As Browns Fans Contemplate Another First Round Pick . . . .

the-scream

If you didn’t know that he lived in Europe in the 19th century, you’d probably swear that Edvard Munch was a Cleveland Browns fan.

Why?  Because The Scream perfectly captures, better than anything else I’ve seen, the unique combination of horror, fear, disgust, and profound dread that grips Cleveland Browns fans as they contemplate the team making another first-round pick in the NFL draft.  Indeed, Munch even painted the disturbing, roiling sky behind the angst-ridden screamer in the Browns’ familiar orange colors.

If you’re a Browns fan, knowing that the NFL draft is only a few hours away and that the Cleveland franchise has the first choice to boot, you feel almost compelled to cup your face in your hands, let your eyes open wide, and howl out to the waiting world the deep anxiety and disquiet that you feel as you consider prior drafts and contemplate the likes of Gerard Warren, Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Kellen Winslow . . . and Johnny Manziel.

In fact, any fan of another NFL team would think of the ludicrous choice of “Johnny Football” and feel a perverse sense of comfort.  After all, how could this year’s pick possibly be any more wrong-headed and disastrous than that?  But this is the Cleveland Browns, remember.  With the Browns, all things bad are possible.

Go ahead, Browns Backers!  Tip back your head and wail for all you’re worth.  The NFL draft is here.

Birthday Beercake

At work today some of my colleagues surprised me with a birthday beercake — locals brews configured to form a kind of layer cake, with a special sour beer as a quasi-candle on top.

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?

Random Quotes Upon The Wall

When I got to my room at my hotel in NYC last night, I discovered it was one of those places that has random quotes printed on the walls.

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.

The Horse Head Rorschach Test

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.

Tree, Sky, And Shadow

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.