ART: What's Going On at CalArts and More...

From: IN%"[email protected]" "Art Criticism Discussion Forum" 19-OCT-1993
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To: IN%"[email protected]" "Howard Lawrence"
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Subj: A True Fable with Animals & Everything

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From: Deborah Zuccarini <[email protected]>
Subject: A True Fable with Animals & Everything
Sender: Art Criticism Discussion Forum <[email protected]>
To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
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A few weeks ago a friend phoned fromValencia, Ca - in Grad School at CalArts.
She missed the first weeks of class this Fall due to illness and had just re-
turned, stunned, from her first contact with school. It was a lecture/slide
show by a new hot California artist (she never mentioned his name). He had
begun his particular brand of art by painting murals, body-painting his nude
self, and dancing around in front of the murals. Eventually he dispensed with
the murals and would simply paint himself and have photographs taken. His
focus was orifices for awhile, Jasper Johns type bullseye around his ass. This
progressed to painting landscapes across his abdomen and dressing up his penis
in doll clothes and having this photographed (I'm not making this up!). She
had me in tears of laughter but at the end her wail was heartfelt. She cried
"Is this what I'm here for? I'm not sure I ever want to do art again!!"

I hung up. On TV was a PBS program on the caretakers of animals that are on
endangered lists. There are people who are caring for these animals in zoos
and on reserves, etc. Stirred up odd, bittersweet feelings, to see the
interaction of animals and keepers - some affection between them, some giving
what small pleasures they could to the captives. There is a Canadian caring
for elephants, takes them to a lake for fun, has them perform for audiences in
order to draw attention to them and educate people. There's a woman caring for
mistreated apes, another with dolphins. Even a guy who keeps alive the last
8 survivors of a species of snail, studies them, etc. At the end of the show
a voice over said something about how, at this time, in the world as it is, we
are all caretakers and keepers.

My mind began musing on these two events and has formed these thoughts. In a
way, what we (poets, artists, etc.) are doing is trying to preserve something
that is in danger of becoming extinct. Like the wild animals, art (beauty?
aesthetic truth?) can be misunderstood, mistreated, abused, exploited. Even
domesticating it can be wrong. What we do is explore it, study it, and express
it as close as we can to its true nature - that indefinable, numinous quality.
And even the guy with the obscure snails, which appears at first glance to be
a boring and senseless life, is preserving the endangered species.

No moral to this one and maybe I've stretched some bounds here but it's what my
head came up with and at least it gave me an answer to write my friend. I
assured her that what she was doing was real and necessary and worth doing.
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