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I just read a fascinating article at the washingtonpost.com. If you have Lewis on your friends page, he previously posted it.

Pearls Before Breakfast.

It was lovely and interesting, and I saved it for future reference. Now that I know I have to write a thesis/research paper as an exit requirement for graduation, I've been thinking about topics. It will have to do with film and art, most likely focusing both on the 20th century. This article won't come in handy because music doesn't play a part whatsoever, but it's still a good article I could use, if I were to ever write an article about 20th century musicians.


Similarly, I had a really good 20th Century Art class today. First off, my professor, this crazy, off-the-wall New Yorker, is simply hilarious. Sometimes, she's too much to handle, but usually she's just a really good teacher. Then today, she told us that for the final exam, she was going to give us an in-depth study guide with the artists/concepts/artworks we need to know (with page numbers of where they are located in the text!). I swear, at that moment, my heart went a-flutter and I proclaimed my undying love for Dr. Cutler (in my head, of course).

And don't laugh...my heart really did that excited flutter thing. I spent so long sifting through my notes and the textbook for our midterm...I'm just speechless at the thought of not having to do that for the final.

Second, she gave a really interesting lecture about the art leading into postmoderism, and specifically looking at Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Claes Oldenburg. In discussing modern art, we often some across questions of "what is art?" and "why is this art?" and "can everything be subsumed into a market culture?" I would say that those are the three biggest questions we encounter. Why is drips of paint on a canvas art? Why wouldn't it be? Why is the Campbell's soup label art? Why is it still art when there are 100 of them? Why is creating a comic animation on canvas different than creating it for a comic book? Is it?

So then today, we looked at Claes Oldenburg's Ice Cream Cone and one of Allan Kaprow's "Happenings" (I couldn't find the one I wanted to post, but the tired will do), and she said something that resonated. It was an off handed comment and not a huge part of the lecture, but it essentially brought together everything I've learned so far about 20th century art. If it's not art, what is it?

It would be an understatement to say that I've grown to appreciate modern (and subsequent forms) of art since taking this class. So much goes into a work and it's nearly impossible to qualify something as good or bad when the intention isn't just to "be pretty" or "look realistic." Even Warhol's silkscreens from his Factory had a purpose and intention, and even if he didn't touch a work, there's still something to be said for it...either about the assembly-line process, or the commodification of nothingness, or questions about whether he was being facetious or being serious.

It may stem from my professor's background as an artist, this emphasis on viewing works from all angles. She worked as an artist in New York in the '80s (she occasionally recounts tales of being there at the same time as Madonna...to paraphrase: "some people were nice and didn't go anywhere, some weren't so nice and, well. What can I say? She made it big and I didn't"...but I digress), so her perspective on work often comes from a more "insider" perspective than typical art historians (who tend to be outside observers).

To digress further, there's something very unpretentious about Dr. Cutler. There was a time at the beginning of the semester when she was discussing how artists sometimes scoff about "selling out." She said something along the lines of (and I'm paraphrasing again): "Why shouldn't you make money? Everybody else does. If you're an abstract artist and someone offers you a thousand bucks to paint sunflowers, you're gonna paint the sunflowers. You might hate sunflowers, but you're gonna paint them."


Anyway, class is winding down...we have 3 days left, then our final. I kinda copped out on the paper that was due today. We had a 6 page limit, so I had to be brief, but now I'm worried that I left out too much and that the paper was too elementary. Like it might be good for an introductory course, but I'm worried it was not the 400-level, in-depth analysis she wanted. I think it was well-written, but beyond that...I'm nervous. The only thing consoling me is that I really copped out on the art reviews we had earlier in the semester, so I've already set the bar low.

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