinions on it. Not even its creator.
Everyone has to make up their own mind about Art. They should not be afraid to admit to themselves that they don’t like something even when the “cultured” are telling them why they should. They can appreciate an Artform without liking it. They can like something others don’t care for. They are allowed to sometimes say “What the fuck?”.
I like what I like. Sometimes my opinion can be swayed and it has at times been changed. But if there is one thing I know for certain, it is this: I will always hate mayo.