Thursday, January 6, 2011

The "Funny" in Art

"Clown Painting", A. Dubsky, from book titled "Clown Paintings", by Diane Keaton

Have you ever looked at a work of art and broke out into uncontrollable laughter?  Giggled? Smiled?  I have always been a fan of art that has a good dose of the funny.  A few years ago my wife gave me a great book entitled "Clown Paintings" by Diane Keaton and I loved it.  I realize that clown paintings fall into the low art category of "kitsch" but I think that it makes my appreciation of them even greater. If you ever get the opportunity to visit the MOBA (museum of bad art) in Dedham, Massachusetts, do it. It is a curated collection of "found paintings" that are embellished by very important descriptions.  It is in the basement of the Dedham Theater in a small space before you enter the restrooms.  Somehow the smell of urinal cakes add to the art experience. A big difference between the paintings at MOBA and those in the Diane Keaton book is that the clown paintings are beautifully painted in bold colors and express strong emotions. Good-good-good.  To make this book even better it contains interviews with well known comedians and celebrities known for their humor.  They all comment on their opinions and experiences with clowns.  My hands down favorite is "Steve Martins" essay on the mating rituals of clowns.  I think I actually wet myself the first time I read it.
"A Wild an Crazy Guy", 1978, Steve Martin

Steve Martin is one of my earliest artistic influences.   I thought I was a 12 year old laugh riot when I would recite the comedy routines from his 1978 album "Wild and Crazy Guy". That was a difficult time in my young life and humor and Steve Martin  helped me cope and laugh through it.  Even at a young age I was realizing how much power there was in "funny".
"Klown", 1978, Robert Arneson, Ceramic

As far as my art education goes... I have been so lucky to have studied under some great artists.  When I was accepted into the graduate program at U.C. Davis to study under Robert Arneson I again probably wet myself.  One of the largest figures in Ceramic Art, he was also someone that I admired almost more for his drawings, sketches, and yes his humor.  "Bob" was constantly addressing humor his work and constantly criticized for it.  His sculpture was often referred to as "too jokey" by the serious new york art world.  He always spoke back to his critics in his work and always challenged their notions of what art was? He was a true maverick.
"Romantic Fool", 1996, Chris Theiss, Graphite, charcoal, pastel, on paper.

I'm not in any way saying that art has to be funny although I do believe that art that expresses it has a greater ability to deliver powerful meaning.  So here's to "funny"!
What makes you laugh? 

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