Monday, May 23, 2005

Ars Gratia Artis

Overheard at the local art fair this weekend: "Hey, this stack of paintings would fit in that space between the couch and the doorway. Just pick one out and let's go get a falafel!"

I almost decked both of them.

Why? 'Cause I'm a bit of a snobby art snob bitch.

Now, first, let me tell you that I can NOT draw. Y'know those 'Draw Skippy!' ads for Art Instruction Schools, that mail-order art thing, where if you draw that damn beagle well enough they'll let you give them two thousand dollars up front to be part of their prestigious program? That Skippy dog is the ONLY thing I can draw.

But I appreciate art. I gush over it. I am amazed by it. Years ago, I stood in the Art Institute of Chicago, my nose just inches from the Seurat painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte", and almost wept.... How? Did? He? Do? That? Little dots of paint, nothing up close, but from a distance it's an entire world.

The interior walls of my house have prints from Marc Chagall, Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh, and one by Melchers. All evocative of some time in our lives, some feeling, some remembrance. All purchased because of their inherent beauty, not because they 'fit a space'. We make space. We'll re-arrange an entire room to hang a painting. 'Cause that's our thing.

That being said, I was thinking yesterday that, despite the normalcy of the prints in our house, I have a secret obsession with the dark side of art. Disturbing things. Reckless, flirty, dirty, sinister, sanguine things. The yin to my more commonplace yang. Which probably explains a lot of my passions for sex, the earth, spicy rather than flowery scents, a fierceness when it comes to my children, the weird habit I have sometimes of just blurting stuff out and hoping the recipient isn't too pissed with me about it.

Since it's nice to share, I thought I'd give you some of my current favorites. Give you something to look at on your crazy Monday.

1) Frank Frazetta. Sergei and I had both seen a documentary on him and were recalling it Saturday. Then on Sunday, Sergei went shopping and bought the DVD of the documentary for me, "Painting with Fire". (What a sweet sexy thing to do!) Frazetta is the illustrator of countless Fantasy Art images, most notably, Conan the Barbarian. His work is erotic, dirty, violent. And disturbing. The documentary is great, if you get a chance to see it. Frazetta is just so enigmatic, so powerful, so passionate. Truly makes me want to run around in a loincloth bikini like Sheena of the Jungle or something.

2) Rene Magritte. He's the bowler-hat-suspended-in-mid-air guy. The "This is Not a Pipe" guy. But that's only the beginning. He cuts up landscapes and bodies, changes the sky into a face, messes with perception. One painting always stood out for me, "The Lovers II"...male and female heads kissing, but each head is wrapped in white cloth. We can't see the kiss. We can feel the kiss. But is it real? I love that he messes with what is "truth" and what is "perceived".

3) Bruegel. While he did some seemingly charming landscapes and snatches of real life, the paintings that I like are either full of sex, or full of death. And there's a fine line there, I suppose. "Wedding Dance" has men with full erections (albeit clothed). "The Triumph of Death" is a massive fist of destruction and torment. His paintings are 'full', you have to look a long time to see all the elements he's incorporated. I like the challenge.

4) Winston Smith. He's a montage artist, best known for album art for the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra, Lard, and Green Day. He's also had some covers for The New Yorker (my favorite is of middle age white men gathering money from trees, looking ridiculously happy and spoiled). He's another artist that has 'full' works, so much hidden and jammed in there.

5) Mark Ryden. He's like a train wreck. His website has paintings in themes including "Blood", "Bunnies and Bees", and "The Meat Show". He uses children a lot, which awakens a sort of tough protectiveness in me. Some of his young girls remind me of my girl-child in full tantrum mode, that sort of 'Don't you dare fuck with me, mom' sort of look that is both unsettling and gratifying in that she'll never take any shit from anyone. There are elements of some of his works that I'm trying to incorporate into a tattoo I hope to get soon. Just a matter of time.

6) Symon Chow. The least 'freaky' of my choices today. He does a lot of black and white photography, of gorgeous women (some naked), of landmarks, of objects. These appeal to me because of their iciness. They're frozen, intriguing, like those old double-sided photos that you had to view through a special wooden frame. When he does use color, it's brash, and stabs your eyes. Check out his website.

I know, I know, your eyes are spinning, too many links! Too much to read! What the hell are Santa and Jesus doing in that painting?! So take it slow. Don't hurt yourself. And if you have a favorite dark artist you'd like to share, by all means, please comment.

I'm gonna try and draw 'Skippy' now, from memory. Damn fucking dog...argh, the ears, oh, the horror! Fawwwwk!


At 6:42 PM, Blogger Orange said...

Flea went to the Art Institute here in Chicago and learned this about that great Seurat painting. If you thought the pointillism dots blew your mind, wait till you find out how Seurat said "fuck you" to authority by sneaking hookers into the painting.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Rose said...

I never knew who this guy was, but I transcribed an interview not long ago with Robert Williams, and decided after listening to him (quite a character) I should look into what his art was.

While I wouldn't hang any of it on my wall probably, there is something that kind of sucks me into his very odd world.

He says a bunch of stuff we all wish we could say. That's my contribution to dark art. ;)


At 9:26 PM, Blogger Becka said...

I LOVE Bruegel. I generally prefer 3D art though. Statutes, idols, etc. And B&W photography. Have you ever seen Weston?

Some of my favorites

At 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was Bill O'Reily at the art fair?

(I love a good erotic falafel!)

At 12:53 AM, Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

Orange: Thanks for the article! I have to go back to Chicago for a closer look!

Rose: Yeah, I can dig him! I'll have to take a gooooood long look at his stuff!

Becka: I love B&W, we have a 35mm camera we keep stocked with only that kind of film. Great for pics of the kids. But damn difficult to find a place local that develops it. What the???

Cynical Girl: Unfortunately, I put Bill O'Reilly's smug punk ass in a headlock, so he couldn't make it.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Shanna said...

I cannot claim to be someone in-the-know about art, but I do love it. I recently fell in love with Frida Kahlo and her work, though.

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Rose said...

I forgot all about Frida, but I do love her too. She was my very first "dark artist."

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Mona Buonanotte said...

I agree, Frida is awesome. She had quite the passionate affair with Diego Rivera, whose murals in the Detroit Institute of Art I could look at for days and days....


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