I wouldn't say I'm a great or serious admirer of fine art. I don't really know all that much about its history, I tend to like pieces based on subject matter and mood, and my boyfriend's pleading to visit the Getty Villa with him has fallen on deaf ears for months, and I'm sure with little to no effort I'll be able to make that years. But every once and awhile I'll really respond to a work, and all of sudden I want to become a student of art! I want to know who did it and where it came from and how it was created and if I can get a tiny reproduction of it to keep in the bathroom.
Ever since moving to the northeastern part of town, I have been driving past one such work and admiring it-- in fact, thinking regularly about the work, which is always a sign that a piece of art has real staying intellectual power. This summer everyone's been talking about how District 9 majorly got them thinking afterward, but by the time I'd walked out of the theater, the film had already said all it was going to say. However, this smaller local work has been churning around in my head since May of 2008, and a full summer later I still have a number of questions; and if ever you were driving in the car with me, then you'd be repeatedly asked them every time we went by on our way to eat breakfast at Coco's. Like:
Why is the littlest one on the right the family member to go (literally) bare-ass naked? I apologize for the poor quality of the photo, which was taken on my Blackberry, but hopefully you can still see that the artist sculpted some sort of vine-like plant growing from the mound on which this family stands. The leaves of that plant, lush and plentiful, appear to cradle the buttocks of the first and leftmost child with gentle modesty, and seeing as how this piece rests atop a bank branch...
...the work has long left me wondering about the intended commentary of this choice. And seeing as how this family faces away from the viewer and its members are presumably totally naked from the front angle if you're going by the horizontal thrust of the other plant life on the mound, then could that vine be a comment on the impropriety of voyeur? A suggestion that there is a purity in sheer presence and a perversion in observation? "Something-something-something" about the Garden of Eden, except then it looks like Adam and Eve have already had sex at least two times and kids, so why are they still hanging around and banking nude? I feel like, if I'm going off body language, that this is obviously a family looking proudly toward their future, and I hate to make quick assumptions, but I want to say that there are two parents of indeterminate sex (one slightly taller) and two offspring (one slightly nakeder), all of indeterminate hairdos or lack thereof...unless this is just a representation of a non-biologically related society in which the members are of significantly staggered heights. Still then, if everybody's all bonded and loving, their arms extended around each other, and, for the sake of argument, the bank is the plant which nurtures these people or protects them or keeps them from falling backward into moral and financial bankruptcy or whatever, then that interpretation comes nowhere near to answering why the smallest, most vulnerable member on the right didn't get any plant underwear. Why's his/her tushie out in the sun?
Because another thing is, the curvature of the vine is less than accidental. It ascends somewhat organically toward the buttocks of the first childlike member, but in order to shade those of the guy who seems to be the dad, it suddenly takes a pretty sharp and artificial seeming curve. Maybe you need to look at this from another angle:
The artist bent the head of the plant because that ass came sooner along the diagonal access than he was counting on. I know there's some mathematical equation that proves this because I used to be nimble with it in high school, and if those leaves were plotted points on a graph, then I could more scientifically show you that once they reach the second person's buttocks, they travel off course in a way that really would have bothered me were I turning in a two-dimensional graphed representation of this piece as an x/y equation on a homework sheet. I would have known that I'd come up with something wrong and this was going to mess with my grade. The leaves drop further to almost completely cover the behind of the next tallest figure (mom, is that you?), and then the vine just stops cold. No tendrils. No seeds raining down to the ground to grow another plant and conveniently arcing across the littlest buttocks like a sash. There's really, really nothing for that last kid, and you can see this best in the top picture, which was taken on on a bright day, but his is the ass that always catches the light and glints. It's just out there for all passerbys to see, and while the whole family is apparently in very good shape and they have nothing to be ashamed of fitness-wise and their asses are unquestionably tight, it fascinates me that the artist evidently set out to provide some kind of coverage for his naked people and then he just stopped with the third grader. That guy doesn't even get as much coverage as the fondant stripper who made an appearance dancing around a fondant pole on my dad's birthday cake this year...
...and whose skirt or blanket or curtain or whatever that is at least cups a little bit of under-ass. Even she gets that much. A bracelet too.
I've tried to get Brent's thoughts on what this all means, but mostly he just likes to make jokes about the temperature display above the naked family, which has been broken since I moved here and maybe before that. It reads a constant, steamy 155 degrees Fahrenheit, so his analysis has generally been along the lines of, "Is it actually getting that hot out there? Ahhhh, yes. Look at that ass. It certainly is."