November 16, 2007 – Waking up to the news this morning, I caught a bit of an interview with Robin Metcalfe, Director of Saint Mary’s Art Gallery. He was defending a racially charged work currently on display at the gallery. What I triggered for me was his arguement about art’s role to challenge viewers. I was taken back to my grade 12 High School English class. It was 1991. A few years earlier, in 1989, the National Gallery had purchased The Voice of Fire. (Some of you might remember all the media surrounding the cost of the painting vs. the “amount of work” in creating three stripes of colour.) And now Jana Sterbak was presenting an exhibition which had everyone talking. In my English class, the teacher brought up Jana Sterbak’s piece Vanitas (aka “the meat dress”). This was not the first time I had been alone on the other side of the perverbial fence in a discussion. But this was the first time I felt emotional fighting for an issue that was not directly related to me. I had been to the gallery a few times to see the exhibition because I was completely enthralled with Sterbak’s work. And “the meat dress” was one of my favorite pieces. I remember the whole class starring at me while the teacher had me on the hot seat asking “but is it art?” Feeling my face redden and the lump in my throat thicken, I thought about grabbing my bag and bolting for the door. Instead I swallowed and squeaked out a very lame sounding “it has us talking, doesn’t it?”
But that is what I love about the arts. I don’t love everything. I love that I don’t love everything. I love that what I love is not the same as what my husband, my friends and my family members love. I came across a photographer the other day that I had never heard of. One of her photographs has stuck with me since viewing it. (And now of course I can not find my way back to her site and I can’t remember her name.) The quality of light was so amazingly calming and slightly sad. And I know that someone else would not feel this or see what I see. And that is what makes art interesting. And that is why I love running this shop.
Aaron LaShomb’s paintings are hanging on our kitchen wall this month. I love listening to shop guests talk about them. “The feather one is so calming.” “It is as if I could reach out and grab the light bulb.” “Do they need to all be together? What would it mean if you seperated them?” So even if the 16 year old girl inside of me still wants to be blazing mad that some people want to discount unorthodox or challenging works of art, I suppose it is better that people even ask the question – What is Art?
“Fame” by Aaron La Shomb. More about Aaron at: http://aaronlashomb.blogspot.com