When you hear artsy-type people saying art expands the mind, do you believe them?
Well, you should. I think they’re correct, because even the awful art I talked about the other day has a way of helping you realize how… um, different other people can be.
But let’s not get mired down with the controversial junk that masquerades as art. This past Saturday, some friends and I went to the annual Main Street Arts Festival in downtown Fort Worth, which I always find to be a mind-expanding experience.
Over the past 25 years, the festival has grown in every way, and prospective artists now need to pass an entrance jury before they can participate. It's become one of the most profitable and prestigious events of its type, featuring the talents of painters, sculptors, woodworkers, glass blowers, jewelers, and other creative types from all over the country, including Maine, New York City, Florida, and California. Prices range from a few dollars for small prints to $30,000 and more for enormous paintings and sculpture.
The weather this year was the best I can remember it being, with clear skies, temperatures in the low 70’s, low humidity, and just the right amount of breeze. The crowds were also thicker than they’ve ever been, and we were sometimes forced just to stand still as the throngs ahead of us choked up in front of a particularly popular art display.
Of which there were many! By far, the biggest crowds were clustered around the kinetic sculptures by Jeffrey Zachmann of Minnesota. My friends and I also found a lot to admire in the graphite drawings by J D Hillberry of Colorado, who spends up to two months on one drawing.
Overwhelming in its diversity as well as its talent, the pool of artwork and artists on display defied a definitive assessment of winners and losers, but perhaps one of the most unique pieces was this enormous painting by Doug Bloodworth of Florida. To give you an idea of the size of this work, consider two of his other paintings below it, dealing with the game of Monopoly and comic books. In “Clint”, Bloodworth painted a larger-than-life Clint Eastwood in a legendary gunslinger pose in the right-hand corner of his canvas. Then, in the vast stretch of canvas remaining, Bloodworth had his wife shoot bullets through the painting. What looks like specks or flecks in the orange and yellow sky are actually where the bullets ripped through the fabric. And the wood behind it.
Now, maybe you know of people who shoot up their artwork all the time. You’ve probably seen cars with the fake-bullet stickers on them (I’ve actually seen a couple of vehicles in Dallas with actual bullet holes in them). But to have something hanging over the sofa in your living room at which the artist’s wife actually shot strikes me as an intriguing conversation piece. Bloodworth's painting detail ain't bad, neither (that's as redneck as I can get).
So what if Bloodworth’s work probably will never grace the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or even the exquisite Kimbell here in Fort Worth? My old architecture professors – particularly the one who couldn’t stand Norman Rockwell’s classics – would scoff at Bloodworth’s literalism and pedestrian subject matter.
But I don’t know… Fort Worth’s Modern Art Museum used to have a single, long fluorescent bulb they called art. I felt like telling their board of directors if they thought that was art, I could show them a whole Home Depot full of art just down the street.
I've heard that art is only art when somebody buys it. Does the more something cost mean it’s more art-worthy?
Maybe that's why Bloodworth didn’t provide his asking price for “Clint”.