A Pink Masterpiece or a Pepto Bismol Disaster?

Perspective is a major theme in my blog posts, and this post is no exception.  I am borrowing a story from the late, great Jeanne-Claude, wife and one half of Jeanne-Claude and Christo, the famous environmental artists.  Chris and I had the pleasure of meeting them at The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C. in 2007 while promoting their latest creation.  She told a fantastic story about the installation titled “Surrounded Islands” in Biscayne Bay, Florida. (For copyright reasons, I won’t include a picture, but you should take a look: http://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/surrounded-islands).  Not surprisingly, people had extreme reactions to this piece and they tended to be polarized; they either loved it or hated it.  Jeanne-Claude described her interaction with a man who, at the debut, asked if she was the artist responsible. “Yes”, she answered with a little smile, a small reflection of the pride she felt in creating it with Christo.  “Well I think it’s terrible! It looks like someone spilled Pepto Bismol all over the ocean!”. It’s not hard to imagine the smile slowly disappearing from her face. She related that she apologized to the man for her art’s offending him and tried not to internalize the negative comment.  A short while later, another person asked her the same question, was she artist responsible? Again, and this time without the smile, she answered that she was and steadied herself for the criticism. “I think it’s wonderful! It looks like someone spilled Pepto Bismol all over the ocean! How beautiful!”.  I imagine her smile was back and bigger than ever. I wondered, listening to her tell that story, how it could be that two opposite conclusions could be reached from the exact same experience. But that’s the cool thing about art. There’s no right or wrong. You just create and hope that it makes you feel good.  The fact that someone else may get joy out of it is a bonus. When someone likes it so much they buy it, that is a day to celebrate.

Check out the painting below, “Primal Order”.  On a scale of “My 5 year old could have done that” to “Shut-up and take my money!”, how do you rate this one?  It’s got a lot of pink in it…


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