Seeing Myself in Art that Pisses Me Off

When my kids were kids, we used to drive sometimes for a couple of hours to go see what I called “art that pisses me off.” By that time I had moved just beyond the stage where some art would piss me off, to the stage where I was interested in being aware of being pissed off by the art. It’s only material, it’s only paint on canvas, or maybe elephant dung on canvas, it’s just stuff on a wall – where was this intense emotional reaction coming from? So I would go out of my way and make a point of seeing art that would piss me off, and I would talk to other people about how they felt about art, and I explored those feelings. One day I drove to Pittsburgh to show a friend some paintings by Jackson Pollock. I was surprised to learn that there was a school, so to speak, a genre, a history of that sort of paining that he worked in. I was also pissed off by other works in the same museum, and then I saw across the room, a blue board leaning against the wall, with a little explanatory sign by it. ‘Oh, my… you gotta be kiddin’ me,” I thought, getting pissed off. But I’m a sucker for those little signs. In museums, galleries, arboretums, historical locations, I love those signs. So I walked over and read about the blue board and the artist and how the artist’s medium was the finish itself. It said the artist didn’t care so much about the board or whatever the shape and material was, so much as the finish on the item. I looked closely at the finish on the board, and thought to myself, “That is a damn fine finish!” I enjoyed very much my inner journey in those years, trying to understand what it was inside myself that was stimulated into such pissed off reactions to colors and shapes and materials in the context of the galleries and museum settings. I learned something about art, but learned more about myself. Now I enjoy art a lot more than I used to. I have expanded the universe of my delights. Now I still see a lot of “art that challenges me,” but I much more rarely see art that pisses me off.

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