When Art Gets Weird: How to Respectfully Agree to Disagree

As an English major and Art History minor, I am required to read and view A LOT of art and written work.  Some of it is great (George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’ = Great!, Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ = Great!) and some of it (My peer’s essay on Feminism in The Hunger Games = Not So Great, An art installation of a toilet coming out of a wall = Huh?).

Given the subjectivity of art, coupled with the broad spectrum of genre and mode, there are bound to be certain kinds of art that don’t make sense to everyone.  But when I see a piece like this (say, a toilet coming out of a wall) and am confronted by the artist, I never know what to say.  Sure I’d like to say, “I’m sure you had fun making this and I’m sure this toilet speaks to some deep, albeit smelly part of your soul, but it just doesn’t speak to me.”  But somehow this feels wrong.

But for me and for anyone who has ever felt this distanced sense of disconnect when confronted by bizarre art, I thought I would compile a list of tips to consider when voicing your opinions.  Coming from a family full of people with diverse tastes in music, movies, and books, I’ve learned a few things over the years, but it’s helpful to remind yourself how to tastefully convey your tastes, without crunching the hearts of passionate artists.

Sarah’s Tips for Tasteful Critiques

  1. Acknowledge the Skill. Even if the swirling blown glass sculpture doesn’t look like anything to you, it’s still nice to tell the artist that you appreciate their time and effort to construct every piece of blown glass.
  2. Find ONE thing that strikes you. Even if it makes you feel sad, scared, or angry, acknowledge the emotion.  Even negative emotions and reactions mean that a piece has power.
  3. Feel free to ask questions. If something fails to strike you, ask the artist why they chose to arrange the piece the way they did.  Artists love talking about their work and their creative process.  Even if you aren’t interested in the final product, it’s always illuminated to find out how things are made.
  4. Connect the art to something you are familiar with. If you have absolutely no background with minimalist music, but love film scores, you could maybe tell the composer, “Wow, I had never heard minimalist music before this, but it reminds me of…”   Things like this will keep the conversation from a stalemate and maybe spark a new connection.
  5. Be Honest.  If there was something that you didn’t understand or thought missed the mark, kindly say so.  You don’t have to rip the piece to shreds, but maybe highlight the key feature that maybe rubbed your the wrong way.  It’s always nice to start with a high point though, as in “While I loved the colors of the leaves around the frame, the naked man in the middle was really jarring.”

Art for You

For a whole summer I considered myself the connoisseur of  creating wearable art through my own do-it-yourself interpretations. I would go to my local Michael’s craft store and into the trinket aisle where the little buttons, pins, and necklace pendants were, and I’d go insane. I would grab all sorts of cool stones, some beyond bigger than any hand could rock, but I knew that once I got the backings, the super glue, and the pliers, I could make some of the coolest rings anyone I knew had ever saw.

sincerelyyoursjamie.wordpress.com

There also was my desire to become my own interior decorator by do-it-yourself interpretations as well, same summer of course. I hit the local thrift store just about every Saturday, and looked for vases that had weird shapes that I could bedazzle with cheap stones, wood that I could paint over and bombard with collage clippings, and fake flowers that I could intertwine within itself to garnish my doorway. I loved creating my own stuff that enhanced how I lived my life. It’s one thing when art is made for the opinions of others, but it’s another thing when it is simply made to help you feel proud of your abilities.

It was most likely after my trip to Harlem, New York where my creative juices wanted nothing more than to be quenched with something spectacular. In Harlem there were so many people who used their creativity as a market for themselves. There were rings, paintings, music, clothes, shoes, postcards, phone cases, anything you could think of was out there and, for the most part, was created by these people. I bought a few rings that I cherish to this day because no one has anything like them, but what I wanted most was to do that for myself.  I wanted to created my own wearable art and livable art, and maybe that’s how I became inspired.

Photo Credit: Flickr.com

Fashion and interior design have always been an exciting field for me where I could experiment with the inexpensive resources I had around, so I could translate something I initially liked into something I loved. Do-It-Yourself is a great method to produce a creative flow within yourself, whether it be in interior decor, clothes, jewelry, d.i.ying something out of an older item, or a unexpected item, can be the first step in discovering who you are as a creative person, and how you can produce your own forms of art for the world.

A$AP Get Like Me

For years I wrote off anything attached to the name A$AP Rocky, assuming he produced music on the same level as the Meek Mills and 2 Chainz’s of rap. However, his recent album Long.Live.A$AP quells all of my skepticism and distrust. A$AP Rocky’s album is close to being on par with Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid m.A.A.d City, but falls short in a few crucial areas. A$AP Rocky, despite showing amazing potential with this record, still cannot seem to abandon his common themes of drugs, guns and women, which permeate almost every song he’s ever released. A$AP shines when he is able to circumvent this habit and rap about significant issues. This dichotomy defines Long.Live.A$AP; half of the tracks (mostly those which feature other artists) are so outstanding that they could be considered the top Hip Hop releases of the year, while the other half are downright amateurish. A closer look at a few of the songs better represents the album’s range.

Arguably the most well known track off of Long.Live.A$AP is “F**kin’ Problems” by A$AP, 2 Chainz, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. As 2 Chainz is only useful when used as comic relief in absurd songs, I applaud his feature on this song. The premise is downright ludicrous, and there’s nobody better to perpetuate its ridiculousness than 2 Chaniz. Furthermore, he is deservedly only allowed a few words in the hook, which is arguably too many already. Beyond this, the song allows A$AP, Drake and Kendrick to boast their male dominance and establish themselves, essentially, as alpha males. However, they do so in a skilled and creative way, and it pays off. “F**kin’ Problems” is a catchy, well-versed song that, while most likely will not live longer than a few months, is more than enjoyable for the time being.

After skipping the next track, we arrive at the album’s masterpiece. “1Train,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. is without a doubt one of the best Hip Hop singles in the past year. This song is easily comparable to “So Appalled” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; both tracks feature a deep and hypnotic beat (Hit Boy keeps his streak going) and a series of superb verses from featured rappers. A$AP takes it a step further and eradicates all choruses from the song; these 7 rappers follow one another without any pause, spitting unbelievably powerful lyrics. This is unsurprising, as Kendrick, Joey and KRIT are considered the three best young rappers in the game at the moment, and bringing them together with such lyrical freedom could only have produced amazing results. Joey, at age 18, is grappling with the prospect of working with artists like Jay-Z, and staying connected to his networks and life at home. He states, “And I’m thinking about signing to the Roc/But my ni**as on the block still assigned to the rocks.” Anchoring this impressive team of MC’s, Big K.R.I.T. reflects on his process of becoming a true artist, powerfully remembering issues from earlier in his life. He recalls, “All I had was rap when all they had was wack/All I wanted was love, all they had was dap.” In my opinion, this is an utterly brilliant line. Considering his initial stages as a rapper, he maintains that he was making real rap music while his competitors were not; he was looking for the confirmation and was not receiving enough of it.

Conversely, the album also boasts songs such as “PMW (All I Really Need).” Standing for pussy money weed, this song offers nothing into A$AP’s abilities as a writer or rapper. The other songs fall under the same category, and are too congested with sounds of gun shots and harsh sexual references to be considered impressive music. Unfortunately, Schoolboy Q’s features appear on these types of songs, but his verses are for the most part much better. There are also a couple songs such as “Fashion Killa,” “LVL” and “I Come Apart ft. Florence Welch” that, while not on the same level as “1Train” are nonetheless excellent. All in all, A$AP is showing a ton of promise with this album, especially considering the unprecedented level of talent he was able to recruit in the form of his featuring artists. However, if he wants to really make a name for himself in the Hip Hop world, he needs to relinquish his juvenile obsession with rapping about girls, guns and drugs. If Long.Live.A$AP is any indication, he is on the right track.

Food Art

I love cooking. And baking. And food.

You may scoff and say “Who doesn’t?” but you don’t understand. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE food. My father always says that other people eat to live but I live to eat.

The roughest part of living in dorms was always the food aspect. I missed cooking like I would miss a limb and I missed having delicious food. In high school, as soon as I came home from class, I spent a good three hours designing a four-  to five-course meal and then making it and then the glorious part: eating it.

While I have adapted to eating godawful shit dining hall food, I still miss food. Real food. That I made with my own hands. While listening to Edith Piaf. It’s especially rough after breaks, where I go home for the few days off class and cook again. I went home MLK weekend and haven’t fully adjusted back to dorm life. And the pictures and taste of the chocolate raspberry tart I made still haunt and taunt me.

Thus, in my despair and separation from sweet treats and savory wonders, I have turned to porn. Food porn, that is. And found a whole new world of art.

Food art is especially emphasized in Japanese culture, where it is commonly believed that people eat with their eyes first. Thus, food has an extremely visual aspect and a chef must not only train to prepare delicious food but also learn how to present it in an extremely aesthetically pleasing way. Beautiful geometry, symmetry, and variation in color are especially utilized.

Sushi and vegetables
Sushi and various meats and vegetables

And everyone who wastes their days away on Reddit and Tumblr knows bento art aka lunch box art. Bento boxes, Japanese lunch boxes, are known for having different compartments and are the inspiration for some crazy art.

Artistic fruit bowls are also becoming an extremely popular way to add pop to a party due to their relative affordability and DIY potential.

For the hardcore:

How I want to learn how to do that one day… Instead of having an ice sculpture at my dream classy cocktail party, I’ll just carve a bunch of fruits and display that.

Edible Arrangements have nothing on this.

Yes, the following is a real thing, not Photoshopped.

Microsculpting is also a thing.

Hungry yet?

Fruits, vegetables, nuts and other gifts of Mother Nature are already ridiculously beautiful but this is just a whole another level.

Sorry for the lazy post. I just wanted an excuse to search for more food.

Endless Rodin

This past weekend I visited a friend at Stanford University and had the pleasure of going to the Cantor Arts Center, the University’s museum. The museum has an enormous collection of Rodin sculptures, and although I have seen many Rodin in passing throughout my life, I have never had the opportunity to view endless (as their collection felt) Rodins in the span of merely an hour. The museum had over three rooms of Rodin as well as an outside sculpture garden of his sculptures. Of all the works, however, what was the most stunning and awe inducing was The Thinker of 1881, the enormous 182 x 77 x 142 cm bronze sculpture of a man sitting, his head in his hands, ruminating over his thoughts. Rodin’s rendering of the human body, I believe, is unique in for his capability of capturing the human form, movement and ambiance is utterly and entirely reminisce of the actual human being.

Amazed as I was by Stanford’s Rodin collection, I decided that, upon arriving back in Ann Arbor, my first stop would be to spend some time in UMMA. Somehow, in all my countless ventures at our University’s museum, I missed what I believe to be a true highlight of our entire museum’s collection – the sequential statues by Rodin titled “Dance Movement”. Although these Rodin sculptures are far smaller in size than the massive sculptures featured at Stanford, being in the presence of Rodin in Ann Arbor was yet another reminder of how often I find myself taking for granted the incredible works of art that are present at UMMA. The museum’s truly exhaustive collection is one that should be both highlighted and cherished.

Degenerate Frame: a performance review.

Date: 2 February

Time: 18:82 (for those uncultured [re: non-”pretentious”] Americans–4:22pm)

Place: Diag

The bells oddly tolled a few minutes late, marking the time the artist arrived to when he started as a waiting period. He stood with brush in hand, close enough to the canvas to look like he was touching it (but there is always room for Jesus), and stood completely still. Dead still.

The frame was 3×3 and white—white like the frail, thin hands of the woman who stood a distance aways, flaming red hair. 3×3 like her mouth as it made a “C” to read the first word, “Lily…” She started from the top of the steps of the grad library and descended at a rate of one step per 3 minutes. After she had reached and tapped the bottom step, she repeated her motion backwards up to the top steps and topped the topmost step, and then she repeated her motion forwards down the steps and tipped the bottom step…

The man was too aware of her movement and each time a tap, top, or tip rang through his ear he jolted the brush in a circular fashion that obscured the staircase from being a staircase. In the end it resembled a face, a foetus, a flower, but really the staircase turned inwards. It was filled with color: light green, dark green, medium green. He was dressed in black and smoked a dark-chocolate brown cigar (rebel) that was shaped all to phallically for the passersby dressed in head-to-toe white.

Her hands quivered. The snow was falling over the scene and gently smudged the green into green into green. He w(h)ip(p)ed the mistakes out of the canvas and the wooden frame began to morph. But he couldn’t go too crazy. He stepped back and stared through it as if it were a window looking out onto the scene. As if he were paces behind the woman’s frame, safely inside the stacks of white pages, staring as if the blanket was coming down all too fast against his feet, and before long his eyes would begin to close over the white landscape of his eyes.

But they hadn’t any time and the chimes struck again. Her mouth folded into a “C” as she whispered–this time, “She was fast asleep.”

He quickly moved from the center of the “M” and grabbed, from behind a garbage can full of rats, gray paint. A gray that would paint the London sky on a rainy afternoon, a grey that would splash the sidewalks and sewers, the grey of cityscapes, and the gray of a fog that won’t quite lift. He took the gallon and dumped it onto the art. No canvas, no frame stood in its way and once the entire gallon had dissolved onto the canvas he got a spray bottle full of vodka. He sprayed and shot and shot and sprayed and now that the two were just buzzed enough he picked up the frame and brought it near to her. It was her 13th time on the 1st step. She picked up her foot and sent it crashing through the grey/gray/green stair-fa-foet-case.

“His own identity” as the artist “was fading out into a grey” canvas and all he knew to do was to rip the frame from itself. He could not have done it soon enough because as she read aloud the last word, the whole scene became “dead.”

These events I find most odd, peculiar. I can’t help but laugh and ask for forgiveness when something like this happens close to me. Guilty by association. I felt that it was…different…and some would even say…but I’m not them and I’m not to say. It is on these afternoons at 19:41 where I can only think that this was a “portrait” told by an artist, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The bell chimed.