The Suitcase Lady


May 22, 2007, 10:54 pm

I like to remind my middle school art students that art doesn’t have to be beautiful. In fact, it can be ghastly. Consider Picasso’s Guernica where the subject matter is the horror of the Spanish Civil War.

Perhaps some of us had grade school art teachers who never got around to art appreciation because they were too busy telling us to color inside the lines. If so, you might enjoy this simple exercise.

Try dividing art roughly into two huge groups. The first group is created solely for its own beauty. Think classical and timeless. Matisse fits perfectly into this category. He himself said that he dreamed of a pure, tranquil art, free of disturbing subjects, that would soothe the mentally fatigued as a good armchair.

The second group of art is created to send a message beyond the colors, lines and designs. This art is like a mirror held up so we can see who we are. Obviously, the reflection isn’t always botoxed. Only those who pretend that Walt Disney created the world negate the importance of message driven art.

I’m an ardent defender of non-beautiful art. It’s important to know who we are and where we are headed. We don’t, however, have to hang reproductions of Guernica or Munch’s The Scream on the living room walls.

I’m firmly in the classical art camp when it comes to choosing art to live with. On most days it seems like the entire world is screaming messages at me. I don’t need to come home to walls that are shouting, too. Surroundings with the tranquility of a Zen garden are my ideal. Give me a Matisse any day. Alex Katz and Philip Pearlstein aren’t bad, either.

Click on the small picture and find nine icons of art in one picture. This delightful collage is the creation of one of my talented and computer savvy students.

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