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Art & Culture

Auld Lang Syne
Frank Stack
PS:  Gallery
Strength in Unity
Hallowe'en Fright
I See Nekkid People
The Muddy Mural
Livin' Large, Kinkade Style
Eliciting an Emotional Response
Marie Hunter
Out, Damned Spot
Danielle Eldred
Local Museums Thriving
Art in Stephens Lake Park
JD King
Strike a Blow for Liberty
No Vail of Tears
Ammanford Sculpture Controversy
Bear Creek
Larry Young
The Lowest Common Denominator
A Different Kind of Success
Taking Risks
Out of Her Gourd
Hey, GalleryMan!
Harry Potter and the
    Superstring Revolution

Investment Grade
Giving Thanks
One Free Minute
Odds & Ends
Monkeys with Car Keys
Sharon Kilfoyle's Wearable Art
Farewell Betty
Happy Birthday, Naoma
Back to School
Take the Pledge
Canopy Conundrum
Columbia's Stonehenge
It takes a Village
Hope Springs Eternal
Dorrell review
Growing Season
If the Shoe Fits
That's Not Art!
Elite Appeal
The Hunger Artist
What Sells
Gallery Ettiquette

Bookbinding & Conservation

lessons learned from this profession


ok, I'm not the guy from SNL,
but I still have a sense of humor

'Jim Downey' Stories

mostly true stories from my

Personal Essays

more "it's all about me"


Iím at -7.13/-7.33 on The Political Compass.  Where
are you?


observations on the human condition


take a trip with me

Published in "Legacy Online" February, 2004

"You can't tell me that's art!"

(Honestly, the following actually took place almost verbatim last Saturday.)

The nicely dressed woman and her husband came into the gallery expecting a bookstore.  That happens sometimes with our name.  But once inside, they were too embarrassed to just leave.

I invited them to enjoy looking around, and told them that our featured show was in the back half of the gallery.  That it was titled "Is that art???" (with emphasis on the word "that").  That it was perhaps more challenging than a show they would see in most galleries.  And that if they found a work particularly intriguing or problematic, to read the artistís statement, since those go a long way to explaining what the artist thinks about their piece.

"Weíre just looking," said the woman, pleasantly, but clearly indicating that she hadn't heard a word I'd said.  And they proceeded to make a 30-second lap around the gallery.

There were other patrons in the gallery, so I turned my attention to helping them.  A few moments later, I heard the woman exclaim loudly "That's not art!"

I went around the divider into the back half of the gallery.  She was standing there in the center of the space, pointing at what to me is one of the more traditional works in the show.  She looked at me and jabbed her finger at the piece again, her voice ringing, "You can't tell me that's art!"

"Have you looked at the artist's statement to see what he has to say about the piece?"

Eyes wide, she looked at the piece again.  The statement was right there in front of her.  She looked back at me, "You can't tell me that's art!" she repeated, a touch of anger/panic in her voice.  I don't know if she had been frightened by an abstract painting as a child or what, but there was something more there than one would normally expect.

"I won't try to."

"What?"  she demanded.

"I won't try to," I repeated.  "Part of what this show is about is to make people think about is what art is.  Hence the name."

"Well, that's not art," she said triumphantly, turning to leave.  She said to her husband as they finished their quick lap of the gallery and headed to the exit, "I know art.  And that wasn't art."

"Yes, dear," he said, glancing at me and rolling his eyes as he followed her out the door.

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all work © James T. Downey, 1993-present
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