Which fortunately is not an oil-burning type.
ARS GRATIA ARTIS
“This is very good ice cream,” remarked the Cat. He and the Mouse were seated in the patio of the Museum of Modern Art, refreshing themselves after a lengthy tour of the gallery.
“Did you see anything else you liked?” asked the Mouse.
The Cat licked his spoon. “I really don’t feel qualified to say.” he stalled. “I have never had any instruction in this field.”
“Rubbish!” retorted the Mouse. “You can certainly say what you like without a course in esthetics.”
“But I’m sure there’s more to it than that,” the Cat insisted. “I don’t want to be one of those people the critics are always making fun of, the ones who say, “I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like.”
“Pure jealousy on the part of the critics,” the Mouse assured him. “They want to impose their opinions on yours, and they resent it when you won’t let them.”
“But it seems to me I should at least know why I like what I like, and I don’t. I like this ice cream because it has a smooth consistency, a pleasing taste, and is refreshing on a hot day,” said the Cat, helping himself to another spoonful, “but I don’t know the words to describe my feelings about paintings.”
“Art words,” mused the Mouse. “Depth. Perspective. Light. Shadow. Color. Imagination. Grouping. Flesh tones, or is it tints? Are those what you want a mindful of? But of course the words are not enough. You also know what aspect of the picture is to be measured by each; what is considered good or bad in each category and whether the good or the bad is in the painting under scrutiny. And once you have made up your mind about all these things, you must be prepared to defend your opinion against all other counter opinions. A critic can hope to achieve and maintain a high reputation only by making much ado about very little. Ten pages, single spaced, of polysyllabic verbiage, eulogizing or denouncing a single brushstroke on such as that rests a claim to scholarship. Be obscure at great length, and you do not have to be profound. As long as people are awed into saying, ‘How true!’ instead of ‘What are you talking about?’ you’re safe.”
“I suppose that is true,” said the Cat. “It fits in with stories of critics raving about paintings that were hung upside down or produced by a monkey. Even so, I feel foolish saying I like a picture because it shows something I can recognize and/or enjoy looking at. It makes me sound so ordinary. And I have to admit I do not even like a lot of the old masters. To me they look sort of amateurish, with nothing much to recommend them except their age. I am respectful to my great aunts for that reason, but it does not seem a very good one for honoring a piece of canvas. Yet if I came right out and said so, I would sound stupid.”
“You have laid your paw on the heart of the matter,” the Mouse declared. “Snobbery. Intellectual snobbery says you are inferior if your tastes run parallel with those of the majority. You have to profess a preference for the freakish, the unintelligible, the neurotic, the distorted, to be welcomed by the cult leaders of the self-labeled ‘thinking minority.’ If you honestly believe a canvas painted black with one white spot on it is a great work of art, go ahead and enjoy it. But if you don’t like it, don’t bother to try cultivating it because some critic in search of a spotlight gets all starry-eyed about it. You think caviar tastes like salty goop, so skip it. You don’t like a tie six inches wide, so you don’t wear it. The idea of skiing scares you, so you stay off the slopes. You don’t like rock music, so you turn off the radio. Well, if you don’t like modern art, don’t go to see it. You have the right of self-determination in that area also.”
“Just the same, I may have another go at it,” said the Cat, wiping his whiskers and crumpling the napkin into his empty dish. “The ice cream here is so uncommonly good.”
Moral: Baskin Robbins has good ice cream, too.
STICKS & STONES AND NAMES
For sticks and stones:
A night in jail
Out on bail
For broken bones:
X-ray and pills
Insurance for bills
Healing at last.
But Oh, the names:
Screamed to incite
Hatred and fight
Slashing the threads
Of union to shreds.
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But names can hurt forever.
Published by Louise Lincoln and A. Walrus
Tucson, Arizona 85710
Printed in Cranford by our friend Alf Babcock