What a thoughtful and artistic gesture! They insisted, however, that I leave their creation in my office for a few days, so all visitors can enjoy it. I wonder how the nightly cleaning crew will react to the new addition to my desktop art?
In this case, it was the above quote attributed to Andy Warhol — although some contend it actually originated with Marshall McLuhan — helpfully placed right next to the bathroom. For good measure, the mat on the desk has a quote attributed to John Steinbeck: “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” (This is a paraphrase of sorts of a line from Travels with Charley: In Search of America that reads “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”)
What’s the point of quotes on the walls and on desk mats? I’m guessing it’s supposed to convey a certain erudite edginess, like you’ve suddenly found yourself in some intellectual artist’s loft in Soho, rather than in a stodgy hotel. But in my view, the wall quote places are really more alienating than the standard generic hotel room. After all, I didn’t pick the quote — and in fact I don’t think I’d ever print any quote upon my wall, even if it were some deeply meaningful quote from the Gettysburg Address rather than a vapid observation about gullible art critics. So when I wake up and see the quote on the wall, it immediately tells me that I’m in a strange room. It doesn’t exactly convey a “make yourself at home” feeling.
Everybody seems to be big on quotes these days, although many of the quotes you see are actually fake. It’s as if the message is that there’s no original thinking yet to be done, and we should just sigh with appreciation at the wisdom of the ancients — which is an approach I heartily disagree with. But even if you are a big fan of quotes, what does a quote from Andy Warhol about art have to offer a weary traveler? My guess is that Warhol himself would find the fact that his quote appears on a hotel room wall to be a hilarious commentary on the wannabe state of modern society.
Every day, the pleasant burghers of Bensalem, Pennsylvania who drive past the Parx Casino and Racing complex are confronted by this gigantic sculpture of a horse’s head precariously balanced on the tip of its nose, which is placed out in front of the casino right next to the road.
It’s a fine rendering of a horse’s head, as horse head sculptures go — but what do you think of when you see an enormous horse head on your drive to pick up Krispy Kreme donuts? Do you focus on the fact that the head is severed, and think of The Godfather? Or do you, like the animal-loving Marquette Warrior, conclude that the horse is happily taking a drink of water? Do you wonder how, from an engineering standpoint, they got the massive structure to balance like that? Or, do you focus on the totally discordant, out-of-place element of a huge green horse head on an otherwise undistinguished, soulless suburban commercial strip, and idly wonder if it was left by aliens?
In such ways does public art challenge us.
The fine Georgia O’Keeffe museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, teaches that beauty can be found just about anywhere — in skyscrapers, in flowers, in barns, in the rugged landscape of New Mexico . . . and in trees. So when I left the museum and saw this tree framed against the adobe walls of the museum, with the sunshine etching an intricate shadow on the wall, I had to let my inner O’Keeffe snap this photo.
Last night Kish and I got our Beethoven fix. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra was putting on a Beethoven Marathon, and we caught the three principal performances — of the Second Symphony, the Triple Concerto in C major (shown in the photo above), and finally the fabulous Seventh Symphony. (The Symphony also offered a pre-concert performance of the Quintet for Piano and Winds and a post-concert String Quartet in C-sharp minor, but we missed those two additions due to dinner on the front end and increasing age on the back end.)
The program was wonderful. I’m always fascinated by the live performance of a symphony orchestra — to see so many diverse instruments working together to produce a coherent sound, rather than cacophony — and by the creative impulses that moved a genius like Beethoven to create such magical music in the first place. I think the second movement of the Seventh Symphony, for example, is simply one of the most deeply moving pieces of music ever composed, full of tension, straining and stirring and soaring and humble all at the same time. How did it come to him? Someone who has no musical talent (like me) cannot begin to guess what it must be like to hear such melodies in your head. That Beethoven was able to create such music while his hearing was failing just makes the whole creative process more brilliant and astonishing.
Interesting, isn’t it, that long after the leaders and issues of his day have been consigned to the dustbin of history and then forgotten, Beethoven’s music — and Mozart’s, and Bach’s, and Wagner’s, and Haydn’s — lives on, to be performed anew and enjoyed and loved by new generation?. The same is true of artists, and authors, and playwrights, of course. We don’t remember the Popes, minor nobility, doges, kings, queens, and wealthy patrons who supported Michelangelo, da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, but we know the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Mona Lisa, the St. Crispin’s Day speech, and the stirring first chords of the Fifth Symphony.
Politics is ephemeral; art, music, and beauty are eternal. When you have the opportunity to listen to a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, that is really what you are hearing.