On Artists, Museums, and not being an a**hole

Sifting through my media file, I came across a bunch of photos from a trip we took to Phoenix in mid-March, pre-COVID-19 lockdown.

Remember that time? Gosh it was nice.

I totally meant to tell you about this trip, hence why the photos were in my media file. Specifically, I meant to tell you about SMOCA.

Say it as a word: smoke-uh. (Now you sound like a native.)

SMOCA is the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. If you ever find yourself in Scottsdale — and if our artists and museums survive COVID-19 — it’s worth a visit. Admission is only $10, though if you wind up there on a Thursday, it’s free!

Entrance to SMOCA and the first exhibit you’ll see (and hear). It’s called “Murmuration” by SquidSoup. (Seriously.) Go to squidsoup.org to see more of their work.
inside museum
What looks like Tinker Toys, this is “Pretty Teeth from the installation Every Way in is a Way Out” by Melinda Bergman
inside 2
Exactly the sort of entrance you expect with a contemporary art museum, amiright?

The museum isn’t large but as Son put it, small museums seem to put more thought into selecting their pieces. He may have something there, as I spent a good amount of time with each and every item I saw.

Of course, some were real attention hogs…

“Fisherman’s Wife” by Laurie Lundquist (https://www.laurielundquist.com/)

It may not look like much, but I found it rather hypnotic. The broom swept back and forth through the water in the dish, giving an audio quality to the piece as well as visual. You heard the gentle swishing of the broom, also the creaking of the pulley moving back and forth.

Like I said, very hypnotic. I’m not entirely sure what the point was, but it was cool.

Truthfully, I don’t need art to have a point. It’s enough for me that it exists. Someone had an idea and they ran with it.

As I like to say: “Yay, you made something! Show me more!”

Here’s some more:

repurposed art
Part of the exhibit: Design Transfigured, Waste Reimagined
fridge chair
Chair made from old refrigerators (https://www.dirkvanderkooij.com/)
urine mug
Urineware. It’s glazed with… um… yeah. Urine.
Pineapple leaf fiber coat
Coat made of pineapple leaf fibers

Another exhibit SMOCA had was, Unapologetic: All Women All Year.

This piece is called, “Converging Territories #9” by Lalla Essaydi.

girl in dress

Its info card read,

“The artist uses calligraphy – a sacred Islamic art forbidden to women – and applies it over the body,  clothing, and room with henna, an adornment worn and applied only by women. Merging the male tradition of calligraphy with the female art of henna, Essaydi challenges the gender boundaries of Arab culture, giving the women in her portraits a voice in a space of silence.”

And now you know why I was able to spend so much time with every piece. You just can’t walk away from something like that.

Obviously, Art can have a point. A really really IMPORTANT point.

Other times, it can just be for the sake of creating something.

From the same exhibit, a piece from Yoko Ono:

The first image is called “Mend Piece for John,” created in 1968. Made from: plastic bag, box, tube of glue, ribbon, paper. Unfortunately I did not get a good shot of the smaller piece of paper. It had instructions on what John was supposed to do with the items. I seem to recall at one point he was to take a hammer and smash something, but I could be wrong.

The other piece of paper — that part I took a close up. If you click on the image, you can see it better. Here’s what it says:

A poem in three stanzas dedicated to John, by Yoko Ono, London winter ’67.

1st Stanza      (super tiny print)     to be read under a magnifying glass
2nd Stanza    (even tinier print)     to be read under a microscope
3rd Stanza     (yet even tinier print)     to be blown up photographically, or by whatever method you choose, until it becomes readable

Now, I don’t know what your views are of Yoko. Maybe you’re one of those Beatle Fans Of A Certain Age who love to hate on her.

No denying it, she is certainly… shall we say… unique?

But just imagine for a moment having someone in your life willing to create something just for you. A fun thing that gives you a task to complete, or a poem with a list of instructions on how to read it. Wouldn’t that be something?

And can’t you just picture John doing it? I mean, you’d have to be a real asshole not to. Right?

And let’s allow that to be our takeaway here. In truth, we do have people who create things for us. They’re called Artists. They paint and sculpt and dance; they sing and act and write.

For us.

And frankly, we’d have to be real assholes not to appreciate that.

So if there are artists whose work you particularly appreciate, you could buy one of their pieces (most have websites) or join their Patreon if they have one (just do a search).

If there are museums you love to visit or hope to visit one day, you could donate something to help them stay afloat during this time. (Again, look for their website. Click here for SMOCA.)

If nothing else, you’ll feel like less of an asshole, and that should count for a lot.

22 thoughts on “On Artists, Museums, and not being an a**hole

  1. SMOCA was just talk when I lived in Phoenix but it looks cool. Everybody needs art and it’s unfortunate most artists have taken an involuntary vow of poverty. cheers

    1. Very true! People need art, whether they realize it or not.
      Not sure when you were last in the Valley, but a couple of the newest freeways added a lot of artistic elements to the concrete sides. Of course, at the time a lot of curmudgeons complained about the extra cost for something “so unnecessary” but visitors (and residents) have been wowed by the results.

      1. I left Phoenix in the early 90s when it was still a bunch of small towns lookin’ for a Big City. Used to love the Heard etc. but, in my day there wasn’t much going on except ASU football.

    1. Oh, you’d like it! I didn’t even mention all the restaurants. Seriously, you could stay there for a month and within a three-mile radius probably never have to dine at the same place twice!

  2. Thanks for pointing out this museum. I’d love to see it. I like art and supporting artists when I can. Unfortunately our home doesn’t have much room to put it. More windows than walls (so I bought a stained glass piece!) and a 3D piece would have to be really small or go outside.

    I was surprised to find an amazing contemporary art museum in Roswell, NM. I couldn’t tear myself away – my feet absolutely ached and I went back the next day to see more (it’s small but jam packed).

    1. Ha — you should have saved this for a Bad Joke Monday! 😉
      Yes, as a matter of fact, the place was quite cool. Quirky is an understatement, especially when Yoko Ono is involved!

    1. I’ve still not been to MIM, though we used to live quite close to it. My only excuse is that we could never afford it while we were there and now that we can afford it, we’re rarely there! But we need to make time for it on a future visit, for sure!

  3. This looks exactly like my kind of place. I louvre going to art museums. But now that I ponder such, it’s been a while. I think the last place might have been the Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, and that adventure was a year and a half ago. I need to get back in the swing. Of course, The Lock-Down isn’t helping right now, so thank you for this virtual tour…

    1. I’ve not been to the O’Keefe museum — is it filled with flowers that look like vaginas (though Georgia insisted were not)? The Phoenix art museum has a couple of her non-vagina paintings, but by no means her complete collection.

      I tease, but really I find her fascinating and I love her work. Just a side note, did you know she has a connection (of sorts) with Presbyterians? You can read the story here; https://www.ghostranch.org/about/our-story/about-georgia-okeeffe/

  4. Looks like an interesting place. Art is so subjective, at least for me. I have a passing interest in it. I know what I like and there’s probably more that I don’t like. But I’ve always respected any form of art and the creative minds that inhabit the space. I wish I saw the world that way. Must be pretty cool. As for Yoko, I grew up a Beatles fan. I know many people blame her for their breakup but that was happening before she came into view. Some things, people and groups just run their course. What matters is they made each other happy. She was certainly a strange bird but many artists of all kinds can probably slip into that category. Live and let live.

    1. Art is indeed subjective, I wonder why more people can’t respect that? The point is to create, not satisfy every person who views the creation.
      As for Yoko being a strange bird – no kidding! Did you ever see the video of her “presentation” at …. I want to say a New York museum, but I could be wrong. Basically she stood at a mic and screamed? No words, just… scream. Have to wonder if anyone asked for their money back!

    1. The chair was so cool! It came with a story too — the artist repaired a discarded robot from a factory and reprogrammed it (and named it Hugo). I don’t know if all parts of old refrigerators are used, but at least all the plastic is melted down and formed into one long continuous strand that the robot forms into these “endless chairs.”

    1. I was awfully glad we made the trip when we did. It gave us a chance to see everyone before all the craziness began, and at least I have the picture to keep me company!

  5. Now that I’m back in Tucson, I’m catching up. So I hope you’ll forgive me for coming late to the party. Now I have another day trip to add to my list. Back when we lived in “the burbs” we regularly went to “the city” (Chicago) to visit museums, parks, zoos and look at holiday displays. I volunteered at Tucson Museum of Art and have seen many of the other great places in and around Tucson. I know it’s time to venture north in my explorations. MIM was already on my list (I was planning to see Corky Siegel perform there before his May 6 show was canceled). So now I can add SMOCA to my list as well. Also, it seems there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright historic place that I can’t recall specifics about right now. Hopefully all these cool spots will survive shut downs, curfews, etc. I just heard a historic neighborhood market in the heart of Tucson, Rincon Market, was chained closed by the owner since the tenant could not afford to pay rent. It made me really sad. But we will get through this – I keep saying it out loud as my mantra. One foot in front of the other, keeping six feet of distance between me and others.

    1. Better late than never, Mary! I think you’ll enjoy SMOCA and I’m positive you’ll love MIM.
      We used to live near Taliesin West (Wright’s home), and thought about visiting, but it was a little pricey and I’m not a huge fan (more than person than his buildings).
      Such sad news about Rincon Market! I remember going there once with friends.
      Yeah, we’ll get through this.

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