More Than a Pretty Picture

14 May

 Drafty galleries laced with crimson ropes and looming attendants lend art an intimidating sense of censor: Like bouncers in a club, the militant men and women in blazers cast icy stares towards those tottering too close to the pretty pictures. 

Is this the way it’s supposed to be? Paintings shielded from onlookers, who are forced tread lightly and speak in whispers to avoid awakening slumbering portraits?

My red beret and I visited the Louvre two years ago to stroll starry-eyed through the museum’s halls and lay eyes on the famous Mona Lisa.

The line wrapped around the room holding the image of the mysterious woman. After half an hour of inching forward, my turn for observation finally arrived. Needless to say, I was disappointed. The image was guarded by a velvet rope that prevented viewers from coming within 4 feet of the masterpiece. The picture itself couldn’t have been more than a foot long. I snapped a picture capturing my disillusionment (conveniently missing from my USB). Whimper. 


On the train ride back to London, I recounted the memoirs of my trip. Watching night fall on the Eiffel Tower (check), a frenzied tour of the unabashedly commercial cathedral of Notre Dame (check), and the not so great viewing of the great Mona Lisa (sigh).

 A week later, when  digging through the treasures at  Camden Lock, I discovered a pleasant surprise in a small work of art. “Keep your coins. I want change,” the ragged figure demanded from the foot of a brick illustrated brick building. I appreciated the comic’s wit and frank reprimanding of a system that lets citizens sink into society’s gutters.

 “That’s a popular one,” the shopkeeper offered as he noted my smirk. The friendly Brit explained his own fight with homelessness in the years prior.

 To this day, the image rests on my desk as a challenge to create the change the disheveled character’s sign demands. It is my most cherished remnant from the U.K.

What if that’s the true purpose of art? To act as both a souvenir and muse. 

 The Australian  street artist responsible for the work seems to agree. Meek, as he ironically calls himself, using the public spaces of buildings and streets to create a canvases that doesn’t need velvet ropes to prove its value.

His British counterpart, the ever-elusive Banksy, has showered the world with controversial images that make passerbys laugh, shriek, but most importantly, stop and think about the concepts the images embody.

International phenoms aren’t the only people using art to change and challenge their world. A friend from Babson College used her artistic gifts to create the piece below and offers 20% of its proceeds to college organizations promoting sustainability.

 Art is breathing life in the visions of our mind and using clay, paint or pen to lend our imaginations wings. Do you want your dreams locked behind velvet ropes? Or do you give them the freedom to soar?

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