Thursday, September 10, 2009

Setting up the Fair

OH HEY THIS BLOG ENTRY IS MILDLY OFFENSIVE TO CHRISTIANS SO IF YOU ARE ALL ABOUT THAT YOU SHOULD PROBABLY NOT READ IT. You have been warned. Okay? Okay. And now, let us proceed to our regularly scheduled Hangover Journal blog post.

The fair is coming and so I was there on Tuesday night, being, essentially, the worst volunteer ever, in that I was 40 minutes late, took several lengthy breaks and made fun of all the displays. It was awesome, in other words. I took a couple of pictures as well but I find myself weirdly reluctant to publish them.

Fuck that, I'll do it. Here, but not on Flickr, where I attempt to maintain some crazy veneer of professionalism. That's why you'll find moodily lit pictures of empty, motionless ferris wheels like the one on the right there but not the following things of beauty and joys forever. Well, those I could even bring myself to photograph, that is, because they are but a mere tiny sampling. There was much weirder stuff, to wit: late on Tuesday evening a lady with many children and that familiar, slightly crazed, home schooling Christian look, came in with a piece of art. I helpfully sent her off to the childrens' section. Then she came back: turns out it was her piece of art, that tinfoil covered piece of cardboard with a red and blue checkerboard made of playdough attached to it and the words American Checkers, also in red and blue, also of playdough, as well. In case, you know, you thought perhaps they were checkers from some other, inferior culture. I honestly support all methods of artistic expression and I love outsider art and I really try not to be a horrible snob and so on, but, yowza. That thing was scary. I couldn't quite bring myself to take a picture.

ANYWAY! Let's get to the snark!Here on the left is a still life that I actually quite like. It grew on me, if you will, just as that apple there on the left apparently grew - and grew - and grew some more until it had dwarfed that freakishly tiny summer squash! Now, keep in mind that this painting was done by a "professional" artist - at the Mountain State Fair you get to call yourself either a professional or an amateur and this is clearly the work of a professional. Clearly. Because an amateur might not have grasped the full enormity of those peas or that lemon.

For the work of another professional, we turn to this masterpiece, which I , or, actually, Audrey, who was there helping me out like to call "Willie Nelson is My Spirit Guide". Yup, there's Willie, all right, handing out important Native American wisdom with his spiritual brethren: a bird with a very sharp beak, a, um, sort of fox thing and, well, hmm, what I think might be some kind of demonic monkey being. Wrong India, Willie! Hanuman does not feature in the lore of the Sioux! Or whatever Native American lore you are trying to access here, because, frankly, it's kind of hard to tell. Note the nifty ass framing on this one, as well: four pieces of bamboo held together with the kind of sueded thongs you can buy for chunky pendants - if it's 1979 and you're at a street fair.

That's all the adult work I could handle photographing. I'm nasty enough where I'm going to make a couple of comments about some children's work. Yes, yes, that is pretty nasty, but whatever, I can't help myself. I could make comments about the child whose work was entered in the ages 6 - 8 category who was either an unbelievable artistic prodigy or substantially older (I vote for substantially older - sorry, but there you have it, I'm a cynic) and the parents who entered coloring book pages (please, parents, please) or the parents who spend huge sums of money on double linen mats and serious frames for their precious' collaged picture of Jesus. And that's where I'm going to start with criticizing the kids: Jesus. Ah Jesus. Is there nothing you won't do for publicity?

Can you read the writing under the yellow at the top? Yes, it says what you think it does: Jesus Loves the Indian Girl. Well, huh. That sure is mighty white of Jesus! Even the lowly Indian girl gets some love from Mr. J! Yeah, okay, I'm being deliberately offensive and what I really, really hope is that the child who drew this is not herself an Indian Girl, being convinced that yeah, she gets love too. Or maybe that would be better than the earnest outpourings of a pint sized proselytizer. I'm not sure what would be more awful, really, although the equally stereotypical picture of the Mexican wearing a sombrero, done by the same child (that perfectly circular head is a dead giveaway) might come close. Particularly since Jesus apparently doesn't love the Mexican boy.

There was a lot of Christian themed art at the fair this year. Yes, there's always some of it, but the children's art seemed particularly apocalyptically fundamentalist. There were pictures of Jesus and pictures of the prophets and pictures of churches and lots and lots of crayoned crosses and all in all it kind of unnerved me. I come from a more secular age - they didn't have all this Jesus shit on primetime when I was a kid in the sixties and seventies unless you count Davey and Goliath which I, personally, don't. And I don't like it. Jesus and I years ago worked out a strict non-interference policy: he doesn't fuck with me and I don't fuck with him. We're both happier that way.

HOWEVER that is not to say that all Christian art is bad! I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, as the Indigo Girls once put it, and in my case a high percentage of those four (well five, actually; maybe six even) years were spent looking at slides of Christian art: I was an art history major. I can match you saint iconography for saint iconography any day; dude, I wrote a paper on Hieronymous Bosch and I know more about Saint Jerome and his lion than you ever, ever wanted to learn. And I am going to put this wonderful piece right in there with some of the great masters of Christian art. The diorama, after all, is a sadly neglected medium. And I, personally, cannot resist these guys - I mean, look - they are hog wild about church (it says so right there, rather blurrily) and they're going to ride that Harley on up to the doors. There is the church and there is the steeple; open the doors and see all the. . . bikers! And can we assume that once they get there, unlike every biker movie ever made, these bikers are not having a biker orgy and killing everyone and smearing pig blood around? Man, how the mighty have fallen. We could assume that, but, frankly, I'd rather not. I'm hoping for some good old fashioned mayhem.

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