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This Version of That

This Version of That

Louise-Bourgeois-UNTITLED-2005-2

The Short Image is where I’ll offer each Thursday a few words on art, culture, and elsewhere. This week, What do we get to call art?

People—and by people I mean everyone—have a huge stake in art. If you don’t think so, look how many get mad at it. Put a Christ in urine and watch out.

But it’s not only in the negative that the passions get engorged. Now THIS is art, someone says every day. They might be holding an ink drawing of a tiny girl astride a red dragon, or standing in front of a painting that shows a single white stripe amidst a field of brilliant blue.

A few days ago I stumbled across a “chief art critic” for a British newspaper deriding the work of artist Louise Bourgeois, the French-American powerhouse who made art nearly to the day she died, at age 98. Her work, implied the critic, would soon be forgotten since any appreciation of it required an intimate knowledge of her biography.

The guy’s an asshole. Likely a misogynist. The first time I saw the work of Bourgeois, it floored me. I’d never heard of her.

Of course, the critic was only staking his claim. And for all I know he’s a committed feminist. And furthermore, I myself don’t care for Bourgeois’ most famous piece, Maman, a gargantuan metal spider. Seems a bit … cheesy.

Still, that guy, what a douche.

We get indignant and yell about who gets to call art art and which art should inflame our minds and bodies. I like art that doesn’t want to tell me what it’s about, that lets me wonder over it and its secrets. I see paid art critics getting upset they can’t figure something out. Whatever, numbskulls.

Take a look though at that Bourgeois at the top of this page. Isn’t that stunning? It reaches right in, yanks my organs around. It says to me, This is why we make art.

If only all of us find our own version of that.

Joseph Young

Joseph Young

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore. He has written about art for many magazines, newspapers, and websites, and his book of very short stories, Easter Rabbit (Publishing Genius), was released in 2009. His art has been seen in galleries and other venues in Baltimore and beyond. Check out his digital collage series, Newer Comics.
Joseph Young

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About The Author

Joseph Young

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore. He has written about art for many magazines, newspapers, and websites, and his book of very short stories, Easter Rabbit (Publishing Genius), was released in 2009. His art has been seen in galleries and other venues in Baltimore and beyond. Check out his digital collage series, Newer Comics.

  • RM O’Brien

    I like this issue of art that wants to tell you “what it’s about” and art that lets you “wonder over it and its secrets.” I wonder if you feel the same about literature. For some reason I think it’s different. I feel awkward when visual art talks to me, but when writing refuses to tell me anything I can feel conned.

    • I do like that kind of literature, Bob, but it’s funny, lots of times I think that kind of writing is more like “art,” in that it’s closer to being atemporal. Even if you read the words in sequence, and through time, the best vantage for viewing it is from above and all at once.

  • lk shaw

    ahhhh yes

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