Monday, September 13, 2010

30 Day Challenge: Day 17 ~ An Art Piece

I formed my first REAL opinion on something in 1989.

I was 18 (soon to be 19), and I had just moved to Ottawa to attend university.

That year, the National Gallery of Canada paid $1.76 million dollars for a painting made by an American artist, and would be part of its permanent collection. The artist was Barnett Newman and the painting was Voice of Fire, painted in 1967 for the American pavilion at Montreal's Expo 67.

This purchase caused quite the shitstorm in Ottawa and across Canada. Not only did the gallery spend an enormous amount of money to purchase non-Canadian art, the painting consists of only a red stripe on a blue background, as you can see in the photo.

The criticisms were endless. My favourite was : "I could have done that with a paint roller and two cans of paint!" My response was always: "But you didn't, did you."

From cybermuse....
In 1967 Newman painted Voice of Fire for the American pavilion at Montreal's Expo 67. At this time Americans were confronting the moral dilemmas raised by the war in Vietnam. According to the artist's widow, he was deeply preoccupied by the conflict. The painting does not allude directly to the war, but by making each viewer conscious of where he or she stands, it opens up a moral and spiritual dimension that is profoundly expressive of its place and time. In Voice of Fire the "zip" is the red band that is placed exactly in the middle of the blue ground.

Ahhh, art. Yes, I was inspired to defend art, and I would go to the National Gallery as often as possible to show my support.

Unfortunately, in 1991, those people around me that took me to task for the "crayola project"--as some liked to call it-- had some new ammunition.

The Gallery featured an installation titled, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic, by Montreal artist Jana Sterbak. It was 50 lbs of flank steak stitched together and displayed on a hanger. There was also a photo of a woman wearing the meat dress. Anyway, it would hang there and slowly...rot. And then it would be thrown out.

Her aim was to “emphasize the contrast between vanity and bodily decay.”

All she did was get all kinds of people pissed off, sending rotting food scraps to their local art galleries and maybe even inspire a wacky pop singer some 19 years later!


  1. I've never quite understood the "But you didn't, did you" argument.

    I like a lot of modern art, but The Bed thing by Tracy Emmin is just rubbish to me and I wouldnt want to produce art like that.

    The GREAT thing about modern art is that it divides people and gets them talking and debating.

  2. I agree... if it makes you feel or makes you think, then it's art. Even if it is just a stripe.

  3. stephen: it's for the people who criticize art and attempt to quash the artist's creativity by taking the "I coulda done that" route.

    replicant: exactly


you better make this good.


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