Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Gift of Art

I like art as much as the next guy, but, for me, it has to look like something. It’s why my art appreciation is limited to people like Edward Hopper and Trula Peoples. Most people are familiar with Edward Hopper. His classic, “Nighthawks,” is my favorite. But few are familiar with the work of my friend, Trula Peoples. Trula paints pictures of cows, and, for my money, paints them with an unequaled flair for the bovine experience. Some of her recent works are:

–Cows with Hula-Hoops
–Cows Watching TV
–Puzzled Cows
–Swimming Cows
–Cows Eating Tacos
–Banjo-Playing Cows
–Cows Grazing at Bed Bath and Beyond

Trula’s paintings are straight-forward. They are what they appear to be, cows doing stuff. I had the good fortune to acquire one of her paintings I’d admired for quite some time. It’s called “Migrating Cows,” and it depicts cows flying in an orderly formation, like a flock of geese. It cost me eighty-eight dollars and a Jerry and the Pacemakers Greatest Hits CD, a pretty good deal, I think, considering I’d already listened to “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” about a thousand times.

“Migrating Cows” is a big canvas and hangs over our couch; I like to stare at it and wonder where the cow's flight will take them and imagine they won’t be so easily harvested and turned into hamburgers. The one dent in this hubcap is that every so often, “Migrating Cows” must be replaced with “Urban Mindscape,” a painting by Reena Pinkwater. Reena is also a friend, and she bestowed “Urban Mindscape” on me with great fanfare at a gallery opening where some pretty good cake was served. Not that I don’t like an intriguing gift now and then, but I can’t begin to make heads or tails out of Reena’s painting. It’s one of those abstract things with splotches and squiggles going every which way. Honestly, if it fell off the wall, I wouldn’t know which way to rehang it.

When fancy art people, who personally know Reena, come over to our house, I make sure her painting is hanging over the couch. They make exaggerated swooping gestures while discussing its significance and all the stuff they see in it, that I, for the life of me, don't see. Some of this modern art is like looking at constellations in the night sky. Really, the only constellation that looks like what it’s supposed to be is the Big Dipper. As for the rest, those ancient shepherds must’ve been gooped-up on some bad frankincense during the identification process. There is, however, one other constellation, “The Pointed, Provocative, Breasts of Venus” that my childhood friend, Herby Lawrence, pointed out on a summer night in the eighth grade. And he astutely observed that when a wispy cloud passed in front of the constellation, it was a dead ringer for the image of Kim Novak wearing an angora sweater. I’m still not certain it’s a genuine constellation as my replicating description was circled in red ink on a high school astronomy exam. When the science teacher asked for an explanation of my answer, all I could say was that every shepherd has his own dreams. I got half a point.

Once, Reena came over to my house unannounced, and before answering the door, I had to make a mad dash for the living room in order to hide “Migrating Cows” behind the couch (where Reena’s painting usually resides) and quickly hang “Urban Mindscape” in its place, a switch I’ve become adept at making. I've visited Reena’s studio several times, and, one time, she yelled at me for traipsing on a canvas. It was lying flat on the floor and had paint splattered all over it, and I mistakenly thought it was a drop-cloth. I apologized left and right and wanted desperately to make it up to her. Embarrassed, I pretended to study the creation in great detail and walked around it several times, taking in every angle. I grasped at anything in order to pay her a compliment that would cover my uncultured tracks. The first thing that came to mind was, “I think I see 'The Pointed, Provocative, Breasts of Venus' in this piece.”
She looked at me, stunned for a moment, before replying, “That’s exactly what I intended.”
And I wondered how I might one day thank my old friend, the stargazing visionary, Herby Lawrence.