While walking through what I think of as my secret galleries in the American Art Museum, I was arrested by a series of nudes by Kenyon Cox. Something between Manet’s breakfast heresies, classical/traditional nineteenth century nudes, and Pre-Raphaelite romanticism. I couldn’t call them great paintings. They weren’t great paintings – certainly not equal to those predecessors – but inexplicably arresting. And I can’t deny that my interest – my affection – for these nudes was not just aesthetic, but also erotic.
After seeing those paintings, I wandered over to the painting conservation studio where you could watch the conservators work through glass walls. Despite being the painting conservation studio, the only item being worked on was a life sized neo-classical statue of a young woman. A conservator was crouched down, rhythmically brushing below the statue’s right knee with a soft brush. It must be a gift to be able to work in the arts, I thought to myself. I also reflected that it was nice that her co-worker, working on a computer not a painting nor sculpture, flashed me a pretty smile. Less happily, I wondered if they might actually be grad students with little hope for real and decent paying job in the field due to the sequester (recently) and general disinvestment in the arts (long term trend).
The artistic vocation is a bit of unicorn now, isn’t it? Art, including literature, is undervalued and we are no longer taught to appreciate it. Even worse, we are no long taught to engage with it.
I’m going to praise Taylor Swift, here. I know. Crazy, huh? But not for her music. God, no. But for withdrawing from the streaming service Spotify. Services like that teach us that artistic production has no value to the consumer. Swift formally said f–k you, my work has real monetary value and Spotify is not valuing it. That’s worth something.