Failed Art and the Grand Canyon

Southwestern art is crap.  Not just any old crap, though.  Certifiable vomitous-kitsch-with-nary-a-glimmer-of-anything-remotely-resembling-something-acceptable-to-hang-on-any-other-wall-but-that-of-a-mediocre-hotel-room crap.

Yeah, yeah, Georgia O’Keeffe and all that.  Fine.  But other than her…


But why?  Is the Southwest of the United States not a place of awesome (in the true sense of the word) beauty?  Unparalleled grandeur?  Sublime magnificence?  So why no decent art?

I’ve just spent 5 days traveling around Arizona (insert Jared Loughner/Immigration Policy comment here) and having a truly fantastic time against a backdrop of mesas, canyons, red rocks, and stunning vistas.  Maybe if Monet had visited Arizona, or better yet Seurat, I wouldn’t be feeling this way, but there are some experiences that simply cannot be translated to art.  (Need I clarify what I mean by art?  I think not, assuming those of you reading this understand that difference between kitsch and the kind of commentary that true art makes on life.)

So there I am, watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon, and having a truly magical personal moment.  And then, shame on me, I ruin it by thinking about art.

My brain spins off, oh so arrogantly debating how one might begin to approach a piece about the Grand Canyon.  Naturally, it shouldn’t be anything too literal.  That would be impossible to translate.  Perhaps it should be more about contrast, or scale, or color.  Hmm.

In the end I come up with nothing.  The most I can muster is the following time-lapse.  Not an attempt to do anything more than say, here is what happens between this time and that time.  If you ignore the fact that I’ve pointed my camera at the Grand Canyon, maybe you can appreciate a moment in time, condensed through the power of photography to a few seconds.

Or maybe I shouldn’t have bothered.  After all, it is the Grand Canyon and, to follow my own advice, any artistic endeavor involving it is somewhat distasteful.

6 thoughts on “Failed Art and the Grand Canyon

  1. steve gerbson

    Misch – Great work. However, you may have left one or two out other than Ms. O’Keeffe. New Mexico has attracted many artists and writers. Painters Bert G. Phillips and Ernest Leonard Blumenschein who started the famous Taos art colony in 1898. Mabel Dodge Luhan did much to lure the creative community to Taos through her writings; the most famous person to take up residence there was English novelist D. H. Lawrence and soon ME. Although I may have to complete one or two more projects before you can lump me in with this group. 🙂

  2. Lorin Parker

    Being born in the Southwest and happily living here and enjoying / making art in New Mexico, I have to agree — conditionally.

    Indeed, the Southwestern Art (which I think you refer to) is thrust at tourists. We are a poor state, and rotund and tasteless Texans sporting giant teased hair and enough turquoise and silver jewelry to blind low flying airplanes pay good money for it. (I call these women squaw-casians). But, indeed, most locals don’t like “southwestern art”.

    Oh, but what about Santa Fe or Sedona? Well, that’s where said Texans go to retire and, perhaps bathe in all their turquoise beneath a painting of a crying indian on horseback. Most New Mexicans could never afford to eat, live or do anything in Santa Fe.

    However, beneath the crust of overwhelming tchotchke, there is some lovely work from local south-westerners. Of course my favorite pieces are usually the ones that directly oppose the “popular” southwestern art with a defiant middle finger.

    A case in point. A good friend was recently featured by the Native American Museum in Santa Fe. He, and a few other artists, created a rawkus and violent sound installation featuring the sounds of Navajo weapons in percussive and abrupt force. It was installed adjacent to the historic plaza in Santa Fe. Well, it made so many tchotchke shoppers upset that they pleaded the city to take it down.

    The city did not take it down (not a good move to censor around here). Plus, the piece was good. In fact, the mission of a group of indian artists to create some contemporary art seems completely validated by the small uproar they caused. GO TEAM!

    P.S. How come you spent so much time in Arizona (a few hours away from us) and didn’t even contact us to meet up?! We miss you.


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