I have profound deficiencies in my knowledge of art. Sure, I recognize dogs playing poker when I see them, but beyond that, my high-priced liberal arts education is artistically pockmarked. Certainly, I can enjoy the shadows of Rembrandt. I groove on the dribs and drabs of Pollock. I’ve even heard of that DaVinci dude (it took a group of Navaho speakers to break his code, right?). But I lack a comprehensive, well-developed overview of art.
This, I blame on cheese curds. And Long Island Iced Teas.
See, when I hied off to college and could have enrolled in and attended a host of mind-expanding art classes, I was otherwise occupied. As a Montanan transplanted to the Midwest, I was too busy taking my first delectable, delicious, delicate bites of deep-fried cheese castoffs to sit in a darkened room taking notes about delectable, delicious, delicate brushstrokes put to canvas three hundred years before. At the age of 18, I wanted the immediate, in-the-moment, contemporary gratification of the crisp-but-melty cheese curd. Once the curds were swallowed, I headed not to a class on masterworks; rather, with my digestive system well-protected by a coating of grease, I headed next door to the town bar for its Wednesday night tribute to the perspicacity that is rum, vodka, tequila, gin, triple sec, all capped by a splash of cola: the Long Island Iced Tea.
Frankly, I was too busy bringing on heart disease and killing brain cells to consider how Chinese sculpture might have toppled a dynasty.
So I’m a little dumm about art junk stuff.
Imagine, then, what a revelation Frank Gehry was to me last year, when I toddled in to the couch and turned on the tv, balancing on my arm the adult version of curds and Tea : a glass of wine and some pita chips and hummus. At that moment, PBS was broadcasting a documentary entitled SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY. With my hands too full to turn the channel, I had no choice but to sit down and swoon into the rapture of his work.
Who the frick knew? Who knew, I ask you?
Okay, as it turns out, a large part of the populace knew and is well acquainted with Gehry, as he’s one of the most-ballyhooed modern American architects. His work is big-time stuff around the world. I can hear you “fa-fwa-fooing” now about how you’ve been versed in Gehry since your cloth-diapered Mother Goose years.
I, however, had spent my formative years with my head too deeply dropped into the works of Pearl S. Buck…and then into a bottomless cup of five-shots-of-booze…to have any idea that a guy was out there, coming up with such visions, and getting paid to produce them.
And really, that’s the part that continues to inspire a certain faith: Gehry has created a very singular vision, one outside of traditional form, and people with money have gone for it. I’m not at all used to people with money putting their dollars behind ground-breaking, convention-flaunting ideas.
I, for example, once pitched a “rolling Halloween pumpkin, for when the candy outweighs the kid” to Proctor & Gamble, and they laughed me out of the conference room. I’d even bought a new black pencil skirt for the presentation, but they didn’t so much as compliment me on it as they showed me the door, those corporate rat bastards.
My resulting cynicism lumped out-of-the-box thinkers like Jocelyn and Frank into the same Pile of Woeful Neglect (we’re located, in the card catalogue, just after the Pile of Wondrous Nightshades).
And yet that PBS documentary reminded me that sometimes, in this world where big money generally fuels sure bets and more of the sames, the deep pockets can open up for genius and awe.
And on days when I cannot breathe due to the frustration I feel about our president,
Or I am tempted to wrap my fingers around the throat of a bully who has called my 4-year-old Niblet “ugly” and “fat,”
Or I mourn that my students at the college have never left Minnesota, even though we live a 10-minute drive across a bridge from the next state,
Or I keen for parents standing at the open graves of their fallen children, having to close out the sounds of protesters chanting and holding signs about “Fags in the Military,”
Or I rage when the best people I know have their hearts ripped open by failed love,
Or I see The Backstreet Boys on Jay Leno,
I find solace in the knowledge that an artist like Frank Gehry not only exists but is rightfully heralded for designs that push us all out of the safe and easy.
Let’s raise and clink our curds in his honor.