That Michelangelo: Some Sort of Mutant Turtle, Right?

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.





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37 responses to “That Michelangelo: Some Sort of Mutant Turtle, Right?”

  1. geewits Avatar

    Those are some very unique buildings. I think I prefer I.M. Pei.
    I was very confused when I saw that the Backstreet Boys were going to be on Leno. We watched Letterman that night.

  2. cathy Avatar

    I’ve seen buildings that look like these. Some after I’d been drinking long island ice tea.

    Loved this post. who else could combine architecture, food and booze so becomingly!

  3. Lone Grey Squirrel Avatar
    Lone Grey Squirrel

    I join you in the salute of creative artists. Too many of us are just creating problems, let’s honor those who are creating beauty.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    it’s funny this post is seemingly about ground-breaking, convention-flaunting ideas and a person who has them, and you then decide to close with the ground-breaking, convention-flaunting technique of mocking the backstreet boys. That very well may be what we call irony.

  5. Hammer Avatar

    If I built buildings they would look just like that. Not on purpose though 🙂

    Cool stuff.

  6. Her Grace Avatar
    Her Grace

    Lovely, lovely, lovely.

    That last one is my favorite. It looks like ocean waves.

    (I would have bought your rolling pumpkin,too.)

  7. furiousBall Avatar

    Ok so these all look really cool. But I’m pretty sure I could make all these designs by putting a buttload of legos (don’t ask how I measured) together and then microwaving them for a bit.

  8. lime Avatar

    wait, back up! what is this fried cheese curd you speak of? it sounds as genius as those wacky buildings!

    my librarian wannabe self wants to lead yougently by the greasy cheese curd covered hand to show you the wonders of automated catologuing…you know, computerized records…methinks the nasty shushing librarians who plague you are intentionally trying to upset you by requiring use of the old fashioned behemoth card catalog.

    i shall share the secrets of digitized databases as you introduce me to the wonders of fried cheese curds and we shall commune over the interconnected library records of the state.

  9. Jill Avatar

    I guess I had a few too many Long Island Iced Teas in college too, because this is the first I’ve ever heard of Frank. But I must say, his buildings are the COOLEST THING EVER. I want to live in one of his buildings! Ooh, maybe I could talk him into designing the room we were planning to add on……

  10. Glamourpuss Avatar

    Well, I hadn’t heard of him either but those are some damn fine buildings.


  11. Jazz Avatar

    I love Gehry. And Gaudi.

    Two amazing architects with rhyming names…


  12. kimber the wolfgrrrl Avatar
    kimber the wolfgrrrl

    No one has to ask me twice to eat cheese curds. Or drink Long Island Ice Teas. Or to toast Gehry, who’s architectural feats are stunning.

    I’m also a fan of Arthur Erickson, who strove to demolish the seperation between inside and outside space. His homes are breath-taking, although not in the same sort of “it might topple over!” manner of Gehry.

  13. frannie Avatar

    those are some gorgeous photos of his amazing work

  14. susan Avatar

    OK, we HAVE one of his buildings here in Seattle. I had to google it to make sure it was his…but looking at the other buildings I was pretty sure. Folks around here tend to call it the “smashed guitar” building instead of the EMP. Who knew?

  15. Tai Avatar

    “Long Island Iced Teas”.gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Oh! Wait! Wiping drool off keyboard. Something about art and a guy named Frank…hmmmm.

    Great post! I recommend a show (if you can find it) called ‘Life of a Masterpiece”.
    It’s an hour long look at the creation and travels of a piece of famous art.
    And it is amazing. And, thoughtit wouldn’t be fair to say that ‘I know you’d love it’ because I don’t, actually, but I’m going to say it anyway. “You would LOVE it!”
    Because I just know. 🙂

  16. bigrig Avatar

    Not that I’m asking you to incriminate yourself, but when you were washing down your cheese curds with the Long Island Iced Teas at age 18, was that, um, a legal beverage for you where you were? (No matter what, there are worse ways to prohibit yourself from getting a good handle on art history!)

  17. Diesel Avatar

    Neat. I love Wikipedia for sentences like this: “Having grown up in Canada, Gehry is a huge fan of hockey.”

    You won’t find that in Brittanica.

  18. Jocelyn Avatar

    Bigrig: I got grandfathered into the drinking age of 19 when MN changed to the higher age of 21.

    Plus, I used to buy booze in junior high for me and my friends. I have always looked old.

    It’s no longer working in my favor.

  19. Jocelyn Avatar

    Anonymous, it’s harder to be nasty when you leave a name, eh?

    So are you trying to imply that others have mocked the Backstreet Boys, one of America’s best-loved boy bands?

    I had no idea.

  20. Claire Avatar

    What the hell is a cheese curd? It sounds like the chunks a cow might blow if cows could blow chunks that is.
    Cool looking buildings.

  21. Tina Rowley Avatar
    Tina Rowley

    Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Was this post as fabulous as I thought it was? Was it? YES, IT WAS.

    Yeah, that kind of architecture just makes the heart go boom. Go and also Google “Hundertwasser”, if you’re not hep to him. And who’s the guy who designed all those crazy beautiful buildings in Barcelona? I love that guy!

    It’s great when humans can get together and make beauty like that for each other.

    Also, cheese curds are delicious and Anonymous is jealous of your insight and eloquence.

  22. actonbell Avatar

    Another lovely post.

    Frankly, I was too busy bringing on heart disease and killing brain cells to consider how Chinese sculpture might have toppled a dynasty.
    That’s the problem with the way we have to march off to college so young.
    I did happen upon an elective, Architecture 101, in which the prof did an excellent job of simply pushing appreciation to casual observers, which most of us were. I know I’ve seen the first picture, but would not have been able to name its creator.
    Incidentally, the now-defunct store Best had some interesting buildings…let’s see if I can google them:)

  23. Franki Avatar

    I’ve adored Frank Gehry for years. I wish more buildings were built for beauty AND usefulness. For a while, the Corcoran School of Art here in DC was going to be rebuilt by Gehry. Saw the mock-up and everything. My heart was broken when I heard that politics got in the way.

    It was gonna be so cool.


  24. Diana Avatar

    See, this is what you get from watching that libbie PBS stuff. Ideas. About Art.

    Actually, I took a year of art history in my tiny liberal arts college, sort of at gunpoint. Even us science majors had to take something “arty” or “liberal”. I chose it as sitting in a dark room looking at pictures sounded like less work than sitting in a lighted room talking about the role of religion in politics or other such non-microscope or test-tube related subjects.

    It was actually rather soothing, especially as you chose to take either the midterm OR the final, which meant that if you took the midterm, you could just sit in the dark and sleep as the soothing voice of “Stew” the aging-yet-trying-to-be-hip professor droned on about Caravaggio and sfumato and the rest.

    Life should be more like college, come to think of it.

  25. Maddy Avatar

    Ah yes the gall of it all. On a side note, if that twangs your strings you might also enjoy Gaudi’s architecture. [Spanish]

    As for the big meany mouth casting aspersions let me know if you have any tips of enhancing the self esteem of small people.
    Best wishes

  26. Tina Rowley Avatar
    Tina Rowley

    Gaudi! That’s the guy I was thinking of. Ka-pow.

  27. My Reflecting Pool Avatar
    My Reflecting Pool

    If I weren’t typing, You’d hear clapping. I am getting my mini vodka out of my purse now and toasting that bit of brilliance in our lives!

  28. SQT Avatar

    Anonymous is always such an ass isn’t he?

    And frankly, you need a lot of long island ice teas to get over the sound of the Backstreet Boys.

    I’m guessing anon likes boy bands.

  29. Dorky Dad Avatar
    Dorky Dad

    I think that Frank needs to lay off the mushrooms. My word, what are those things? Buildings?

    I’ve eaten way too many cheese curds.

  30. choochoo Avatar

    Wow, those are cool. Kinda like someone had an accident. Hehe.

  31. MyUtopia Avatar

    Those are cool pictures!

  32. Voyager Avatar

    Are those real buildings? Huh.
    On a serious note, I just heard on Canadian (CBC) radio last week about the “fags in the military” group picketing soldiers’ funerals. WTF!!? My blood boiled!

  33. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Jocelyn, this is a brilliant post!!

    Gehry challenged all the concepts of space with his amazing works, and even more amazing is the fact that People With Money (hereinafter referred to PWM’s) were actually willing to finance his fantasies.

    His buildings look like Oz. (Which itself was fashioned after the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.)

    It’s never too late to become an art aficionado, and apparently, it’s also never too late to finally learn what is in a Long Island Iced Tea. I grew up there, but never heard of this drink until I was living in NC many years later, so thanks for the art and mixology lessons.

  34. Top cat Avatar
    Top cat

    The last two pictures look like something out of Star Wars episode 3 or 4…cool!

  35. CS Avatar

    Great post. I find those buildings amazing, and I agree they bring a sense of solace for the ills of the world. Except for the Backstreet Boys, maybe.

  36. Theresa Avatar

    Isn’t that last one the Guggenheim in Bilbao? Did you know that it shows up in one of the James Bond movies? I knew about this guy, but I didn’t really know what a Long Island Iced Tea was, at least not what’s in it. Now I’ll have to taste one.

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