We went to the Arts Festival at Piedmont Park in Atlanta this past weekend. The heavy, stifling summer swelter has finally relented to cool sunny skies and crisp fresh air—a perfect day to join our city neighbors in celebration of staggeringly shitty art.
It’s safe to say we don’t know real art from our assholes (although many in the local art community do regard my asshole as a work of special consideration). That said, we are certain no actual art was disturbed in the hosting of this festival.
It’s no small feat to host an arts festival of this size without a single discernible work of actual art. Hundred of booths lined miles of park paths, with artisans peddling their creations. The day’s biggest draw was in the park just outside the entrance of the official festival, where a street performer held the crowd captive playing drums on plastic buckets. We nicknamed him Neil Dirt.
The festival-sanctioned art delivered standard outdoor event fare. We enjoyed watching white suburban liberals peruse the ethnic art, conspicuously enriching their cultural appreciation by nodding thoughtfully at pieces they would never actually bring into their homes. Some stared pensively, allowing these diverse perspectives to evoke rich new personal and intellectual horizons. (The most honest ones realized that the art evoked memories of watching Good Times reruns on TBS as a kid, but they kept it to themselves.)
There were also photographers, jewelry makers (who probably acquitted themselves the most successfully), folk artists working with license plates, and some shimmery lacquered Japanese fish painters. (The art was shimmery and lacquered, not the painters, much to our disappointment.)
The dominant festival trend, however, was the Bored Housewife Collections. At some point between the ages of 43 and 55, many married women seem find their artistic “gift.” With Oprah and chardonnay as their muse, they put oil or pastel to canvas to express all the beauty, passion and feelings they’ve repressed during 20 years of PTA meetings, carpools, soccer games and thoroughly unsatisfying marital sex.
The ones with big dreams and disposable income end up here, some surely realizing a return of at least $0.24 for every dollar they spend on materials, transportation and booth rental. We wish we had taken more pictures, but we think you can visualize: Lots of stiff, static two-dimensional still-life portraits, often of flowers, wine glasses and bottles, or loaves of French bread, with no sense of dimension, depth, light or perspective. Or worse, “abstract” works, crafted at the hands of carefree spirits buoyed by Bikram and Xanax who refuse to let the rules of society, art or good taste confine them. “I love to work in color,” we imagine them saying at parties.
Actually, we don’t have to imagine, because they say things like this:
“I recently re-visited Pearl S. Buck’s book ‘The Good Earth’. It totally made me paint in a quiet, filmy kind of way… almost as if with vapor. This series grew out of that feeling I got while listening to the book on tape.”
We only snapped one picture at the festival, but we think it’s representative of the genre:
And in case you think we unfairly selected one work from this artist out of context:
Hey mister. I happen to do some bikram, and my closer friends know I want my eventual ashes mixed in Chardonnay. BUT I don’t paint about it.
Also, when one has quite thoroughly repressed one’s own early passions and creativity for the sake of needy, clingy little people brought into the world in a brief moment of hope for the future (before Obama said it), and no real understanding of the soul wrenching/often emptying task it will be, seemingly crazy things can happen when one gets a few moments to refocus back on one’s self. One such repressed housewife, and really doug, such a surprisingly disdainful sounding term, might really find pleasure in horrible art. Let her have it. Because all those cliche places she’s been for the past twenty years, the carpools, soccer games, and PTA meetings, and yes, sometimes thoroughly unsatisfying marital sex (at least they are still trying, it can be difficult to get to chandelier swinging when some small person always tends to have a nightmare or need to throw up at midnight) have been about her living largely for someone else. She comes last. Always. Or, almost. I’ve heard having a major auto accident is an excellent way to get some attention and much needed napping/narcotics. Anyway, I get it. I would have been laughing right along if my heart didn’t understand so deeply what can happen to early dreams when cast into twenty years of constant self sacrifice. You can’t imagine the crazy that can pass for creative endeavors. Although, I don’t understand the painting in vapors part.
But you are a genuinely gifted writer Allison, and you always have been. Nor do I recall you ever expounding on how listening to The Grapes of Wrath on tape inspired you to write in “a dusty way.”
Plus, consider the source–a 40-year-old, self-amused guy who decided his snarky observations needed a public forum in a blog. And it’s almost noon; you should go ahead and chill that chardonnay . . .
It’s one eighteen on a Saturday now. Think I’ll pour a glass up. Already hit my bikram this morning. ; )
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