Monday, November 8, 2010

When Does Art Stop Being Art?

Grandmother: To me art is in the eye of the beholder.  Each person must decide for him or herself if what they are looking at is pleasing to them.  I can remember back in time when FDR proposed the WPA and federal money was used to put actors, painters, sculptors, poets, writers and other fine arts people back to work.  Some of their works were criticized and booed and the fact that taxpayers' money was used to finance it, was a very controversial subject.  When we were living in Salt Lake City there was a turmoil over pictures of nudes that were hung in the public library where everyone who entered could view the art exhibition.

Today we have the episode over the Enrique Chagoya art work that was attacked by a woman and destroyed.  I don't really appreciate having one person mutilating a piece of art that I didn't get to view and letting me make my judgment about it.  Now the famous artist Christo wants to put posts and wires along the Arkansas River and hang silks over them.  He has put years of research and planning into his project and some people don't want him to finish it.  What a pity if they stop it, we won't get to see the sky above with the water reflected on the sheer silk.   

Our country is based on the four freedoms, if you don't like it, don't look at it, don't read about it, don't go to view it but for goodness sakes let each individual make their own decision.

Mom:  Art is viewed and understood through individual perception. What one person sees is not necessarily what I see. In my town an art commission works to select public art works which are placed around the city. The art adds a cultured aspect to the environment and it does stimulate conversation. I believe that art should be uncensored. However, having said that, I have a problem with the proposed Christo project over the Arkansas River. Translucent fabric panels will be hung over eight different sections of the river between Salida and Canon City, CO. The exhibit is temporary and I have heard that Christo is meticulous in prepping the areas, installing the artwork and removing it. But do fabric panels hung above a naturally beautiful river really constitute art? I enjoy the river for the vistas and the wildlife and I don't believe that fabric will enhance or add to that beauty. I guess my stance is that art should be original and created from the ground up; not added to or layered upon a natural site that is beautiful just as it is.

Daughter:  As far as Christo's installation goes, I disagree with my mom.  If she feels that this isn't a true expression of art, then what of a painting of a majestic mountain or a field of flowers?  Doesn't that allow the viewer to see the landscape through a different perspective, just as Christo's installation does?  Or is that not art because it's an interpretation of what already exists?

I understand how changing a natural environment needs to be carefully evaluated, but I don't understand some of the responses.  One opponent said: "Hanging rags over the river is the same as hanging pornography in a church."  What?!?!?  And here's another: "I feel bad for those folks out there who need art to see the beauty in the river."  Well, I feel bad for folks who can't appreciate art or change.

Christo is taking every precaution to make sure he leaves the area as pristine as he found it.  And he isn't changing the environment forever.  The exhibit will only be open for two weeks.

You be the judge.  Does this image below evoke any emotion in you?  Does it enhance the area's natural beauty?  Would you want to see it in person?  I certainly would.

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