As we were making our way along Fifth Avenue on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I looked around, and marveled at the beautiful blue sky, at the heartbreaking, almost autumn-like weather (notice I said "almost"--I'm still in denial). My eyes soaked in the waves of beautiful men and women and children from all nationalities, the commanding, elegant shop windows, the dazzling architecture. And then, I turned to my left, and--
I actually grabbed his arm. "Corbett!"
"Yes?" And he used that tone. That patented "what is it now" tone.
But, there it was, hanging heavy and pendulous off the side of an office building. Looming down in black and white over the New York street, like the Colossus of Rhodes. Two tan, muscular arms. A trim, muscular, firm, stomach. A pair of well-worn blue jeans, with all the creases and rips in the right places. And there, in the center of the Z formation, arranged so that the eye was instinctively drawn to it, a glorious banana hammock, straining out from underneath all that superfluous clothing.
I giggled. “Look at that, Corb! Can you imagine being that guy? Can you imagine driving down the street in a taxi cab, and turning to the person that you're with, and being able to say, ‘Why yes, that does happen to be my crotch up there.’”
Corb snorted. “It's stupid. I mean, what are they even selling?”
“Isn’t it obvious? That guy’s crotch. Man, what does he put on his resume? Can you imagine him at an audition? 'Prior history?' 'My sack was displayed on Fifth Avenue.' 'Oh yes, I’ve seen your work!'"
"All right, Ted," Corb chuckled. "I think you're getting a little carried away..."
Yeah, right. "It must suck in real life, though, don't you think? I mean, when he gets naked with anyone. After having it blown up to that size, he must feel totally inadequate in real time. 'I'm sorry, honey, but I just imagined that it would be...larger than life...' What do you think people think when it's raining out and they're walking under it? And, during the summer, when it gets really hot, do you think it starts to--"
Of course, the fact that a building decides to display someone’s bulging package—even one that looks as though its about to explode and drench Manhattan in a shower of testosterone...or something even more icky...doesn’t particularly upset me. I’m not about to begin at this point in my life to play the prude. And, as our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art proved, the human body in all its glory (and resulting lack of finery) has been an artistic obsession that has certainly spanned the centuries.
WARNING: Art gone wild!
Take, for example, the Matisse exhibit that recently opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now, here’s a guy who clearly had a healthy adoration for the female body...at least until the last twenty years of his life, when he learned to wield a nasty pair of scissors.
The rooms were packed, and I tried my hardest to stand there and do that art-watching thing. You know, stand a few feet away, gaze lovingly at the painting, read the comments in the little 5 by 8 card placed next to the work of art (I never can read those damn cards fast enough.) Try to find something insightful to say to the person next to you (which I failed miserably at. I was too busy trying to read the notes, of course.)
After about fifteen minutes, I looked around, to make certain that no one else is within earshot. "Corb! Psst psst! Corb!"
"Yeeeeeeeeeeeeees?" That drawl. Man, he knows me too well. He just knows when I'm going to go off on an idiotic tangent.
“I think that one lady in the painting on the far left feels really left out,” I whisper.
And Corb smirks. He smirks! “Really? Why is that, Ted?”
“She’s the only one wearing clothes.” Corb was kind enough to snort. “Seriously! What do you think she was thinking? Everyone else he asks to undress, me he asks to stay covered?"
"By the way, she was a princess, Ted."
Move on dot org. Come on, I only have a five-minute attention span. "Hey. Did you see that one in the corner, when we first came in? That was the second painting he ever did. I heard that he took a look at it many years later, and told his family that that one painting expressed everything he was looking to say.”
Corb wrinkled his nose. “He was right. He should have quit while he was ahead.”
“You didn’t like anything? Not even Nude Woman on a Blue Couch ? Not Nude Woman on the Green Couch ? Not Green Couch with Nude Woman ? Not even my personal favorite, Two White Chicks Standing Around with their Breasts Exposed Talking about Nothing Except the Fabulous print Matisse Had Lying Around his Apartment and Plans to Feature in his Next Painting, Along with Their Breasts ?”
“Hmmm. I think I missed that one.”
But of course, Matisse is not alone in his admiration of the naked body. Just look at the first room that you enter after you purchase your ticket into the museum--my favorite, the Ancient Greeks. My forebears. My descendants.
I mean, do I need to say anything more? Goddamn, one look in that room and you know that I was fighting an uphill battle. I mean, I have genetics working WAAAAAY against me. Seriously, what other culture had more of an appreciation for the nude male form than this one, I ask you?
But really, when you get right down to it, it wasn't until the dark, dreary Middle Ages that nudity started becoming a sinful, evil thing. No wonder they called them the Dark Ages--everyone was afraid to walk around starkers, unless they were in the dark.
Okay, I'll cut the comedy routine. However, one final observation. One thing I couldn't help but notice was that...well, sorry guys...if art truly is an imitation of life, then the answer to the infamous Lili von Schtupp's question "Is it true how zey say zat you people are... gifted?" can only be answered in the affirmative. Don't believe me? You do the math...
This one isn't rocket science, folks.
So I guess, in my mind, what I'm trying to say is, if someone wants to adorn their building with a hot guy's torso, then let them go to town. Even if all I can remember is the image, and absolutely nothing about the name. Hey, that's their deal, not mine. And certainly, I don't think I'm alone in my convictions. Or lack thereof. Don't believe me? Just ask one of these fine people.
Anyway. What is art, really, if not a baring of at least the soul? The visual arts just gets more of an opportunity to assault the senses...at least, on a superficial level. But when you get right down to it, isn't that what most artists--I mean, real artists--are trying to do?
I once wrote a poem, many years ago, and I still remember it...or, enough of the structure. It was during one of my silly, overdramatic periods, so you'll have to chalk that up to youthful romanticism. But I still appreciate the image.
Who is this Arthur who stands before us
Leering, unwashed, unkempt
Clad only in a wrinkled raincoat
Which he lovingly unfolds
To all the world
A bloody, severed scrotum."
See? I always took myself way too seriously. It wasn't until years later that it dawned upon me that some cats don't make any painful incisions--they simply blow up their privates to the size of minor third world countries, and then plaster them all over Manhattan.
(c) TJM 2005