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When art gets creepy

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Posted: Monday, April 11, 2011 10:34 am | Updated: 9:31 am, Wed Sep 5, 2012.

I know. I know! Art is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Variety is the spice of life. And cliches are for horrible writers. But, let's face it, some art is just plain creepy.

Things like the human body exhibit, where real bodies are stripped down and dissected, then preserved in a special goo and put on display are great examples of creepy art, but that's not what I'm talking about.

That exhibit, for example, is fascinating. It's a terrific way for us to see ourselves in a new (if gory) light. It's a terrific teaching tool, as well. It makes you think, which cuts down on the creep factor.

What I'm talking about is the kind of art that makes a chill run through your body and a shudder wash over your psyche. For example, paintings of clowns.

I'm not the type to be freaked out by clowns. I know plenty of people who are. Coulrophobia is an actual phobia (what isn't nowadays, am I right?). But there's something exceptionally creepy about paintings of clowns. I've never seen a jovial, lighthearted oil or watercolor of a clown. They're all more ominous and dark than Tim Curry as the scary clown in “Rocky Horror,” uh, I mean “Stephen King's It.”

And this brings me to Lodi's latest artistic offering. This Friday will be the unveiling of an exhibit throughout Downtown of painted bronze statues by artist Seward Johnson. If you read Lodi Living regularly, than you will have no doubt seen examples of the statues adorning its cover this past Saturday. 

The detail on Johnson's work is amazing. Crinkles in “paper” bags, folds in clothing, hair and skin are all spot-on. He's an amazing artist who deserves to be lauded. Unfortunately his work also creeps me out. I don't know if it's the realism depicted in the metal, the strange way Americana is frozen in each piece or if it's the way the work reminds me somehow of those creepy big-eyed kid paintings from the '70s. Whatever it is, I get the shudders when I look at just the pictures.

Obviously Johnson's work isn't of clowns, but it evokes the same creepy feelings in me. I would hate to see him create a statue of a clown.

Am I going to check out the statues when they're in town? You bet. Look for me. I'll be the guy trying to shake off  a freshly delivered case of the heebie jeebies.

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  • posted at 11:13 am on Tue, Apr 12, 2011.


    Thanks you for putting a name to the fear I have of clown paintings. They are just marginally less creepy than actual clowns themselves. AND! Those big-eyed kids? My mom hung them in my room...even one of a little dog. I always assumed they were watching me and I don't think I slept for about 3 years.

    Art needs to make you feel something...anything. If it does, the artist hit their mark. But I'll admit to wanting to put a bag over their painted metal faces.

  • James Rodems posted at 5:05 pm on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    James Rodems Posts: 1

    I want to thank Mr. Lutz for illistrating one of the primary functions of public art:
    To illicit a response from the viewer.

    I am reminded of being a college student at CSU, Fresno and visiting my sister who was attending UC Santa Cruz (yes...hard to cheer "Go Slugs!!!"). She took me through campus and pointed out all the public art while explaining the titles of each piece. Most of the time her descriptions were met by me with a, "Yeh...right....". The point was the simple act of looking and thinking about it during the course of a stroll across campus. Regardless of the thought it was still thought provoking.

    You may look at something and think, "Well that sucks!", but you will still be an active participant in the purpose of the exhibit. You will have been pulled into reacting to what was previousely empty space and involuntarily engage in thinking about about something you may like or dislike.

    Either way....we hope you enjoy the moment (even though Grandma above might be a little reminiscent of a Saturday afternoon black and white horror film).

    James M. Rodems
    Director - Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services
    City of Lodi

  • Hannah Kemalyan posted at 11:29 am on Mon, Apr 11, 2011.

    Hannah Kemalyan Posts: 12

    I,for one, could not agree more.


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