When you think of art, you probably think of some random dots splattered on a sheet of canvas in some unidentified art museum. People are surrounding it and marveling at its creativity, aesthetics, and other bullshit. In reality, it’s like the tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes.” No one wants to look a fool, so they make all this commentary about something that doesn’t exist.
I’ve run into this myself in the form of a film festival. It was a small festival set in the middle of nowhere, and the people who owned the brewery that were hosting the festival were hoping that it would grow over the years. Unfortunately, the films that entered this first year were terrible.
I could talk about one real stinker, but today I’m going to just mention the winner of the festival, because it’s appropriate to what I just talked about. This was a piece of crap… er, work… called simply “Three.” Everyone was raving about it, as if it was some sort of work of art. I hoped it was as good as everyone said, because so far the film festival had been nothing but bad music videos and… that other film.
“Three” started with a little boy playing in the grass outside of a remote duplex, the source of the name of the film. The door of number three opened and a young, blond woman stepped out as a convertible pulled up beside the duplex and some young man got out. The little boy watched as the man went into the duplex with the woman, who was obviously related to the boy somehow.
All of a sudden the sound effects of the windy grassland are replaced by heavy breathing. The boy freezes in terror and there is snake coming out of the grass. Meanwhile, the heavy breathing ends in a man’s scream. The boy kills the snake and is covered in its blood.
The door to number three opens and the man leaves in his car. The boy suddenly throws a rock at the car, but the man doesn’t react. The end.
I was the only one in the theater who saw the naked emperor. As people were gushing over the film and immediately compiling their votes, I was counting all the cliches I saw in that short ten minutes. I’m assuming the filmmaker was trying to convey some tired, old message about the nature of men or something like that.
Well, “Three” disappeared from the market after that. If you try to search it, you’ll find another short film that is decidedly much better. The only films from the now defunct festival that have been uploaded to YouTube are a funny skit called “Dance Club” and a couple of the music videos. Everything else, including “Three”, has disappeared into the ether, where it belongs.
Not all art is bad. It’s just the pretentious stuff that they display in galleries and film festivals for people to fear looking like idiots. Maybe that’s the real reaction they are going for- fear of the truth. Fear that someone won’t follow the herd and actually say it like it is, then look stupid in front of the rest of the sheep.
A few dots on a piece of canvas selling for $10,000 and a boy killing a snake in the grass are not art. At least not good art. They are the creations of con artists looking to make money off a bunch of people who desperately want to look like intellectuals. And it works every time.
I remember my mother now, because she didn’t think she had artistic talent. She couldn’t draw or paint, she didn’t understand the museum artwork, and she spent most of her free time doing number puzzles. However, get her behind a camera and she was a genius without even knowing it.
Let’s take Devil’s Postpile, for example. I’ve tried to photograph that damn formation for years. Either there’s smoke in the air, the light and shadow aren’t right, or something happens with the camera and my shot is blurry or out of focus. Mom took a 1980s snapshot camera with one of those film disks, aimed it at the formation, shot a single picture, and it was perfect. It’s so perfect, in fact, that I plan to use it in my volcano book.
But Mom swore up and down that she wasn’t an artist and had no artistic talent. Someone had convinced her of this long ago, though I have no suspects. Maybe it was my great aunt or my grandmother, both of whom were artists who couldn’t get Mom to paint a picture. Perhaps it was some jerk teacher at her school. Or maybe Mom just decided that she sucked at it by herself.
I know there are a lot of people like that, including myself. Personally, I don’t think I can draw worth a crap, but I’ve been told that I draw good comic strips and cartoon faces. I’ve also produced a few paintings and some limited graphic design. And, of course, there’s my favorite form of art- greenware.
We all have some artistic talent. Let’s look at my family, for example. My paternal grandmother knitted and made Christmas ornaments. I have an in-law who is an excellent photographer. Dad, with all his flaws, was very good at illustrating landscapes. My maternal grandmother was a crafter. My great aunt was a professional artist and my cousin studies art history. Then there’s my sibling, who can do anything artistic.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re a terrible artist. I can even find some good things to say about “Three.” The camera shots were spectacular and the scenery was stunning. It may have been these two qualities that influenced people’s votes more than the tired subject matter. I’ll admit, I was impressed with that part of the film.
The big problem that comes up with any kind of art, whether it be visual or performing arts, is a rather disturbing phenomenon. It grows like a mold, infecting everyone involved, and eventually destroys them. That problem is pressure.
I remember when I had a sibling in high school music, I observed how horribly competitive it was. Kids were cutthroat monsters to each other, and they were only encouraged by their helicopter parents. Worse were the adults who stood on the fringes and watched the trained seals perform, always on the lookout for the next great talent.
As I said, that pressure doesn’t just affect the artist, either. I was only in the third grade when they started to look at me, simply because I had a sibling in the music program. They hung around like ghouls, asking me what instrument I planned to play, as if it was already predetermined that I was going to be a part of this. I clearly remember the chills I felt, which were eventually cooked out of me by a rising defiance.
Mom and Dad were a part of it, too. They spoke to me not as if I might want to be in band when I got older, but as if it were a requirement. Mom, especially, was constantly trying to push me to pick an instrument to play, and I was foolish enough to fall for it when I was younger. I pulled my hair out trying to decide if I wanted to play the trombone or the drums, until I made the realization that band was an elective, not a required class. I didn’t have to play a damn thing, and I wasn’t going to!
Many years later, I asked Mom why she pressured me so much to join the band. She told me that she had always wanted to be in band and thought I’d have fun. This made me angrier than the ghouls. At least they weren’t trying to live vicariously through me, they were just looking for something to eat alive.
In case you didn’t figure it out by now, I generally dislike the classical music community. They are big into the snobbery and pressure that I hate so much. Their noses are so high in the air that it’s a wonder they don’t fall over backward. They admire the technical musical geniuses who can pick up any instrument and make a sound with it, but I say there is no value in that.
Anyone can play the trumpet, for example. A select few can play it well. Then you have some trained seal who performs in front of a crowd of well-dressed snobs and hits every note exactly and on time. But there is no spirit in it, no emotion. Once again, the emperor is naked.
What’s my point? Art isn’t a technical thing. It’s not something you do to impress the masses, barking and clapping your flippers for a treat of praise. It’s something you do to express your feelings and views. It’s an extension of your soul. You may draw a stick figure comic strip, but if you put all your emotions into it, it’s a classic.
I don’t see that in “Three,” which was made to impress judges. I don’t see it in the technical musician, who is only doing it to feed their addiction to praise. I certainly don’t see it in the dots on canvas, which were splashed there to make money. There are too many naked emperors in this world.
Draw that stick figure comic strip. Pour all your feelings onto a canvas. It does not matter if it’s “good” or “bad”; if it means something to you, it’s important.