Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Art of Giving

I remember as a child, being very excited about Christmas. I was raised in a big Catholic family. So during the holidays, there was a lot of visiting and gift giving to celebrate the occasion. As much as your parents try to hammer in the true meaning of Christmas, it is all about the gifts to a healthy selfish red blooded American capitalist child. So, there is a lot of anticipation concerning what might be inside those gift wrapped boxes. Now as you all have experienced, occasionally you get a gift that is just so terrible and heart breaking you really do not know what to say. So bad it almost takes your breath away. Often this gift comes from someone that happens to share your last name. A beloved relative supposedly of the same gene pool. I don't want to name names, but we will call her "Grandma". This woman had held you as a baby, and watched you grow. Then you open that gift on Christmas Eve and pull out a sweater that would make a blind man vomit a lung. Looking at the sweater, even an 8 year old starts to think, "Maybe I should consider the Buddhist faith." You have been well coached to hold back the tears and robotically spit out "Thank You", and even hold it up for a photo op, but it is so bad as to taint the entire holiday. One can only hope it is the wrong size and will have to be returned. You also try to conjure a positive side to this "Well, I could use the box to make a cool fort for my army men. "

So, imagine you run a museum, and an artist comes along and says that he has a gift for you. It is a portrait he has painted of you. "Surprise!" He made it himself. No one helped him. Well, maybe a few people helped, but mostly he did it all by his lonesome.
Maybe this museum director was excited about this when he heard about this generous gift.

Then he uncrated it.

Photo: Bram Saeys

I am imagining the artist standing there as he opens it. He says, "So, do you like it? Don't you love it?! It looks so much like you doesn't it?"
"Did you notice I screwed some blue lighty up things on there?"

I mean, what the hell would you say when you got this and were asked to include it in your collection? You might even have a flash back and say, "Oh, thanks. Uh, it's great.... Grandma."

I mean really, try to defend this painting to me. Try to tell me it has any value other than the fact that is made up of stuff. Stuff smeared and screwed to other stuff and supposed to represent stuff that happens to be some guy.

Now, maybe the goal was to make it offensive to the eyes? If so, then maybe it works as a statement in that way. "I have painted you in such a hideous fashion so that whenever you look in the mirror you will feel good about yourself." It could be a statement about how vision is overrated for our understanding of the world. This is a painting you could stand a blind person in front of and say, "You know, being blind really ain't so bad."

If the goal is to make you want to scoop both eyes out with a dirty spoon, then I think he could have gone further. Why not offend the other senses? I could get behind this work if the artist was fully committed to it. You have to plug this thing in to get the lights to work, so you might as well add a siren that wails nonstop, at an ear drum destroying level. What if the painting gave off some rancid smell? Maybe when you look at the painting, trying to simultaneously hold your ears and your nose, it should repeatedly poke you with a sharp stick.
I left out the sense of taste, because I am sure if you licked it, it would taste terrible.

Just recently I read on one of the art news sites that this former museum director, recipient of this "painting", has decided to selflessly donate this portrait of himself to the museum.

Re-gifting at it's finest.


Anonymous said...

Wow. That we should all be honored with such generosity from an artist. You see, Richard, it's not a mere physical photographic likeness, but a masterwork based on how the museum director is "felt" to be. This is what's called a "higher truth". One can only assume that the subject of the portrait is thought of, at first blush, in an infantile way. He, the artist, sees his subject's "happy side" (yellow), BUT... at the same time acknowledging his dark side (the gray-black). Herein lies the balance of humanity. We are both giver and taker. We both live, yet die. We build up, we tear down. It's a frighteningly AWESOME piece.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

It is so easy to talk on and on about this piece.
I totally agree it is Awesomely frightening.

jeff said...

Is this a joke?
I mean someone payed for this?
Wow the nerve of some people.
I think my dog can paint better than this.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

This is serious. The lovely painting it going into the collection of the Van Abbemuseum.
If you want you can watch a video about it. It even shows some close ups.