Chicken. Floating woman. Repeat.

As you may have heard already, Steph and I went up to San Francisco three days ago to see the Marc Chagall exhibit and spend some time with a couple friends. I have to admit, Chagall’s work is wonderfully emotive, and quite powerful in person. His colors are (usually) wonderfully vibrant, and he has an interesting technique I call the "mental collage" in which he juxtaposes images that don’t seem to be in the same "scene," but are nonetheless part of the same painting. It’s very interesting.

I have to get one thing off my chest, though. You may be surprised by the following statements, considering I’m married to an artist and art lover. They may come across as uncultured, and they may be exactly that. But it’s worth saying.

I saw more floating, rubbery people, and chickens, and goat-cows with fiddles, and bouquets of flowers that day (all represented in various mediums) than I ever thought possible. After thirty years of painting, how could Chagall say, “For my 458th painting I think I’ll paint a chicken, with a woman on it, floating through the sky, with a boquet of flowers obscuring the skyline of Vitebsk! Oh! And a goat with a fiddle!” There. I just made up a new Chagall painting, assuming it hasn’t been done yet. Wait, I think it has.

Honestly though, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s famous. He’s talented. That much is clear. But he also did the one thing that separates famous artists from obscure ones. He picked an easily "trademarkish" subject (or picked from a semi-static list of subjects) and repeated it over and over and over again. The other thing you can do to become a famous artist is pick a style and then randomize subjects, but he seemed to like the first route better, so there you have it. All I know is that I’ll never, in my entire life, be able to make even one painting that is as good as any of his were, so I probably shouldn’t be teasing him. Many of Steph’s students can make better artwork than I can, so I think I’d better shut my trap.

3 thoughts on “Chicken. Floating woman. Repeat.

  1. A lot of Chagall’s work is based on symbolism found through characters in fables. Chagall illustrated several books about fables and from there started using the chickens and goat/cows and stuff in his paintings based on spiritual and emotional places. So…though you think it’s not creative or whatever to repeat these images, you have to understand that they have symbolism…and things like that.

    Get it?

  2. A goat cow? Like in a centaur configuration?! I wonder what kind of cheese and animal like that would make. Maybe there would be one tap labeled “Moo” and another labeled “Bah”. That would be helpful.

  3. I’d agree that it’s symbolic stuff at work with Chagall. However, I think modern art is at a crises currently. Literature either pandors to the mass market too much, or has good sounding writers that aren’t able to produce the “good stuff” like authors have in the past.

    Art is too snobby- the common man (perhaps he never could) is confused by what painting is doing over the past century, and Art seems to like it.

    I think the two need to get on the right track- be creative, and do deep things, but good Lord, don’t forget your audience. Art is useless unless it has an audience that it can effect- writing a book solely to get on Oprah’s book club is bad for lit and society, and much (not all, Steph *winks*) of art needs to remember the human population, and not that strange sub-strata that inhabit the Walker Art Museum (modern art museum here in the Twin Cities).

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