We view great art through the lens of others: museum curators, art critics and historians have already defined for us what is great, what should be viewed, displayed, snapped, become excited over, and it is there, hanging on the walls of the MoMA, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan, beckoning the tourist. We spend thousands of dollars, endure a considerable amount of physical discomfort to travel and see museum walls festooned with august paintings- a crush of humanity surges around Van Gogh’s self-portrait, waving selfie-sticks madly in the air at Starry Night. Had we come across these paintings in a basement or a thrift shop, we would barely glance twice at it, if we had seen a wallpaper covered in cartoony drawings of penises and vaginas, like the one in MoMA, we would have thought it ludicrous and inappropriate, if we walked into our neighbour’s home and saw it decorated with replicas of human legs sticking out of walls at odd angles, we would have thought it disturbed, disgusting and deranged. Yet there, in the walls of the museum, we know it is art, or rather, Art, because we are told it is. Some of it is pretty, we can tell, pretty colourful paintings of women in silky clothes, or half naked getting in and out of bathtubs, or pretty greeny-bluey landscapes, houses and ships and seas. We understand that takes skill and time and dedication, as carefully crafted as an airplane. And some of it is circles and and squares and broken lines and patterns- the Golden boy snorts and says I could do that! And I explain to him that well, he hasn’t.
I am startled when I see the original Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World. The young woman with the dark billowy hair in a pink dress, half sitting, half crawling in a field across from a farm house – this was an image of our childhood, as there is a reproduction of that painting lying somewhere in my parents’ house. I tell my sister I saw the painting, mentioning Christina was paralyzed by infant polio. My sister screams in horror, this little detail had escaped her, she though Christina was just lying there on her ass because she was lazy. Her childhood shifts and rearranges before my eyes. I stare at Christina’s World. This is art. I would know it any where. I don’t need anyone to tell me.