This Week’s Story: One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s… Art?
We found this piece on the street during Fargo’s Cleanup Week. Yes, that makes us trash pickers. That’s not really news; we’ve been on Night Time Live with Bob Harris (on The Mighty KFGO) a number of times talking about this. Obviously, rescuing works like this is nothing we are embarrassed about.
As an artist, the idea of another artist tossing her works out made me a bit sad though. And it reminded me of a debate I had with a professor in my college days.
In an art history class, we were discussing Venus de Milo I think it was… If not, it was another classical marble sculpture designated as Art with a capital A. Yet this work of art was found in a garbage pit; discarded, it seems, by its creator.
If, as we were being taught, Art with a capital A is defined as works which are created to be beautiful or to communicate important ideas or express the creator’s feelings – how could a work thrown out by its creator be considered art? If the artist himself had decided that the work was inferior – either by not communicating the intended message or not meeting the creator’s definition of “beautiful” – how could we call it art?
This, of course, leads to axioms of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Not to mention the classic, “I know it when I see it.”
That last line is most known in the US for its role in the porn vs art debate in a landmark Supreme Court obscenity case. However flawed that statement is – & it is, all these expressions lead to paths of individualism and subjectivity, to the arbitrary whims of personal taste.
Yet, if enough of us agree to call a thing beautiful, or otherwise feel we “get it”, we can call an ancient discarded marble sculpture “Art with a capital A.”
Which is why this person will happily sort through another’s trash just to salvage a piece which will become another’s art treasure.