Cute is the New Shocking

Having finished my happy frogs, I’m in a pontificating mood, and actually have a brief time in which I CAN pontificate.* Woo!

Cute is the new shocking.

Okay, maybe it isn’t yet, but bear with me. Consider fine art. Fine art, at its best, ought to challenge the way you think about the world, oughta stretch your brain a little, oughta make you question how anything “oughta” be, including the above statements about fine art.

In some cases, regrettably, this has devolved into crappy conceptual art and an obsession with novelty to the exclusion of skill, and in a lot of cases, simple shock value. Unfortunately, as we all have the urge to scream at people who want to paint in their own blood from time to time, “This has not been shocking for YEARS,” but y’know. Much fine art these days does indeed make you think, but what you think is “Man, that’s total crap.”

Sturgeon’s Law, of course. 90% of everything is crap, and, to use Ursula’s newly invented Corrollary, this is not the fault of the other 10%.

You can walk into a lot of fine art galleries armed with Madonna painted urinals and crucifixes in jars of urine, and they will yawn, because it’s been done. Shocking, alas, is no longer shocking. Shocking has become tedious.

The following, however, is a fairly accurate transcription of a recent conversation with my mother, (which we have played out in various forms for years on end.)

Mom: “I’d really like to paint these little birds. But they can’t be cute.”

Me: “But they’re inherently cute!”

Mom: (sigh) “I know. I have to make them not cute.”

Me: “Is this like the thing with sunsets? You’re just not allowed to do that?”

Mom: “Yes. And I LIKE sunsets!”

Cute is taboo. Cute is BAD. Cute is…well, cute is much more apalling to the fine art mind than, oh, mere cannibalism or heresy, which you can get an NEA grant for if you word it right, and which, as stated above, has anyway gotten rather dull and smacks of trying too damn hard these days. Cute is terrible. It’s the opiate of the masses. My stepfather, who thought my Vagina Plate in college ceramics was a great idea, once threatened to disown me if I worked for Hallmark. Cute, like pretty, is anathema to fine art.

Therefore, I propose that cute is the new shocking.

Seriously. Fine art embraced outsider art not all that long ago, presumably (I hope) because it was trying to turn itself on its ear, to undermine the whole mystique of art as something created by the elite. In short (and quite commendably) it wanted to challenge itself! It wanted to re-define what real art was, thereby fulfilling the ancient and mysterious Art Cycle Of Life, whereby people rebell against the establishment, are hailed as excitingly avant garde, enjoy brief fame (and hopefully fortune) are accused of selling out, and then become the establishment against which people are rebelling, and the whole scene fades out to the solemn narration of David Attenborough.

So why not cute? If cute’s really that terrible and antithetical to fine art, it should BECOME fine art, as part of that mystical cycle.

If I can just write up a good enough artist statement, I’ll get my pink lizards and their slugs in the Louvre yet. Damnit.

*Pontification not to be taken really all that seriously.

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