The Artist Is Present

This blog is definitely becoming a review of MoMA’s latest show. Let me give you advice on Marina Abramovic’s performance art show.

Be present.

I think that has something to do with it. Don’t want to give the experience away.

Two real people in the nude stand facing each other in a narrow doorway. Knife ladders lead to three small rooms in another area.

Videos of the artist carving a star on her belly with a broken wine glass, bashing a skull against a bosom, walking the Great Wall. Video of nude men bouncing their hips into green, green grass.

There is one kind of performance art that you can actually see the Artist performing on the 2nd floor at the MoMA. (yes, the Artist is Present!) And I have tried it. We call it a Staring Contest. If you participate in a Staring Contest long enough apparently — like all day with quite a few people, then you, too may be a Performance Artist. Am I missing the point?

Oh, I see, I need to tie my hair in a knot with someone else’s hair and sit back to back for the entire day. I need to make myself pass out somehow.

I hope I don’t sound like crabby old person, like someone who goes, ”Meh! This is art! Give me Rembrandt! Now that’s art!”

Here’s my point – I don’t like to flinch when I look at art. But then, I suppose when you flinch, you are present.

The show’s oddly seductive (I went to see it because someone at the opening night of Chris’s play, “The Forest,” said she’d seen it six times). And yes, it’s very, very modern. I find it awesome that the MoMA features real live living artists and not just dead bones (of which there is a humongous pile in the center of The Artist is Present exhibit. And I think Abramovic carved the meat off of them herself and you can watch a video of her doing it.)

The show only goes for another couple of weeks. But until then, you, too, can be present. Otherwise take my word for it. It’s cool and weird.

Admiring Starry Night

If only Vincent could have had a thicker skin. If only the church valued his contribution. If only there was medication for his manic depression. If only there was a support group for self mutilators. If only he’d hung on a little longer.

If only.

He was so young, so passionate, so troubled, so smart, so hard-working, so confident, so insecure, so religious. Vincent van Gogh was such a good writer as well as a great painter.

For my Literature of Art class at the Art Students League taught by Ephraim Rubenstein we read Vincent’s letters to his brother Theo. They break your heart. He writes to his brother with enthusiasm about the first sermon he preached. Yet the strict religiosity of his father failed him. He did not have the proper degree and could not obtain it. His father was an arbitrary, withholding, judgmental preacher. Vincent converted his religious zeal into his art. This schism of art and religion is a theme in his life and letters.

Vincent became itinerant. Though he lived in extreme poverty; he was always hopeful that the next place, person, teacher would help him. That good was just around the next corner. He died at 37. His best work happened in just 10 years.  If only he had hung on a little longer.

The savior of his work and legacy was his sister in law, Theo’s wife, Johanna Gesina van Gogh. She kept his letters and his paintings together. Would you do that for your husband’s mentally ill brother?

I doubt I would. There was so little to indicate that his work had value.

A current running through van Gogh’s letters is a desire to help mankind. To be useful.

And another theme is the way he prods Theo to admire other writers and painters. It’s true. We do not admire each other enough.

Admire as much as you can; most people do not admire enough.” God. So true. I admire van Gogh for his writing and his art, but not for his life. I do not admire him for giving up on himself.

I was at the MoMA last week. After reading his letters, it’s amazing that his work persists. His Starry Night, (see above) it can suck you in.

In my water color class, I tried to paint like him on Saturday. The teacher told me, “That tree or that bush, or whatever that is, that’s too big.” She did not see the resemblance of my work to van Gogh’s. But I see it.

Train your eyes to see and to admire.

Tim Burton at the MoMA

this is copy right of Tim Burton

I was at the MoMA for the second time in a couple of weeks this afternoon. The Tim Burton exhibit is amazing and perhaps, addictive. The guy is insane. But you know, in a good way. And in an exceedingly productive way. I love the comic gothic – if that’s what you call it. I also love the preoccupation with the mother and the bloody babies and the monsters and the aliens. And by the way, what does he have against grown ups, holidays, realism?

I love the sculpture of a doll-house sized white house decorated with big bulb Christmas lights and peeking in the window, you see a little person bathed in red (is that blood?) and then you also see long black pant legs sticking out of a doorway. Oh my God! It’s funny and scary and weird!

There are lots of moving images to take in too. A little homage video to Vincent Price narrated by Vincent Price. The whole thing – Priceless!

I am so impressed that the Museum of Modern Art is a place that showcases the work of a living artist. And an artist, like Burton, who crosses over so many mediums.

I just love Burton’s drawings. I love the way he draws a little pool of shadow under a crazy eyeball popping cactus. It is so dream-like and so real. Who hasn’t dreamed of cacti with eyeballs?

MoMA is amazing, totally worth the gulp, $20 admission fee. For a break after the Burton exhibit, plunk yourself down in front of Monet’s lillies. I dare you not to be energized, exhuasted, transformed after taking in these two exhibits.