Freaky Friday

A few days ago, I woke up in a parallel universe. It took a while to realize that I was in a new dimension because my bedroom, my bathroom, my dachshunds, all looked pretty much the same. But the back page of my neighbor’s New York Post, lying face down on the elevator floor, clued me in.

The headline screamed, “Yee Dominates Open” over a picture of some ceramic sculptures. The caption went on to explain that artist Lulu Yee’s work was all the rage at the Bushwick Open Studios.

I nudged through the rest of the paper with my toe. Where I expected to see hockey scores and an update on the Yankee’s quest for a shortstop, I found reviews of two shows at the new Whitney, a long essay on Robert Motherwell’s legacy, and a table charting the top twenty seniors at RISD and their expected prospects at Art Basel in Miami.

I walked back into my apartment and hit the remote. A flashy logo for ESPN (the Exhibition, Sculpture & Painting Network), swept across the screen. Two talking heads were discussing Gerhard Richter’s decision to switch to a new brand of paint thinner, then rumors about Damien Hirst’s wrist injury, the economics of a trade of three Rachel Whiteread sculptures between the Guggenheim and a huge new museum in Dallas, and Matthew Barney’s newly trimmed beard.

In this alternate world, art schools recruited talented third graders, galleries poached art school freshmen, and major corporations viciously competed to sponsor retrospectives at the Guggenheim. There were hundreds of extraordinary new artists I had never heard of before: they now had the chance to show their work, were supported and encouraged to push boundaries and create new dimensions in art.  School art programs were lavishly supported and even the most provincial colleges had big, sun-swept studios, subsidized art supply stores and  deep pockets. Most athletic programs, alas, had meager support and sparse attendance.

Every city built stadiums to present Pussy Riot performance pieces and screen Tom McCarthy videos. Teenaged girls mooned over half-naked pinups of Richard Prince. Marina Abramovic had her own cable network. Every street tough wore Basquiat dreadlocks and paint spattered shoes. Kids coveted jackets festooned with Liquitex and Grumbacher logos. Parents named their babies “Winsor” and “Newton”. Art students lived in mini-mansions and drove Escalades to Starbucks where star quarterbacks made them pumpkin lattes.

Exhilarated and exhausted by my first day in this wonderland, I drank too much absinthe and passed out. When I woke up the next morning, it was to the sound of reality, two cab drivers across the street arguing over how the Yankee’s star pitcher’s strained forearm would effect their season. Art funding was still in crisis, parents still worry about their creative kids’ prospects, museums catered to the lowest common denominator, and our education system and our culture were still ruled by sports and money.

Oh, well.

If I figure out how to get back to the other side,would you want to come with me?

32 thoughts on “Freaky Friday”

  1. Oh yes Danny….I’d be there with you…and I’d probably have been one of the popular kids in school wearing my ‘height of fashion’ paint splattered smock…you know the one everyone wants that Vogue and RedBook tout on their covers. My brushes and pens and sketchbooks would be insured for exorbitant premiums (they’re so valuable) and we’d have sketchcrawls pencilled into every parent’s calendar every weekend…..all the kids could join these teams though and parents would turn out in droves to cheer them on….pity its an alternate universe…but it’s great to dream!


  2. Oh yes – education minister here this week told 13 year olds that if they want a future they should be choosing science subjects at school, not arts! I wanted to cry. Not only are they cutting all the funding but they’re brainwashing our kids too…


  3. How many of us ever take the time to find out a politicians “art” background before we vote. Now if we decide to really want a little change, it will require us to do something more than complain. It requires us to do homework, make noise, and get out and stir the pot. But I’d rather stay in and paint. See what I mean? I see the problem but don’t do anything about it.


  4. Oh, Yeah!!!! My fantasy as well! A highschool art teacher just does not get the sycophantic fawning that the physical education mavins do.


  5. As sketching quietly…..and sometimes with a bit of noise, the world is becoming aware of ART and curious about “how we do it!” My seat on the Canadian Rocky Mountaineer Train was near the on- board potty. There I sat for two days, sketchbook, pen and paints and quickly logged down the ever-amazing scenes. Then folks started to say, “Oh, you’re the woman who is painting!” ; ” How do you get it down so fast with the moving train?” …etc. Word got around, I was the attraction to watch as they waited for the “Loo”! LOL! Our parallel universe is creeping in one sketch at a time,


  6. I like your alternate universe. I don’t think contemporary society
    appreciates the arts or the contribution they make to culture and
    society. Creativity is completely undervalued.

    I’m lucky that my kids are being schooled in an education district that
    very much supports the arts. They have dedicated music and art teachers,
    specialists delivering the curriculum, inspiring them and engaging them.
    Our district also holds an annual exhibition so that the achievements of
    the arty kids can be celebrated just as the sporting abilities of the
    sporty kids are throughout the year. My kids, like me, are arty and
    decidedly not sporty. They hate competitiveness. But I digress.

    I’m aware that not all education districts fund art programmes. In an
    era of under-funding and austerity, art has been deemed a low priority.
    It’s a dreadful shame and I think a terrible mistake.


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