Standing in front of a framed cicada carcass, I felt two things. The first was a pair of eyes behind Clubmasters glaring at the back of my head, which led up to the second: the pressure to interpret this “art.” In a weak attempt to camouflage myself, I gripped – but did not drink – a Dixie cup of coffee.
Surely, the dead insect in front of me called for some deeper meaning. I felt compelled to connect its carcass with some profound idea about nature, or freedom, or loneliness.
By the time I was through analyzing it, my coffee had grown cold.
That cicada belonged to a gallery hosted by First Fridays, and as I ventured deeper into the Crossroads, I couldn’t help but feel overcome with a sense of ignorance. Surrounded by vibrant sculptures and tapestries, searching for further analysis, my mind felt black and white. At one of Kansas City’s greatest art attractions, I felt pressured to link canvases with metaphysical revelations, so when I didn’t, or perhaps when I couldn’t, I felt stupid.
Art, the way I see it, should be relative. I shouldn’t be shunned for not connecting watercolors with depression; I should take what I like from art, as everyone should. When I don’t, it’s like the art world is playing some kind of cruel joke on me.
That joke, it seemed, was a common thread between everyone at First Fridays, me being the exception. When I saw pretty colors thrown together to form a painting, they spoke of depth, beauty or heartbreak.
Sometimes though, those perceptions were less dramatic. In one gallery, millennials around me cooed at a clay remake of Captain Underpants. In another, I was greeted by two striped mimes who, at the flick of a donation, would assume some new formation. While bystanders applauded, I averted eye contact and clutched my wallet.
Other galleries were hosted by the artists themselves. I discovered this when, after cringing at a portrait of a naked lady, I turned into the gaze of the artist himself. His smirk intimidated me, so I faked a smile and mumbled something like “Oh yes it’s lovely.” As I walked out, others spoke of how symbolic his works were, and…look! The arteest himself! What a treat.
I wandered into a different room of geodes made into jewelry, whose cost could not be covered by the quarters in my jeans. I would have liked to have simply studied them, but the designers stood behind me, breathing down my neck with expectation. Indirectly confronting me in the claustrophobic gallery, I felt obligated to say something, so I turned.
“Really, these are so pretty.”
Any observation I made would be heard, and thereafter met with snarky looks and condescending laughter by every ardent artist there, so, aside from aforesaid compliments, I held my tongue.
Walking out of the final gallery, I realized I was still holding my untouched coffee. I cast it on the sidewalk and vowed to not let these arteests determine my incompetency in the artistic world, nor undermine my ability to interpret. The next art I’d stare at, I’d be at peace with my conclusions, profound or not.
I held – but did not drink – a Dixie cup of coffee to camouflage myself. Standing in front of a framed cicada carcass, an “art display,” I felt two things. The first was a pair of eyes behind Clubmasters glaring at the back of my head, and the second was the pressure to interpret this art.