Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Purrfectly Pleasing (A Cautionary Tail)

Purrfectly Pleasing (A Cautionary Tail)

By Tom Wachunas

“On my way to you I did see a large, spotted cat,” Nyctea answered, “just over that hill, in the brush.”
Alarmed, Aegolius followed her gaze, which was something he seemed to be doing a lot of these days. “Just what we need, more predators,” he said with a snort. “You must have been very frightened.”
“Oh nooo, not at all,” she said. Measuring her words, in a soothing tone, she continued,
“There was something quite, quite…beautiful about it, in an odd sort of way.”
“Odd? How so?”
“Well, I mean to say it seemed so perfectly, so perfectly…”
Aegolius, knowing cats all too well, offered, “Pleased with itself?”
“Ahhh, yes,” Nyctea said, nodding vigorously. “Thank you! That’s it precisely. It was so perfectly pleased with itself.”

- June Godwit, from “Mournings of the Grebes”-

I wasn’t sure if I would comment any further about BZTAT’s downtown mural installation beyond what I offered in my June 29 post (“A Heap of City Kitties”). But now that it’s in place (on the side of the HEAP building at 201 Fifth Street NW), here’s a sequel, prompted in part by the above, intriguingly apropos excerpt from Godwit’s long out-of-print fantasy epic.

This is also prompted by recent comments from Judi Krew, in her August 7 blog post (snarkyart.blogspot.com). So I thank her for her thoughts. Not that I feel in the least bit compelled to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, but she alludes (through a refreshing cat’s-eye perspective) to some important considerations when assessing public art, the operative term here being PUBLIC.

The purview of public art works should never be regarded strictly as a free-for-all forum where artists – no matter how engaging or profound their work might be in a gallery or museum context - simply get to strut their stuff on a grand scale. Somehow there needs to be an accountability to, and acknowledgement of, relevance and appeal to viewers. This is not to say there’s no room for controversy. After all, we’re dealing with the ever volatile and subjective realm of balancing the artists’ personal tastes and esthetic languages with societal perspectives and trends. Sometimes they blend, sometimes they clash. The challenge will always be to present art we can hopefully and truly live with, talk about, and even be proud of at best, not just tolerate or ignore at worst.

You can’t ignore BZTAT’s Downtown Cats. In fact I’ve never seen her vibrant color sensibilities more thoughtfully balanced and alive amid bold, clear shapes, their edges more subtly softened, her brush work more facile. And while it’s gratifying to know of her deep passion for the welfare of domestic animals, the work stands on its own as a simple, innocent pleasure for the eyes (even if some poor souls among you can’t stand cats, in which case I’ll pray for you). Only time will tell if her materials and methods will withstand the ravages of local weather. As it stands now, though, these cats exude an air of (sometimes I just can’t help myself) purrfect permanence.

BZTAT’s mural comes to us on the heels of Canton’s ebullient annual rite of football brouhaha – the Hall of Fame Festival. So permit me a metaphor. In their much-publicized ambitions to present significant public art to both resident and visiting citizens, our civic and artistic “authorities” have yet to manifest a game plan of any really consistent quality. Their offense strategy has often been just plain offensive and otherwise indefensible, as it were. So while BZTAT’s mural may not be a touchdown for the record books, it is nonetheless an electrifying, sweetly and skillfully executed field goal.

The kick is up, and it’s good.

1 comment:

Martha W. said...

So that would be Artist=3 and Civic artistic authorities=0?

I'm also interested in reading a book by this June Godwit. She really sounds interestingly querky.