On Art and Humor

June 23, 2009 · 6 comments

What do military generals and stand-up comedians have in common?

Both know the key element of their success is surprise.  (Well, that and the propensity to get booed right out of the theater if their timing stinks, except the general isn’t likely to mutter, “Just shoot me now!” on the way out.)

Humor and war both depend on successfully smacking the other guy upside the head with the unexpected.

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A painting isn’t like that.

I’ve only seen two paintings that have made me laugh out loud. One was in a chi-chi gallery in San Francisco. It was of the dumbest-looking abstract sheep in a huge field of flat green. The sheep made me smile, but what made me laugh was the price tag.  How could they ask the equivalent of a timeshare in Maui for a dumb sheep painting? Some things are hard to understand, like war and humor and the pricing of art.

But I digress.

The other painting that made me laugh out loud was this one, and I saw it for the first time this week.

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The reason why it made me howl when Rick took it out of the box in the garage isn’t because it’s got a surprise twist or an unexpected punchline. It’s because it’s so ordinary. Nobody paints ordinary people.  Okay, so maybe it is a little unexpected.

Been to a beach lately?

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They really aren’t heavily populated with the gorgeous air-brushed young bodies of the timeshare brochures, tanned and toned and disdainful of shapewear.

They are generally populated with persons of an average weight, attractiveness, age, and a desperate need for shapewear.

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There are curious seagulls, sand that sneaks into places that will shock you in the tub that night, and relentless blue skies.

There are beach towels, and butts that retain the webbing indentations of lawn chairs when they stand up and waddle over to the snack shack for another soda. And there are sagging lily-white boobs just begging for a third-degree sunburn.

And for some reason, when an artist has the courage to paint ’em the way he sees ’em, it makes me laugh.

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beach paintings

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane F. July 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

It made me laugh as did Kathy’s comments on the subject matter. Great to see real people caught enjoying themselves. Rick is so talented & an insiteful observer of the humaness of others.

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rickandkathy July 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for the comment! And yes, Rick has a unique ability to catch AND celebrate the sheer ordinariness of people in his day-to-day life and, thank God, in his painting. It’s a gentle, lovely gift that is pretty rare in the art community.

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Tammy at The Butterfly Mind June 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love the paintings, and the courage of the painter to paint what is seen. We all know that there are all shapes and sizes out there on the beaches, so why not have reality paintings? We have reality TV shows (personally, I don’t watch ’em). I can’t even paint a tree, so I admire anyone with a thimble of talent – let ‘er rip!

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Guri Stark June 23, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Beautiful!
Painting ordinary topics was first invented by the Impressionsts at the end of the 19th century. Before that artists painted religious topics, historical topics and portraits of rich people (before the advent of the camera). The beauty that I see in Rick’s painting is not just the ordinary subject matter, but the special angle and page design that makes me feel that the painting is telling story. What is the story – it is in the eye of the beholder.

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