I don’t get contemporary art, and after watching a recent episode of 60 Minutes, I don’t think I ever will.  Morley Safer visited Art Basel in Miami as a follow-up to a segment he’d done on contemporary art twenty years ago, and as he wandered through exhibitions that included blue plastic casts of bathroom fixtures, a set of vintage lawn chairs (where I come from they call that patio furniture, not art)  and the gigantic skeleton of a dead dog lying on its back, I thought, I don’t get this either.  It almost seems like the more outlandish an idea is, the more committed some overpaid, over-educated, intellectually superior art snob is determined to convince you that the pile of crap you are looking at has great significance in the advancement of human culture, and if you don’t agree, then YOU are an idiot.

I will confess to a certain level of genius on the part of artists and gallery owners to slap some fancy words about “what it all means” on a plaque beside a can of cigarette butts and some used condoms that some cleaning lady at a gallery in London LOST HER JOB over after sweeping it all into a dustbin because the “installation” had just sold for some ridiculous amount of money, but seriously?  How can anyone actually buy into this garbage?

I wanted to scream when a gallery owner describing a new piece by a Korean artist to the Guggenheim’s head curator spoke solemnly and with great intensity about the “sadness” of  this artist’s work, and how it captured the tragic paradigm of our own tangled lives. This “tragic paradigm” was an IV stand draped in a tangled extension cord with a couple of plastic leis tossed over it, and looked like it took all of twenty minutes to assemble, including the trip to the Dollar Store for $6 worth of supplies.

This isn’t the first time I’ve blown a gasket over the contemporary art market either.  Not by a long shot.  I had to give up my subscription to  Art News Magazine several years ago because I used to throw it across the room every month.  First, there was an article on a French artist who bought terra-cotta pots from Home Depot and spray painted them gold (they sold for HUGE sums of money),  a guy who spent years tiling very square inch of his home, and then several more tearing all the tile back out again to protest  consumerism (at least, I think that was what his art  was supposed to “represent”).  There was the trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art several years ago for a Vasily Kandinsky exhibit that, inexplicably started with an artist I’d never heard of before.  Her work was benign enough to begin with, but I eventually found myself in a darkened room, lit only by a single light bulb, staring at  row upon row of dead birds and mice in crocheted outfits.  The accompanying wall text explained that this was artist, Annette Messager’s “homage to women’s work”.  Messager found dead birds and mice in her Parisian neighborhood,  took them home where she bathed them, made clothes for them, then put them in a baby carriage and walked them through the streets of Paris with them, and “when they were bad, she would punish them”.

I create art with my hands, my heart and the images in my head and I am really, really good at what I do.  I also can’t get arrested as an artist, and yet some crazy French broad can get an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with dead sparrows in a crocheted scarf, and the Tate Gallery in Liverpool proudly exhibits a can of artist excrement that cost them $30,000 because its one of the few that didn’t blow up after being sealed.   This artist got the idea to take a crap in a can and sell it for the cost of what an equal amount of gold would cost at the time, and while I must admit to a grudging respect for the moxy it took to dream up such a scam, I just can’t get my head around the fact that someone bought a can of poop on purpose and then triumphantly splashed the purchase all over the pages of an art magazine.

I don’t get the art, I don’t get the artists and I don’t get the multibillionaires who spend fortunes on stuff I wouldn’t have in my house on a bet.  Eli Broad bought a “premiere” piece for a small fortune of what looked like someone running down an alley.  I couldn’t tell if it was charcoal, or pencil or acrylic, but I do know it was really REALLY ugly, and if that is what passes for “premiere” art these days, then he can have it.

I went to an exhibition at the Temporary Contemporary in Los Angeles a few years ago because several artists I had only heard about were in a group display.  I’d never seen work by Kiki Smith, Red Grooms and Brice Marden, and while I am still not in the least bit impressed by any of them, it was a woman whose name I chose not to remember who sent me fleeing from the building in a complete fury.  Her “installation” involved a giant block of chocolate with the edges chewed off, a heap of Crisco that had started to melt, and at the other end of the room, a glass case filled with chocolate lipsticks.  A video interview with the “artist” accompanied the work, so I decided to find out what I was missing.   This very lovely, very soft-spoken, VERY well-connected young woman spoke about her passion for sculpture and the great masters like Rodin and Michelangelo.  She said she wanted to “emulate” their style and so she thought, and thought, and thought, and realized that she could approximate the greats BY CHEWING THE EDGES OFF A BLOCK OF CHOCOLATE AND REGURGITATING CRISCO BY THE MOUTHFUL then forming the chocolate and Crisco into a consumer product as an indictment of female vanity.  Are you kidding me?

Not to be outdone, I went home and decided to cut and reassemble several gourds in different shapes and sizes, “paste” them back together with glue and dowel rods and Bondo, then paint them or cover them with glass beads and you know what I got?

Those are phallic.

Maybe I should have draped some tangled extension cords over them, spray painted the whole thing gold and crocheted sweaters for them to wear.