cut the carners.


at the risk of sounding entirely ignorant, i have to admit that not only do i not get art, i might actually even hate art. i used to side with costanza's philosophy: "i don't get art. i always have to have someone explain it to me, and then i have to have someone explain the explanation." it's true. i don't know what i'm looking at half the time, and when i am looking at a piece, i am always conscious that i have no idea why i am looking at this, and how long i am supposed to be looking at it. why am i looking at this? what do i care about some old vase, some portrait of some princess who's been dead for centuries? a bowl of fucking fruit?

i guess if anyone is to blame for my non-appreciation and mild hatred for all things art, i'd have to trace it back to my st. ignatius art teacher, mrs. berlo. mrs. berlo was this long stick of a woman with glasses, who sported a straw-colored mushroom-style haircut. she had a weird accent, too, one that didn't make any sense. it wasn't foreign, and it wasn't east coast or southern. it just sounded like she never learned to talk right. "cut the carners," she'd say, in a loud, irritating voice. "fald it hamburger style." now that i think of it, maybe she was irish.

we, of course, never used real easels or real brushes, or oil paints. every assignment involved using watercolor paints with thin brushes, and thus, the result of our tuesday morning efforts was always a soggy piece of multicolored paper. like if someone shit rainbows and wiped his ass with toilet paper, that's what our typical masterpieces would look like. art was supposed to be fun, but mrs. berlo made it a chore. we couldn't just paint what we wanted, and we couldn't use any materials other than the cheap watercolor paints you could get from lucky's or thrifty's.

the worst assignment was the self-portraits we had to make. we were in sixth grade, just when appearances started to matter. mrs. berlo went around the room, critiquing each work-in-progress. "your eyebrows are thicker," she'd say, "or else, "you need to make your nose smaller." though she was trying to make our self-portraits more accurate, in the process, it felt more like she was pointing out all our inadequacies. her comments magnified each blackhead, unsightly mole, and any other blemishes. the final self-portraits were some of the most hideous things i had ever seen. nobody laughed at how badly things turned out. i think we were all genuinely terrified that this was how we actually looked.

things didn't get any better in high school. the only art class i took was mr. bischoff's art history class. i didn't "get" him, like most of the other jesbians did. sure, he swore and wore funny clothes and acted like a crazy person, but i wasn't buying any of it. really? you want to dedicate your life to showing slides of old, broken shit to catholic high school boys? something about that just didn't sit well with me. it was more or less the same in my art history class at s.u. in the dark, i sat in the back and tried not to fall asleep, while being forced every monday and wednesday afternoon to watch slide after slide of the parthenon, the virgin mary, the terra cotta warriors, chapels, stained glass windows, the bowl of fucking fruit, and on and on.

not for a second did anyone ever ask, "does anyone really give a shit about any of this?" i think if someone had, and we had all thought it over, i mean really thought it over, a majority of us would have walked out. it's a little unsettling to me that the same kind of nonsense is going on today, and will continue to go on until all the funds used for education are wholly transferred to military defense. i mean, one could argue, what do we really need? creative writing? philosophy? theology? does any of it matter? what's the point in making such subjects "required?" answer: the core curriculum is designed to make freshmen well-rounded students, and help them explore different areas of study. but look where that got me.

i still don't get museums, and in the rare occassion i end up in one (usually at a friend's prodding), i don't know what i'm supposed to do there. you're supposed to look, right? that much is obvious. how hard is it to look? it's not hard at all. but you're supposed to be interested, or at least pretend you're interested for the sake of those around you. but i don't get it. why is there a painting of a bowl of fruit? wasn't it enough to just let the bowl of fruit be? was it really necessary to record it with oil on canvass? did the artist think that we would one day run out of fruit, and that future generations would need a reminder of what a bowl of fruit looked like?

back to work. more cutting of the carners.

3 comments:

ms.meggie said...

>"moderate contempt?"

talking about hard times. said...

yeah, "discontempt" isn't even a word. apparently, i make up words now, just the way other writing center consultants sometimes would.

EasilyEntertained said...

never you mind. Shakespeare made up words too.