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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Picture-perfect day

The urge to paint must be strong today, or I assume so with weather like this. It's a clear blue day, shocking after so much fog and humidity this summer, a perfect Sunday in August on the coast of Maine, made for plein air. The artists must be out by the thousands, and the tourists who buy their pictures by the car load must be roaming the galleries, for the urge to buy art must be just as strong today. We want to take back home a reminder of the beautiful places we've seen - too bad the art is so often banal.

A beautiful place inspires a huge range of talent in the arts. The truly talented have to work extremely hard to get viewers (or readers) to see something new, and I suspect they mostly don't even try, or work in the off-season when the light's more interesting and the crowds are done shopping. The merely talented work nearly as hard but have a keener eye on the commercial scene. Weekenders paint or write mostly for themselves, and let themselves dream a little. The schlock guys set up their assembly lines and think about wintering in Florida.

It's hard to find great representations of the perfect. The test of time works, so we can recreate beauty by gazing at Bellows and Kent and the Wyeths in museums. But in the art galleries, of which there are hundreds on the coast, I find it nearly impossible. The contrast with the real thing just outside the door is too great to overcome for us ordinary mortals, artist or viewer, and this artistic nitwit (whose efforts in Pictionary inevitably are greeted with cries from the peanut gallery of "Pigs in space!" after a memorable drawing moment some years ago) usually exits the gallery quite quickly, as if he's in a No Parking zone and the meter maid approaches.
I hope she doesn't give me a ticket for ignorance.

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