Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My thoughts on the recent Smithsonian "art" exhibit

Just recently, the National Portrait Gallery at the venerable Smithsonian Institution put on an art display entitled "Hide/Seek:  Difference and Desire in American Portraiture".  Sounds innocent enough, until you realize the whole thing is basically a display of homoeroticism mixed with anti-Christianity in the form of a video that shows an ant-covered crucifix.  The Smithsonian eventually pulled that, although the rest of it remains up.

I can't say that I'm surprised.  Modern art nowadays is geared toward maximum shock and offense.  If your work doesn't ruffle any feathers, you can't consider yourself an artist.  You can only earn that coveted title if you create something blatantly vile and offensive, trampling on the cherished beliefs and values of the community in the process.  Take Chris Ofili, for instance; his most famous work is a portrait of the Virgin Mary plastered with pornographic images and sprinkled with a liberal amount of elephant dung (I didn't even know that was an art medium; move over paint and sculpture, here comes elephant crap!).  Instantly he was hailed as the next best thing; not because his work was any good, but because of the fact that people expressed offense at his vile work.  That's what passes as art nowadays; the kind of vile garbage normally associated with the thought processes of a snot-nosed teenager scrawling vulgar graffiti on the stalls of a public restroom.  As a matter of fact, it wouldn't shock me one bit if a photograph of THAT would be hailed as the next big thing in art, along with nice fat government grants to go with the acclaim from "artists". 

The Smithsonian exhibit isn't the worst example, but it is indicative of the state of modern art.  It's an anything goes, vile free-for-all where anything can be considered a great work of art, so long as it is vile and disgusting and offends the values of the community.  The fact that our tax dollars pay for the display of this sewage is simply icing on the garbage cake.  Long ago, such trash wouldn't NEVER had been displayed in public.  Art a long time ago was about capturing the grace and beauty of creation, and for some, it still is.  But now, it's all bile, all the time, and it's not getting better anytime soon.

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