Seeing Rainbows and Other Riding Thoughts About Art

Seeing Rainbows and Other Riding Thoughts About Art

I followed the rainbow to its end and what did I find? A pot of gold? Aww, Hell NO – Hell 2 Da Naw Naw! I found a KTM. Insert swirly heart-shaped eyes emoji here.

Actually, I saw this mural when I was on my way to visit Calder’s Stegosaurus in Hartford. It kicked off a train of thought that’s nagged me many times over the last year or so. As a result of riding around and just looking at stuff, you draw many conclusions about people and the life that is lived in the places you pass through. Some of the conclusions you arrive at are right, some undoubtedly wrong, and for some maybe the truth is irrelevant.

Anyway, the rainbow mural made me think about how it seems like there is an economic divide that changes the way that neighborhoods or individual homes display art.

In lower-income areas, there’s a more ready acceptance of decorative expression on the exteriors of houses, on porches, in yards and on the sides of buildings. I’m not talking about just haphazard and shitty tagging – I mean people creating something they’re proud of displaying. It could be anything from painted birdhouses, signage, yard art or something that might end up listed on Roadside America. Even if you deem it to be lowbrow, right down to people decorating their houses for holidays.

As you start climbing up the economic ladder, neighborhoods become much more sanitized, more homogenized and manicured to the nth degree. Instead of displaying artwork outside, it moves indoors, moves in to frames or under spotlights and pieces becomes “important.” Occasionally, you’ll see a sculptural piece or a fountain outside but it seems that they’re kind of the exception. When is the last time you saw a blizzard of paper snowflakes or construction paper Valentine hearts taped to the windows of a McMansion?

As we move up the ladder do we lose our ability to love, display and enjoy making beautiful things just because?

Do you find this to be true in your travels?

 

6 Replies to “Seeing Rainbows and Other Riding Thoughts About Art”

  1. It’s absolutely true and it’s due to class, as you note. Only it isn’t personal choice — people conform to their class expectations. For most in upper classes, conspicuous public display of anything (including their wealth) is frowned upon as gauche.

  2. In gritty neighborhoods, community art is apparently more acceptable and therefore is more abundant; the ethnic food is usually better, surely more authentic; and maybe—just maybe—the extra-familial social connections are better, more genuine. Now, keep my comments in perspective: I live in greater Salt Lake City, a place that ain’t exactly a gritty metropolis, so those of you in or near one of them there megalopotropilopili are likely to burst with laughter for what I’m saying (“Oh, the innocence.”). But really, we have our criminal element. We have gang shootings. Really, we do! (sigh) Whatever—take my words as you will.

    A while back my city began opening frequently tagged walls and whatnot to muralists: Not only does such public art reduce tagging (“artists” respecting art), but it adds color and life to a city. Consider the brightly painted slums of Haiti and Rio de Janeiro and surely other similar locations. Yeah, yeah, in those extreme examples, the art is no solution to the bigger problem, but just a disguise, just a way to make the “filth” a bit less unsightly. (Check out londoncallingblog.net They’ve got the right idea there.)

    Years ago my sister’s family moved to one of greater Salt Lake’s newer and more white bread cities (“MORE ‘white bread’? In Utah? Is that possible?” “Hush, you!”), and often she laments its lack of cultural color—people, restaurants, shops, you name it. It seems to me that what this melting pot of a nation needs right now is MORE diversity and more folks openly embracing and assimilating the cultural color of others and the societal cohesion that affords. But then again, what do I know—I’m no presidential candidate. Surely someone in that gang of enlightened, admirable, respectable and respectful commander-in-chief wannabes has all the answers. 😉

    By the way, Richard, great comment. Wicked, man, just wicked. 🙂

  3. I find the same thing here. I think the farther up the socio-economic ladder you move the more intense the pressure (real or imagined) to conform to a standard of behavior and decorum. No one is painting pictures on their homes but instead have people come to clean the siding, recoat the driveway, paint the fence, chemicalize the lawn, and make everything perfect. Little room for joy and passion.

  4. Lord, don’t get me started on the whole suburbia and HOA thing. Ugh. There are rules for everything. It’s not only a royal pain in the ass, it’s stifling. And it invites the weirdest most nit-picky comments/debates (wastes of time) ever! I will never live in a suburban housing development again. Where we live now, we’re subject to an architectural review board, but only because we’re in the historic part of town and they want to maintain the town’s character and charm.

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