Thursday, June 28, 2012

Evil subway art card

Normally I would pay scant attention to this "art card" as it's called, part of the MTA subway arts program. Under reasonable circumstances I'd glance at it, note its cutesy/quirky style and piss-poor draftsmanship and move on with my life.

But invariably I find myself, during my daily commute in a jam-packed rush-hour train with my arms pinned too tightly to even reach for my book or newspaper, staring at this god-forsaken monstrosity.

At first it seems innocuous enough. Only those who are forced to look at it for 30 minutes every day can comprehend the Tiny Alice horror of it all.

It begins when you notice the freakishly elongated forearm of the tourist dad in the red baseball cap on the left. But OK, careless anatomy is standard for cartoons. But then there's the two men in the plaid suits who appear to be melded together. The way it's drawn, they are both occupying the same space for 20% of each of their bodies. It is utterly hideous, but even more so, you start to get a sinking feeling about it... there seems to be a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the space-sharing issue by lining up the horizontal plaid stripes...

Your eye draws downward to the bouncing ball trail. It has no beginning and there are balls on both ends. As you ponder why someone would break the traditional rules of cartoon motion trails to no purpose it suddenly hits you - oh dear eight pound six ounce newborn baby Jesus, the artist thinks this is fucking clever!

Don't believe me? The art card includes an image of the art card within the art card. That's the oldest "clever" artist trick in the book. I didn't attend the University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to miss that black hole of originality.

The cleverness does not end there. For behold the man with what I can only assume is a prairie dog in his jacket and the man with the bucket of fish. Look, there's a fish tail sticking out of the sleeping beehive's pocketbook. How quirky! And the man with the handlebar mustache is reading a book with a whale on it - that's so witty!

And look, the woman with the plants also has a bag of fish and there's a dead goldfish on the floor underneath the insane man in a bear costume - because if he was an actual professional performer Actors' Equity would have ensured that he had a dressing room he could use to change out of that thing.

And look, there's a box under one of the subway seats, all wrapped up with a bow.

If you see something, say something!!!

Yes, keep your eye on that unattended suspicious-looking package because then you won't notice that the boy on the right has a dog's tail sticking out of his backside. Is that a vestigial tail, like a birth defect his mother was too poor to have removed? And so she is forced to cut a hole in every pair of the kid's pants so it can stick out? Or is that just a fun fake tail attached to the kid's pants? Oh the kooky possibilities are endless.

But even that is not the crowning achievement of this wonder of the subterranean world.

I have been forced to look at this thing forever, and even I did not notice the true master stroke, the final straw, until today. And I will suffer in silence no more.

Even now I can't believe my own eyes:

It's the grouping on the far left. If I had not been staring at the rest of this thing for the past two lifetimes I would naturally assume the grotesquerie was pure but honest incompetence.

But since I already knew about the plaid-clad space-sharing arrangement I was forced to conclude that what I was staring at, aghast, was an artistic fuck-you, a big flip-off to every Renaissance artist who ever cared about perspective or had striven for, you know, beauty. It's as if they never lived

I don't know which part is supposed to be the most adorably quirky - the fact that there are five faces, but only three pairs of legs and one random left-over leg? Or the girl who appears to have a head attached to the top of her rib cage. But the winner of quirk must surely be the face, the second face from the left, which has no earthly reason for existing except as the conjoined chest-twin of the skateboarder.

The little boy in the tourist grouping to the right looks on in forlorn empathy, as he appears to have only a stub flipper for a left arm.

And I have to look at this every day. Where's subway graffiti when you really need it?

Now I guarantee you, if the perp, identified as Sophie Blackall, or one of her supporters, ever finds this blog post they will claim that my strong adverse reaction to this art card is proof positive of its greatness.

No, Sophie Blackall and/or her supporters. Not everything that gets a strong reaction is therefore great art. I had an equally strong reaction when I entered the mysteriously empty subway car this morning only to smack into a wall of stench that I assume was emanating from a homeless person - I didn't wait long enough to find out, really, I just executed an immediate 180 degree spin and ran for the next car.

I hope that guy gets into your car the next time you're in the subway, Sophie Blackall. It would serve you right.

UPDATE: more of my thoughts on the art of Sophie Blackall