I rarely hang art in my home.
The walls are decorated, yes, but several years ago I looked around and realized that all of the pieces hanging in my living room, bedroom, kitchen — everywhere — were recontextualized items — sheet music illustrations, vintage cards mounted and framed, wooden or enameled tin signs, framed vintage anthropological paperbacks with lurid covers featuring scantily clad native maidens, early advertising images, reproductions and miniatures of movie posters — that I’d chosen to treat as art.
Right now, we have all those and more (including two vintage baseball-inspired board games from my father’s childhood, wrapped in plastic and propped up over the bar), and one honest-to-goodness painting hanging in the bedroom nook.
About that painting: it’s a smudgy little oil painting slapped onto a thin, mass-produced canvas board, a smudgy little Punch & Judy scene slapped onto a thin, mass-produced canvas board sixty years ago by my grandparents’s artist friend, Nunzio. I always liked it, and remarked as much to my father one day. The next time I visited, he showed it to me, ready to be boxed up, a Post-it tag with my name stuck to its back.
Friends sometimes remark on the oddness of an art history student whose home houses little or no art. But art is a slippery little notion, and I don’t pretend to know where its borders are. I don’t think anyone knows, and I’m wary of those who make pretense of it.
So I’m suspicious and resentful of the premise of ABC tv’s quiz Art or Not Art?, which sees clear boundaries where none exist. A little less arbitrary is An Artist or An Ape?, though even there a boundary is unnecessarily drawn. Who’s to say it’s “artist or ape,” not “artist and ape”?
I am participating in NaBloPoMo.