You will find that art inspires me, and so does my wife, “J .”She takes me on adventures to all kinds of places, and things we experience become fodder for the Hitchhiker. Note: You can no longer get free passes for Grounds for Sculpture at the Sparta Library, but it is definitely worth the entry price!
Things are Not Always What They Seem.
(Originally Published 2019.07.02)
My wife and I love going to The Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. It is the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds, and one man had a vision to convert it into a multi-acre art museum. (You can get free passes at the Sparta Library. You really should go!!!).
The statue above is one of my favorite pieces. It is titled General Bronze by Marisol.
So modern sculpture may not be your cup of tea because it is too angular or abstract. I used to think the same way. I used to look at art and not get it. I would only look at the colors or texture but failed to learn about the piece. Yet a few years ago, I spent some time going a little deeper at the Guggenheim Museum, and I fell in love. I now really enjoy it, especially modern art, because it isn’t just about the aesthetics but about what it says (or does not say) about a time, social situation, context, emotions, etc.
For example, the piece above may prompt you to think of those monuments/statues honoring stately people from history astride a horse. You know the ones; they sit in countless public parks or town squares, etc., that get pooped on by birds and torn down by protestors! But there is more to this piece than what is on the surface!
Marisol, who often engaged the viewer through humor, has been known to disguise an underlying satirical social commentary in her art, and this one is a prime example. Here is the rest of the story…
General Bronze was based upon General Juan Gomez, a Venezuelan leader and president (the home country of the artist’s parents). He “successfully” led his country through the great depression almost entirely unscathed by this international crisis while increasing their economic status and improving much of their infrastructure (this made him a hero to many). Gomez was also a brutal and corrupt dictator who grew his own (and his cronies) personal fortune, making him the wealthiest man in Venezuela in the process. Marisol calls this piece an “anti-memorial.”
When you stand there viewing the General, you will miss an essential part if you do not look closer or (in my case) have a tour guide reveal to you the more profound truth. On the rump of the horse is a small rectangular opening. If you are brave enough to look through the window (Yes, you should risk looking like a horse’s butt looking into one), you will find just the right amount of daylight filtering in, revealing a much more realistic depiction of the General. Inside, he is lying in repose (you know, like in a coffin at a viewing at the funeral home).
Maybe Marisol was trying to say that there is more than one way to look at something/someone; one person’s hero is another’s villain and vice versa.
Or maybe she is simply saying that she was glad this “horse’s butt” was dead!
I think it prompts us to look beyond the surface because things are not always as they appear. This is a good lesson in these times where social media, news media, the internet, and others try to manipulate us because they know that we won’t dig a little deeper for the whole truth. Those who they vilify may not be as bad as they want you to think, and those who they hold up as heroes and saviors may not be as heroic or awesome as they want you to think.
More importantly, the same holds true for your faith in our God. If you only scratch the surface, you will undoubtedly miss a fuller understanding of how awesome the Triune God of Grace is. Don’t just take my word for it; dig deep and don’t be afraid to experience it with others (you know, the church), and by all means, find a good tour guide to help you find the deeper meaning. Oh, by the way, don’t forget to ask the Holy Spirit to help you. And don’t worry if you look like a horse’s backend to the world, because you will be beautiful to the One who loves you so much that he would give you his life.
Remember what Jesus prayed for you and for me:
“Father…this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3