What exactly is "good" art?

Antique stores are full of them — quirky and idiosyncratic and bizarre cityscapes, landscapes, portraits, abstracts created with, more often than not, questionable talent. While the pieces may not be art gallery quality (or more important, art gallery price), there is certainly a demand for the stuff, and depending on the store and the part of the country, they don’t necessarily come cheap.

To be clear, I love going to galleries and museums and look at “good” art. After all, there is, and should be, some standard of sophistication, emotionality, execution, and intent to be worthy of exhibition.

I found these particular little gems on two separate conscious-altering guys’ weekend trips to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin years ago, after hours-long walks through people’s lakeside homes, mansions, and compounds, (you’re allowed to do this, kids) including the Wrigley estate. It was a head-scratching painting of a chef outside Gold Coast Art Gallery (above) and a sign that they were having a $20 ART SALE!” that caught our over-stimulated attention. Naturally, we had to go inside. Naturally, we had to find the strangest ones. (Turns out, clowns are a big favorite of painters in this gallery.)

Even the most cursory of examinations prompts questions. What’s with the clown’s mouth? Where are his lips? That little cottage is certainly adorable, but it sure is close to the stream — didn’t anyone think that the inevitable erosion of the banks would cause the cottage to collapse into the water? What’s the other clown balancing on, and why is he balancing on anything in the first place? Is he pretending he’s John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”? Why is that duck so furious? Why does he have teeth? What did the mouse do? Are those blood drops, and if so, why do they appear to be floating? Is the duck hurt? And above all: what were these people thinking?

Yet while they might not be painted with the greatest degree of technical expertise, I’m leery of calling all these pieces “bad art.” Because behind every painting, there’s a story. Someone with passion and enthusiasm had an idea in their head and was courageous enough to put themselves on the line and share their vision with the world. It’s why I hang them on my wall — to remind myself, every day, that we’re all trying to express ourselves, to share our humanity, to connect.

Plus, I just like weird.

Posted in Design, Things That Engage Us