One of my favorite painters, Eric Fischl has an idea that’s both interesting and a tad condescending. He’s organized an “America: Now and Here,” truck museum that will travel into the hinterland (i.e. outside New York City, a la Saul Steinberg’s famous New York-centric map of the U.S.) and expose us here in flyover land to art…fine art, theater, poetry, film and literature.
Six 18-wheelers filed with paintings, poetry, plays, films, and music will travel the country for two years starting in fall 2012, stopping in towns and small cities, setting up like a mini-state fair. The organizers promise to collaborate with local artists and institutions – so that’s good.
But oddly, previews (minus the trucks) will be held in Kansas City on May 6, Detroit in July and Chicago in October. Strange choice. These places, two of which I’ve lived in, one of which I visit often, aren’t exactly unexposed to art (my parents ran an art gallery in suburban Detroit for 30 years.)
My guess is the art bus will eventually land in Des Moines – and I’ll eagerly go to see what it offers (I may catch it first in Kansas City or Chicago.) But Des Moines too has a lively art scene, with a fantastic contemporary art museum designed by three very famous architects (Saarinen, Pei, and Meier) and an impressive new sculpture garden downtown that grows by the month (A Keith Haring piece was recently added and 12-foot sculpture “White Ghost” by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara will arrive next fall. It was created for an exhibit at New York’s Asia Society and purchased for $60o,000 by the Des Moines Art Center, with money donated by the remarkable John and Mary Pappajohn, Des Moines philanthropists who donated 24-plus sculptures – valued at some $40 million – and got the sculpture park going…)
The truck museum organizers say they’re not trying to impose their big-city art on us little folks – and simply want to make the “art world” less insular (and perhaps more politically secure); and share big league art with communities that don’t usually get such exposure and presumably broaden their horizons. Which I’m all for. But why not frame this more as an “exchange” of art/ideas – perhaps acknowledging that art is created in places other than New York?
Playwright Marsha Norman was quoted by the Times as saying she saw the program as a way to provide people with ways to think about America other than those offered by the media and pop culture. Then came the inevitable reference to Iowa (although it could just as well have been Kansas or North Dakota, other states often used to represent the middle-of-nowhere.)
“As much as we love Brian Williams, I don’t think he can tell us in the same way as a painter or a poet what it really feels like to live in Iowa,” Norman said. Again, huh? Is this a reference to the local artists that will participate or to the big-name artists who will create art on-site or en route? And by the way Marsha, you may want to catch the annual “Iowa artists” show at the Des Moines Art Center that opens June 3.