Waiting for my steak and eggs at A Taste Of Heaven in Andersonville at the corner of Clark Street and Balmoral Avenue. This is currently my favorite regular breakfast spot in Chicago. I hit it about twice per week. Diana Ross And The Supremes are singing "Where Did Our Love Go". My head is down as I edit something tentatively titled “Big Visual World.” I’m feeling a bit lackluster about the writing, but nonetheless think there might be something there if I can just narrow in on it. It’s the bouncy beat and the flood of childhood memories invoked by The Supremes that detach my eyeballs from the page and I look up: I see a sign that reads “Life is Sweet” painted in cursive handwritten letters over some cupcakes, a row of 18 inch X 18 inch quilts, some light blue plates with clouds hand-painted on them, another sign that is cut into the letters that make up the word “Believe”, and on and on. Country crafts. Usually dismissed by art aficionados as trite fluff used to fill empty wall space. This morning though, it’s significant to me. For a moment, I see each piece as a creation. Something made from nothing. There was a time when someone sat down their brush or thread and needle, and put the sign or plate or quilt in good light and took a step back with a bit of a satisfied grin on their face and felt for a moment that they had added something perfectly flawed and beautiful to the world. They certainly did.
I recently completed a course entitled “Modernism and the Museum” as a part of my masters studies in Modern Art History. The course description read: “The birth and growth of the modern museum has emerged as a significant institution for the art historian and artist. This course will consider the objects, buildings, and landscapes and think about how their contexts of display influence our understanding of history, education, and the object.” It was an awesome class and got me thinking and doing lots of good creative stuff. One of the things I realized when we took a brief look at the relationship between the art museum and public art including street art, is that a lot of (most of) that which is created as an artistic impulse is outside of the purview of the art museum. It is not considered fine art. And more than that, it is not considered fine art that has received the blessing of the ivory tower as worthy of our viewership. Indeed, I believe that folks in the art world are sensitive to, and inspired by the creative impulse and there have been attempts to curate for museums all kinds of crafts and performance and street art, etc. But these generally have been one off tips of the hat to these art forms and have not become long term investments for conservation and edification. I acknowledge that there is limitedtime and resources for these things and so we have to prioritize. And so it is with a good nature that I grant there is too much to put on the pedestal and so we have the gatekeepers that will keep the good stuff in a special place for us all.
Nonetheless as I'm sitting in A taste of Heaven this morning, I feel particularly fortunate that it takes but a look around for me to see really great stuff that will resonate within me if I let it. (Repeat: If I let it.) 360 degrees of human creation in the form of hand-painted store fronts and signs, fashion, car design, architecture, landscape design, product design, hand-painted murals and graffiti masterpieces, tattoos, body painting, myriad arts and crafts, ceramics, and on and on. Indeed it is a big visual world filled with artistic expression.