Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dissecting Art

Long time blog readers may recall that I am a supporter of the arts and artists.  While I may myself hold on to every last dollar earned in clenched fist and live in never-dying fear that some liberal-leaning, paint-spattered, self-anointed chronicler of the human condition will try to wrest me from my wealth by hocking me a simplistic painting or—perhaps even worse—cause me to pause and think about my hopes, loves, and fears, I am nevertheless more than happy to point out fine examples of art and an opportunity for you to spend and support creativity when I encounter it.   For example, you may recall the brilliantly curated jar of plastic bag clips I highlighted back in 2011 that the good folks at Partners & Spade are willing to sell to you for $125:

Seriously, that is the kind of opportunity you want to take advantage of, because those clips will not be available at that price for long.  More recently I ran across a photo blog post on Slate with some highlights from a show by a photographer Doug Rickard:

To those un-interested in clicking through to see the Slate story (or following the link in the story to Rickard’s page at the Yossi Milo gallery), the photos explore “images of cities [in the United States] either forgotten or symbolic of economic collapse.”  The catch is that rather than explore such cities himself, Rickard spent four years virtually driving about this country’s decayed urban cores in Google Maps Street View, taking pictures of images on the screen for later gallery display.  This raises a couple of questions.  First, four years?  It took me five minutes to find the following similar images:

Couldn’t Rickard have pulled this thing together any quicker than four years?  Second, is this kind of thing art?  I tend to say “yes.”  Rickard’s pictures paint a bleak portrait, and culling slices from street view to tell a coherent story will qualify as art in my book.  Besides, if a blank canvas qualifies than I see no reason not to include stealing pictures from Google under the art umbrella.

But does Rickard's collection really tell a coherent story, or are the pictures only interesting from the comfortable perspective of the flip-side of poverty?  Do we learn anything from Rickard’s selections or just take a moment to bathe in waves of schadenfreude?  Or simply take a “there but for the grace of God go I” moment?  It would seem to be the inclusion of people that turns Rickard’s photos from portraits of urban decay to slices of poverty-porn.  But I’m asking questions now, so, see, the pictures equal art.

Of course if you want real porn, you can find that on street view too.  But be warned, the following link is not-safe-for-work and probably not anything you want to try and explain to your kids:

In much more innocent news, C and I went up to Fairbanks last weekend for her [undisclosed] high school reunion.  Up until a few days ago, all of Alaska has been baked by unrestrained sunlight and a comforting blanket of heat.  I actually got more sun in Fairbanks than I did in Phoenix, due most likely to my neglect of sunscreen rather than the extra hours of daylight.  In any case, we took the opportunity to run the Midnight Sun Run, a 10k held every year near the solstice.  The race starts at 10:00 pm, and the neighborhoods through which the race passes turn out for late-night picnics and parties.  Spectators crowd the course, narrowing the road and giving forth raucous cries of support as you pass, particularly if you happen to be wearing a full Gumby costume.  I had a decent enough race, but feel a little silly that I couldn’t shake Gumby until about mile 3.  And I still finished immediately behind an 11-year old.  I'll blame it on the heat.

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