Wednesday, January 21, 2009

At Last - Modern Art Explained

photo of Joan Crawford: Google Images

Funny how one link leads to another: Garden Blog to House Porn to Photographers memoirs. The following In Retrospect 1995 is by photographer Eve Arnold. She tried to explain modern art to Joan Crawford while photographing Ms Crawford for a story for Life magazine.

......Joan had invited me to spend the night, because the party ended quite late. When I woke at nine the next morning I was locked in my bedroom. She heard me calling and banging, and came and unlocked the door, protesting that she had no idea how it had happened. I could never decide whether she thought I was going to steal something!

That day while we were at breakfast, a lovely Picasso drawing of the Cubist period was delivered as a thank-you gift from one of the guests who had been at the party the evening before. The picture puzzled and bothered Joan. She told me that when she had gone to Paris with Al Steele she had brought back some French paintings -- she pointed to them on the wall. She had found an artist who for twenty-five dollars would copy "that guy Utrillo," and she, Joan, had improved on Utrillo. She had her man straighten up the streets. She looked at me for a moment seriously and said she didn't understand "modern art"; could I explain it to her?

I thought for a beat trying to figure out a way that would be right to her. Then I said that if you think of modern art like sex in all its forms -- heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, multipartnered, bestial, whatever, with absolutely no holds barred and with everything available and permissible -- that would be "modern art." I felt rotten after I'd said it: it was a cheap shot. But she was delighted with the analogy. She laughed and said that at last she understood what "modern art" was about."

Cheap shot? Maybe, but a working definition, no?
Bring on the cows in formaldehyde.

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