Monday, July 05, 2004

Thanks for Coming

Hello. My name is Art Garfunkel.

My boss has a long window in his office, and under that window is a wide ledge stretching along its length. I walked in last Thursday and saw that the detritus he had collected during the last decade had been deleted. It was all gone--economic reports dating back to the late 1980's, research data, investment tomes, an occasional book on college basketball. The twenty-foot ledge was empty save for the following: a carved piece of wood, painted black and shaped like a very tall bottle of wine, a second piece of carved wood, also painted black and shaped like a watermelon, standing on its end, and a black vase with fake moss and some kind of large artificial plant curving away.

I immediately named it Penis and Womb Near Forest.

It was exquisitely bad, and arranged with infinite care, each piece exactly the same distance from the next. Unfortunately, placing things exactly the same distance from each other doesn't make them look better. It also doesn't make them art, and even if it did, arranging art does not make you an artist. Yet there they stood, a statement of--well, what exactly? Wood's inhumanity to wood? An abstract salute to Laurel and Hardy? I suspected that it was one of those complex theme-within-a-theme pieces, and represented artists stabbing themselves when they saw it.

I knew there was absolutely no question who had installed this in his office. Clearly, it had to be his wife.

Now I adore women--my wife Gloria, not surprisingly, is one--but many many women somehow feel that they have an unerring and intuitive feel for art. This is unfortunate. No one has a feel for art any more than they have a feel for calculus. Art is extraordinarily complex, at times highly mathematical, and being told each year in the mall that you have excellent taste in clothes as you are purchasing them is not defending a thesis on Kandinsky.

"It's hideous," I said, shielding my eyes as I spoke to my boss. "I can't breathe."

"Elsa," he said. The wife. "It's just there."

"Staring," I said.

"She says it's art."

"And I say I killed a lion as a rite of passage, but I didn't," I said. "Please don't tell anyone, by the way."

"I have to get rid of it," he said.

"I propose an alternate installation using a tarp, a shovel, and a large bag of dirt," I suggested.

"I think I know of a place," he said. And he did. Eight feet from my desk, and clearly visible. By me. At all times.

Yesterday, the branch manager walked by. "Whose wife brought that in?"

We know.

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