Sunday, December 14, 2008


I believe that art is important to civilization. Without it, life seems colorless and dull. I would much rather have art in a room that furniture. And I tend to look down on people who dismiss art as extraneous.

I am intellectually able to look at art I personally dislike and still recognize its significance. I am personally not fond of the bulk of Georgia O'Keefe's work, though I acknowledge her brilliance and the beauty of her creations. They just aren't my cup of tea.

And I rarely am ambivalent. (Not just about art. Anything. I am a person of strong opinions.)

So it was surprising to me when I ran across the following McCarthy sculpture. The scale is impressive. (Sometimes size does matter.) But I'm really, truly ambivalent. Myfanwe is always saying that I can't intellectualize art too much -- that sometimes I just need to let art flow over me. Tell me what you think.

Santa's Little Helper: Paul McCarthy

Santa with Butt Plug (2007). Vinyl-coated nylon fabric, fans, and rigging. Installation view, Middelheim Sculpture Museum, Antwerp, Belgium


cynthia Martin said...

Oh My Word!!! Is that really a "butt plug" or is it possibly be ice cream on a stick? I'm just stunned.

Sarah said...

I find it amusing....and quite interesting.

blueyed wench said...

Er.... If that's a butt plug, what's the bell in his other hand for?

edie said...

I totally here what you're saying about being able to recognize the significance of art that you personally do not like... and I would have also said that the scale is impressive (as are the materials used - nylon fabric, fans, and rigging lead me to believe that is inflatable)... but if that truly is a rendering of Santa holding a sex toy in one hand, I am... well, repulsed.

Why? I know it can be argued that Santa is overcommercialized, but I still subscribe to the idea put forth by Francis Church in the Sun in 1897... "A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Perhaps I'd be less grumpy if I'd seen this in April... :)

Anonymous said...

For my dollar, McCarthy's work is too extreme to interest me. I prefer more subtlety in art that is supposed to provoke discussion; instead, it makes me roll my eyes. He's clearly smart and talented and socially aware, but shock-art doesn't do it for me.

Anonymous said...

If the sculpture is by Paul McCarthy the ex-Beatle I think he better stick to singing rather than sculpting. Just my honest opinion - don't know if you could call that art. The nine year olds in my class made clay sculptures of African wild animals. Their sculptures were far more artistic and creative than this butt-plug, bell-holding gnome.

Anonymous said...

Just googled the artist - he is not the ex-Beatle, but I still don't like his art. See this 'piece' of art - It is totally gross. We see this in our toilets every day, why must we look at it in a park/art exhibit? Yuck! But I respect other peoples opinions on this man's artwork - just not what I like.

Susan said...

My first impression? "Offensive"
Am I just getting old or is everything sexualized in our society? My second impression? "Tacky"
When did art cease to be art? Tell me what is "artistic" about that?
Obviously I am missing something...*mystified expression"

Cheri said...

"oh that looks wrong" is all that goes through my mind.

anne marie in philly said... person's art is another person's trash...meh...

PS - happy hanukkah to you and your family, aidan!

Vanessa said...

I agree with something Garrison Keillor said in a column several months ago: "A work of art can lift you up from the mishmash of life, the weight of the unintelligible world, and vulgarity squats on you like an enormous toad and won't get off."

Santa's Little Helper feels like a toad to me.

la takahashi said...

What Vanessa said.