Sunday, August 3, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Anyone who's lived in the University District more than a couple years knows well the seasonal patterns of the migrating students who reside there.

Football season brings wandering bands of scarlet and grey clad bros sporting traditional Natty Light crowns.

Winter break sees a period of relative calm, punctuated by the backyard pyrotechnics and dumpster fires that signal the start of a New Year.

Summer sees the great exodus as students return to their ancestral homes.

And the end of summer? That's moving season; the time when leases expire and the annual game of musical apartments begins.

A major part of this seasonal change involves an effort to "travel light"  by jettisoning anything non-essential to the move. That usually means filling the campus area alleys with mattresses, TVs, chairs, couches, chests of drawers, and just about anything else that's either too heavy or too unfit to move.

To many, this accumulation of trash is nothing more than a seasonal eyesore. Me? I was taught that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade! So it was with great excitement that I welcomed the appearance of this single mattress propped against the dumpster behind our house.

I understand that the untrained eye will see trash at the very best and a moldering biohazard at the very worst. To those of us well-versed in contemporary art though, this is opportunity!

See, the annals of contemporary art are filled with readymades, matresses, mixed-media, found art, and the attendant transformational flourishes that accompany all of the above. Put another way, when I saw this mattress propped so perfectly against the dumpster I immediately recognized in it the essence of Sarah Lucas' now iconic sculpture Au Naturel.

OK. Lucas employed a queen sized bed, so there's that. The color on the one behind my house is not exactly right either. Also, hers was in a gallery and associated with one of the most important movements in 20th Century art. It reached (and  spoke to) an international audience of art aficionados. My mattress is in an alley.

Still, how can one deny the Spirit! The Essence! The laconic posture of a filthy and unadorned mattress in full repose! How could I resist? (Plus, as Donald Rumsfeld so famously said, "You don't make contemporary art with the mattress you wish you had, make contemporary art with the mattress you have").

Needless to say, this morning I hustled up a couple of oranges and a cucumber and unveiled my newest work (You're welcome!) Au Naturel - Male (after Lucas).

A couple notes on the execution and presentation: This work is less a copy of Lucas' piece and more of an appreciation. Given the mattress was a single, certain compromises had to be made. The selection of the male form over the female form should not be read as anything more than a choice borne of convenience. Similarly, the selection of a traditional North American cucumber (over the European/English variety favored by Lucas) should not be seen as a particular endorsement. Each variety has its own merits and should be judged accordingly.

Au Naturel - Male (after Lucas) will be on view in Dixon alley (between Clinton and Maynard) for an indeterminate period of time. Note: this work contains mature themes.