Friday, December 02, 2005

Art meme

Mr. Syzygy, a recent arrival to these shores posing as a graduate student, finds himself in New York thinking that he apparently has time to go to museums--and then (get this), "excuse" this first-semester indiscretion of his by turning it into an occasion for introducing an art meme in his blog. Though his GPA may suffer, we are the beneficiaries: If there's something the blogosphere needs, it's another meme. More seriously, it DOES need another art meme.

Here is his:

Go to your local art museum, and pick out your favourite works of art. Then post them on your journal. See what it says about you.

Living here at the continent's center as I do, MoMA, alas, is not just down the street. But I'd like to do my part to propagate this meme, so here goes.

What IS here is the Wichita Art Museum (caveat "click-or"--the museum's official site is disappointingly-thin; this site, apparently sanctioned by the museum but not linked to by the official site, has more images and some commentary on them), which is, quite literally, just across the river and down the street from where I live. Its focus is on American art, chiefly from the first half of the 20th century. For what it is, it's not bad: it has a couple of very nice Hoppers, beautiful portraits by Robert Henri and Mary Cassat, and generally serves as a good general survey of prominent schools and artists from the past century. And, hey, Saturdays are free.

So: here's my contribution: Ben Shahn, The Blind Botanist (1954; tempra on masonite). No dimensions listed, but I would guess it measures about 2'x3'.

Whenever I go to the WAM, I find myself spending a long time in front of this one. I think what appeals to me is its ambivalant fable-like quality: I find myself consider ing the tension between the man's blindness and his profession. What does he "see" in this rather repulsive-looking plant that we sighted types do not? Might our sightedness actually hide some magic, some beauty in this plant that the botanist can apprehend? Or is the issue something else: because, I assume, there's not much room for considerations of aesthetics in botany, "beauty" per se doesn't enter into the botanist's work, but should it? In other words, is botany somehow restricted as an area of human inquiry because it doesn't talk about the beauty of that which it examines?

I don't know. And so I go and look at it again and again, delighted in not being able to decide.

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Wodcast said...

Interesting choice of art. Coincidentally, I found your website by Googling 'art meme'. While yours is one of the first I've searched, I'm wondering if there really truly is such a thing as art memes, or whether we're just manifesting existing technology, like the internet, to create different sociotypes.

Although I'm not an artist, I'm working closely with an artist friend to develop a more interactive system for communication between artist and audience. You may be interested in checking it out, as it follows something along the lines of your own thought experiment. I can vouch for myself that it has profoundly increased my understanding and appreciation for my friend's work, which contains some of my favorite pieces, even compared to some other collections.

Thanks and good luck on your book.

Zodiac Group

Tim said...

Interesting idea - I was thinking of a similar thing, which is how I found this, by typing art meme into google...

I want to start something like this on my blog: but want to do something that nobody else is doing - any ideas?