Unfiltered Thoughts: Artist Statements

I was listening to an old episode of one of my all-time favorite podcasts today – Wiretap, to be specific – and it included an interview with an artist whose project was living inside a plexiglass apartment in the Boston Museum of Contemporary Art for a month. Like absolutely every moment of her life on display for any wandering museum-goer. And she talked about how she did this as an exploration of transparency. The idea that was at the crux of her project was “Where there are walls, there are lies.” She said she wanted to “have the public think about what it would be like if their life was equally transparent and everyone could see what they did and would they judge their friends and neighbors” as harshly as they do now.

Fine. Good. But here’s the thing: is that what the viewing public got out of it? In the interview, the artist mentioned her artist’s statement and it made me think about how it may have colored people’s reading of the art. (You know those panels that get included in art exhibits where the artist gets to explain the driving force behind their art?) I guess I’ve always read them. (Well, that’s probably because I worked in museums for a long time, and much of that time wrote exhibit panels, so I’m a bit of a special case). But that aside, I have always read them before I viewed the art. Of course, that’s also because they’re often placed at the beginning of a gallery – a biographical statement or something to help guide the viewer’s reading of the pieces. (Actually I really hope that second part rarely plays a role, because how insulting is THAT?! That the reader, the non-artist, must require a guide to how to “see” things).

And that got me thinking “Did the public really think about the ‘walls and lies’ thing when viewing the plexiglass apartment? And did it make them reevaluate their judgments of others and reconsider their attitudes towards harsh judgmental tendencies?” Because if so, I’d hazard a bet that those ideas were colored by having read the artist statement. If they didn’t read the artist’s statement did they come away thinking something else? Like how everyday life itself is beautiful, for instance. Or how we structure our public selves differently from our private selves. And wouldn’t those readings be just as legitimate as what the artist intended the audience to think about? When you’re an artist (whether a performance artist, a sculptor, a playwright, a musician, or hey, even a writer), is the only thing you have control over the idea that you want to explore in your medium of choice, and not the audience’s reaction to that? There’s always a gap between what you think you’ve communicated and what your audience gets from it – and that gap itself is well worth some  exploration (but I’ll save that for another post).

It made me think more about avoiding reading the artist’s statement when I go to another exhibition until after I’ve viewed the art, and then perhaps revisiting each piece after having read it to see if it changes how I think about the art. It also made me think about the presentation of art in online exhibitions. Many times the artist’s statement is presented either in the copy that introduces the exhibition, or comes up first in the gallery, or is used as a means of a caption for each image displayed. What comes to mind is the most recent one I’ve explored the “Artists and their Monsters” gallery on NYTimes. What if instead of having the artist mediate for me what their monster is as it does in each caption, let me work out its meaning for me on my own if I wish. I’d be curious to find unmediated exhibitions online. Ones where there is no artist’s statement provided. And no, I’m not talking about online catalogues where you can curate your own collection, but I mean ones where the works have been selected to be displayed together but where you can “opt out” of the artist’s statement if you wish. I’d be more inclined to seek those out to see if they somehow allow you to be more thoughtful about assigning your own meaning to the art and the viewing experience. If you know of any, please let me know.

Chicks Who Rock

I was sitting in the driveway rocking out to “Goodbye Stranger” when My Better Half came out to see what the hold up was. When he saw I was rocking out he said “Y’know Supertramp is ALWAYS on some station, isn’t it?!” I said “Maybe. But this is on the iPod. It’s on the ‘Chicks who rock’ playlist.”

My Better Half: “Uh…you realize Supertramp is dudes, right?”

Me, jamming out to the falsetto section: “Is it? Is it reaaaaaly?”

By the way, Queen is on that playlist too.

My Greatest Fears Realized

I have this irrational fear that I will blurt out something that is appallingly inappropriate for the context. Or just plain unspeakably unsuitable for any context. Like if I were in a meeting at work and found the words “I like little boys” falling out of my mouth. Or turn to my in-laws and ask if they want a bong hit. Just completely, utterly inappropriate.

I thought this was just one of the millions of my irrational worries and anxieties. That is, until My Better Half™ told me this anecdote. His friends had a party last night, and the wife went to bed early. But when she retired to her bedroom, she left her phone in the living room, in plain sight. Her husband turned around just in time to see a mischievous friend setting her phone down on the table.

“Um, what’d you just do with my wife’s phone?” he asked the friend, knowing full well that the practical joker was up to no good. The friend explained that he had scrolled through her contacts looking for the ‘girliest name’ he could find and texted that person “Why haven’t we made out in public?”

The woman he had texted? Her boss.

See? I have reason to fear the scenario of having something completely socially inappropriate spilling out of my mouth, or my phone-as-mouthpiece, and being incapable of stopping it. See also: reason to lock my phone. Which I am doing. Right. Now.

Unfiltered Thoughts: The Workday

Am I the only one who views the workday as an impediment to the sh*t I want to and need to get done? Instead of sitting here for 8 hours I would rather:

  • finish my Photoshop Mother’s Day project
  • finish the art I started 7 months ago for my daughter’s nursery
  • finish start at least one of the three books I got from the library
  • watch another episode of Luther
  • nap

And, for those of you who are counting, in addition to the pet projects I would like to get done, I also need to:

  • fold and put away laundry
  • buy a robot vacuum / floor cleaner mop
  • figure out something to make for dinner that isn’t one of the 5 same old, same old recipes in my repertoire of late
  • nap.

blech. sick.

My life since last Thursday can be summed up as: alternating between tylenol and sudafed every 4-6 hours. I feel awful. I think it’s safe to say that I have been more sick since Baby was born than any other time in my life. Even though I managed to get a few catnaps this weekend and barely did anything besides lay around moaning, I stil felt straight up awful this morning. But I decided to go to work anyway because I have no sick time anyway and thought I could at least tough it through the morning with more sudafed and tylenol, like I did last week.

So I was sitting around literally counting the moments until I could bail, feeling just shitty, when my boss asked if I could go to the training workshop today in her stead. Why? “I feel so sleepy! My cats kept me up ALL night!”

I’m sorry. What?

Your kitty cats? You mean the ones that require constant vigilant supervision, feeding, bathing, entertaining, diapering, and soothing? Oh, wait, no. That would be my nine month old. That I took care of all weekend with, I’m quite certain, the flu. So pardon me if I’m out of give-a-shits.

Disclosure Agreement

When you have good friends visiting you in your new place, I think you should be required to disclose at the following:

Hey, by the way, our new house has an indoor hot tub! Bring your suits!!

While I’m at it, It’d also be nice to say, uh, that rattle your baby is chewing on isn’t colorfast. Her whole mouth is black. And her face. And her hands.

But I’d settle for the first disclosure.

Unfiltered Thoughts: From Babies to Babes?

I’ve been grappling with pink since Baby was born. Pink blankets, pink onesies, pink bath towels, pink toys, pink socks, pink bibs. We didn’t find out if we were having a boy or a girl, so I was lucky to have a bunch of yellow, green, and white stuff on hand or I would have gone apeshit. I don’t love pink. It’s a fine color, but everything in moderation would be better. It’s particularly puzzling because:

  1. Babies love bold graphic patterns and high contrast colors, so what’s with all the pastel? and
  2. Why is it that boys get a range of colors – bold reds, bright happy yellows, rich royal blues, vibrant oranges – but girls get only pink? (I’m not the only one wondering, btw. Even a FOUR YEAR OLD demands to know).

It’s not absolutely impossible to find non-pink clothes, but it is difficult. The big box stores and chain baby retailers carry a few things here and there, but it’s mostly a Pepto world out there. Higher end baby clothing lines do carry more variety for girls, but they’re out of reach for me – too expensive. And the consignment stores? Don’t get me started. Their #1 selling item is a pink baby headband – they can’t keep it in stock. My baby girl is beautiful without any stupid ass headband designed to ensure that others know she’s a girl. Like you couldn’t tell from the pink onesie, the pink sweater, the pink pants, and the pink socks. I want my baby’s wardrobe to be as expressive and funky as I am, but I’m also not rich, so evidently, she’ll be destined to a pink world, at least for now. I thought in a city of this size, with this many f-ing tattoos and facial piercings (mine included), there’s GOT to be some cool, hip, affordable Funky-Ass baby store here. I turned to my local alternative weekly paper, as they’re more apt to point me away from chain big box retailers and towards some cool little tucked-away gem I didn’t know about that caters to moms who aren’t cookie cutter, plastic surgery trophy wives with daddy issues. But I did a search in their “Best of” section for “baby”… and the top result was a strip club. I give up.