Greek-American Stories: An Eye for Art (Or, Eyesores)

I don’t want to come off sounding like a low brow square but some stuff that is passed off as art just doesn’t appeal to me. I went with a group of seniors in Bergen County to visit an exhibition where various artists were displaying their work. The first piece of art displayed on the wall close to the entrance was an 18 x 24 canvas with a large red swirl centering it and a small black squiggle in an upper corner. Our director asked us what we thought of it.

One woman said, ‘striking!” The others politely agreed. Another said it looked like a matador’s cape, left behind. “Interesting,” commented the director, not really impressed. I thought it looked like a worm about to make a hole in what he thought was an apple. One large canvas, I swear, looked like three Greek letters, wrestling. Another showed four horizontal black lines, two vertical yellow lines and a circle in the center. “Well,” began our director. “Who can give an idea what you see in this painting?” No one spoke.

A prize should have been given to anyone deciphering that one. She looked directly at me. “Mrs. Sembos? Any ideas?” Leaning my head, and wondering what the hell it was, I had to say something. “It could be highways heading toward the roundabout circle like in Teaneck.” She looked as if I spoke a foreign language. Hey! You asked me!  Turning, we went on into another room where sculptures were on display. I saw a red and brown wad of clay on a plate. The sign below it read, “World after climate change.” We approached another canvas. This one was of a woman in eighteenth century clothes, lace collar, and low cleavage.

Her hand was at her throat and she looked worried. “Now, ladies,” began our director. “Study this portrait and use your imagination and tell me who you believe she might be.” At first no one spoke. Then, a woman came forward. “It could be Mary, Queen of Scots, worried she might be beheaded.” The director smiled. “That’s good! Anyone else?” Giving me a look that said I’d think Van Gogh was a candy bar, I said, “to me she looks like Queen Isabella when Columbus asked her for money to discover America.” Making no comment, she proceeded on to the next exhibition.

Gee! She’s hard to please. I began to wonder if this exhibition was sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous. In the next room, centering the floor was a tall, dark green tube-like structure. While the others were observing something else the director and I got intrigued by the green object. I asked, “is this some kind of work of art, do you think?” With pursed lips she said, “It wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t!” Going around it, a sign read, “Deposit trash here.”  Reading it, she turned a bright red and moved on. I was tempted to sing, ‘Nya nya-nya nya nya!’ by Cole Porter. But, I didn’t.

Then, I paused at a small clay (or, silly putty) statue of a man holding a sheet of paper in one hand and the other to his ear. The good part was that he had his masculine area covered. Hoping to put a little humor into this piece of work, I said, “to me, he seemed to be needing help with his income tax form and getting a, “we’re sorry. No one is able to take your call right now. Please wait for the next available operator.” Stone faced, she made no comment.

Then, seeing a well dressed man just coming out of an office she approached him and asked if he would be so kind as to explain what the statue depicted. He smiled, looked at the statue, rubbed his chin and then said, “I’m not sure! He looks frustrated. Maybe he’s trying to understand a question on that paper.” Intrigued, the director smiled. “A letter of rejection from his lover, perhaps?”

He shrugged. “Maybe! To me, the poor guy is trying to understand something on his tax form and was being placed ‘on hold’ for the next available operator.” Nya nya-nya nya nya!  I took out my Van Gogh candy bar while admiring the ‘Exit’ sign.


JANUARY 22ND: On this day in 1788, Lord Byron (née George Gordon Byron), the famous philhellene, poet, and satirist, was born in London, England.

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