Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Using Humor In Art

Art surrounds us each and every day. Whether its a billboard, the poster on the side of a bus, even the apps we use on our iPhones, there is some form of art often begging for our attention. Probably 99.9% escapes us. I know most of it does me. Yet, it is art.

What? That photo of a sad woman needing a cold reliever isn't art? Or the illustrated smiling face with the Hollywood sign in the background isn't art? The anti-war message of Picasso's GUERNICA, that's art but with a message?! What? Are you confused?

To those in the trade, "art" is anything that isn't type. I think art, no matter what type, is by degree. I think if we really thought about it, art is selling us something ... a product, an idea, and often an emotion. Standing in front of Monet's WATERLILIES at the Met, Van Gogh's CROWS IN WHEAT FIELD, NIGHT WATCH by Rembrandt in Amsterdam, the MONA LISA in Paris, any Pollack at the Guggenheim, this art certainly illicits an emotion every bit as great as an ad you hate or laugh at on TV. Art is about creating emotions.

Street Art From A Chalk Street Art Project In The Philippines
I find that the rarest artifice used in art is humor. There is something in us that seems to resist humor in art. It is fine for cartoons but for anything else, its almost taboo. Yet, when you think about memorable TV ads the majority of them are those that were funny. A funny movie usually lingers in your mind long after a drama unless it was a slasher movie.

Why then are we so reluctant to use humor?

I saw this image that someone had posted on Pinterest and after a surprised laugh clicked on it and was able to trace the origin down. It was an art project for students in the Philippines who were given chalk and told to be creative. I sure hope this student got an A+ because it is funny, very clever and apt. You have to be very creative to look at two pipes coming out of a building to think they could represent two legs! I am sure that everyone who saw this did a double take. I sure did.

There are times when I too attempt  humor when creating my own projects. The "Last Chance" series was an attempt at humor. The poignant reminder of "last chances" was the resin cow skull that graced each of my creations. Some got it, most didn't. After coming off a series of cactus paintings, I woke up one morning and realized how I wanted to use a rocket shaped birdhouse. I painted it to resemble a cactus. "Rocket Cactus." I loved the humor and while it was popular on my blog, it is one of the least viewed products on my Etsy store. I guess because it was too out of the box. I mean a cactus that is a rocket? Really? That was an idea people couldn't wrap their minds around.

Like everything in life, there are successes and there are failures. You learn from one and don't get bogged down with the other. Art, like humor, evolves and must continue to evolve or it becomes redundant, a parody of itself. Give it a try. The student who created these feet can serve as an inspiration.

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