Monday, May 19, 2008

Art musings

So we trotted down to New Orleans this weekend, and pretty much had the day to ourselves Saturday. It was a beautiful spring day, so we headed over towards City Park, and had lunch at Cafe Degas. I really enjoyed it; I think it is one of Anya's favorite restaurants in the city. The food is very good, basic French cuisine (probably not very cholesterol friendly!) in a great setting. We actually ended up there twice--after we spent a few hours at the museum we went back for the dessert menu--mmmmmmm.

At NOMA, there was the George Rodrigue exhibit, and Mr. Blue Dog himself was there, signing books. Now this is where I will being to rant a little, so my apologies. Rodrigue has an extensive body of work going back 30-40 years. His early works are actually pretty interesting; I really liked the dark, foreboding landscapes, dominated by towering, somber oaks, their branches terminating in what seem to be claws. There is a technical skill displayed. These paintings are "painterly," as Anya likes to describe them.

And then there are the Blue Dogs. I was looking at the large metal sculpture that he had done (he does sculpture, too--I didn't know that), and my attention was drawn to the dog's eyes. A circle, two marks at the 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock positions, and the eyebrow thingy coming off and over at about 11 o'clock. There it was again. Again. And again. And again. Every dog, every eye--again and again. I mean, maybe he has an assistant draw the eyes for him.

One of the 1st Blue Dogs (I think) was there, and it was actually kind of interestingly done (the eye was different, too, somehow, like some conscious thought had gone into its construction). But it's like suddenly, the Blue Dogs began selling like hotcakes (very expensive hotcakes) and Rodrigue was off to the races. Blue Dog this, Blue Dog that, Blue Dog with a celebrity, Blue Dog with whatever happened to be fashionable that day. Formulaic I believe is the word I am looking for. I thought the Blue Dog with Drew Brees was embarassing.

His scenes of Cajun life, once artistic and somewhat masterful (like The Aioli Dinner from 1971) in more recent works seem to be quickly thrown together, almost appearing as if he is trying to imitate some kind of outsider art. Ummm, childish I believe is the word I am looking for.

So what? Is it art? I don't know--I'm not an artist, but I am married to one, and I can hope that some of her brilliance and "painterly" knowledge rubs off on me. And Anya and I have had this discussion before. There is a gallery in the Quarter that featured the works of one artist, whose "badge" was a skinny, line-like saxophone player, standing underneath a wrought-iron balcony, blowing his skinny soulful heart out at the moon hanging above. Nice image, yeah, kinda touristy--but again and again and again, in commutations and permutations and repetitions that eventually make one realize that that "special" painting (for $14,000) maybe isn't so "special" after all. When does art become formula? Can a formula be art? Mr. Rodrigue makes (according to the website) $22,000 per painting. His work is admired and sought after by many, as perhaps is the same for the saxophone painter. But is . . . it . . . art? Are you really reaching and stretching yourself as an artist painting the same dog's eyes day after day? How do you sleep at night? Easy, I'm sure, if you are counting sacajawea's all the way to Dreamland, but as an artist, what do you feel? Accomplished? cheap?

When I asked my artist wife, she replied, "we just don't know." Kind of like that wave-particle duality thing, or what's at the center of a black hole, or where they buried Hoffa's body. I'd like to believe that a true artist develops, and expands and explores their art form, and doesn't sacrifice their instinct for money.

But--we just don't know, although as far as Hoffa goes, I like the theory that he's encased in the north end of Giants stadium in New Jersey.


Petronia said...

hey there, dave! i just checked anya's blog for the first time in a while and linked to you from there. hope you don't mind me adding your link to my blog.

Small Town Doc said...

Glad you are here! Thanks for adding me to your blog.