Serendipity led me to Jean Burman’s site the other day. She had a post about a TV show (which I have to admit I’m not familiar with) about two artists who set off from opposite coasts of the U. S. with only one buck in their pocket and their art supplies. They have to work their way across the country by selling their art for their sustenance.
A tall order, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that this challenge takes place in the U.S. instead of someplace else. We don’t value art here. It isn’t part of our day to day lives. Look at how much ugliness surrounds us, which doesn’t even phase us.
John Q. Middle American wakes up in a house that looks just like his neighbor’s, done in a color palette approved by his homeowner’s association. (Don’t want any “individuality” creeping in or our property values will plummet even more!)
He goes to work in a low-slung brick and smoked-glass office building that could be mistaken for a government holding cell. Inside his putty-grey cubicle he only has a few pictures in cheap frames of his family. It’s really all that is allowed, except for perhaps a certificate of modest recognition for attending corporate training of some sort.
Where is there room for art or self-expression? If Van Gogh himself walked up to him and offered to sell him “Starry Night” for 10 bucks he probably wouldn’t recognize it. “What the hell am I gonna do with it?” he’d ask. “Can I sell it on Ebay?”
Unlike Europe and other places, our workaholic, utilitarian society has culled out all the beautiful, non-revenue generating things in life. I would say we treat art like toxic waste, but we spend billions to store our toxic waste, and we cut billions from the places that store our art.
The American has his cubicle, his vending-machine energy drink to get him through the afternoon, and a full inbox he has to respond to before he can go home. The Frenchman has some of the world’s finest art and architecture, wine with his lunch, and his mistress at 3:00.
And we have the gall to make fun of the French!