This week my husband and I trekked off to the wildlands of downtown Portland to pay a visit to the Portland Art Museum and have a tasty lunch. On this journey I discovered two things: One, Elephant’s Delicatessen makes to-die-for grab-and-go sandwiches, and two, I’ll never be an artist.

Give Me My Gods and Heroes…and Grandma Too

drolling, wrath of achilles, achilles, ecole des beaux arts
The Wrath of Achilles

Okay, to be honest, I don’t frequent the Portland Art Museum much. It’s kind of one of those places where once you’ve seen the main collection, you’ve seen it and it doesn’t really draw you back again and again. However, when there’s a new exhibition in town that looks interesting, I’ll drag Husband to it with promises of Elephant’s Deli or food cart yummies afterward.

This summer, the museum snagged the Gods and Heroes show with pieces from Paris’s Ecole de Beaux-Arts. Being a bit of mythology buff (as you may have guessed from my two most recent books The Trials of Hercules and The Voyage), I wanted to check out the exhibit, which was so-so, not quite what I thought it would be, but we got in for free so I couldn’t complain too much.

Side note: There was a third discovery…Louis XIV looks just like my great grandmother! If my great grandmother had ever decided to wear tights and fleur de lis blue velvet, that is.

Onto the Modern Art

It had been a while since our last visit to the museum and since that last trip, the art museum had added on a new wing for modern and contemporary art. It was a bit too early for lunch so we decided to take a peek. And that was when I discovered I will never be an artist if the museum’s collection is any indication of what it takes to be an artist these days. (Hear that? That’s the sound of dreams being crushed)

This Is Going to Sound a Bit Low Brow…

I just don’t get “contemporary” art. Here’s an example of what we saw…

  • A six-foot tall, one-foot wide, three-inch deep piece of red plastic leaning against a wall. Art? Well, to me it looked like something someone got in an Ikea kit and couldn’t figure out where it went.
  • A huge canvas with one half painted Pepto Bismol pink and the other half painted salmon orange as if the person was trying to paint a sunset, but gave up and just turned the canvas on its side.
  • Another not-as-huge white canvas with a black streak painted across the top portion. I think I saw something similar on my windshield the other day.
  • A stack of TVs showing a repeated loop of a sunset. I do have to say the TVs were stacked quite evenly, but the whole concept just seemed like an Andy Warhol rip off.

There were four floors of this. The space, by the way, is gorgeous and not everything was joke-inducing or mind-boggling (as we wondered just how much the museum paid for this stuff). Some pieces were quite interesting, the Van Goghs and Monets were a surprise, and the glass works were pretty cool. But all in all we were pretty sure none of the docents were going to bug us about buying a membership as they watched us on the security cameras laughing at the absurdity of “art.”

I Just Can’t Do It

Damn it, it actually looks like a mask. I suck at art!
Damn it, it actually looks like a mask. I suck at art!

When I paint or draw something I want it to look like something. It may not be the most creative use of my brain, but I enjoy taking something from life and honing in on its details to make a picture that someone else might appreciate. I would feel like a complete ass painting half a canvas one color, the other half another color, and calling it done. To me that’s not art; that’s a flag.

So, if contemporary art is any indication of what it takes to be an artist, I don’t think I’ll ever make it as an artist. I might as well pile up my pencils and brushes in the fireplace like a stack of kindling waiting to be lit. Wait a minute! That sounds like a perfect bit of modern art!

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