Culture 101

AkronArtMuseum01“Have you ever read a great novel, or listened to a great symphony, or stood in front of a great work of art, and felt–absolutely nothing?  You try to open yourself to the text, the music, the painting, but you have no power to respond.  Nothing moves you.  You are turned to stone.  You feel guilty.  You blame yourself, but you also wonder if maybe there’s nothing there, and that people only pretend to enjoy…because they get good marks in Culture 101 for doing so.”  —Robert Hellenga, The Sixteen Pleasures


Personally I had this experience a few years back in NY in a nice gallery in  Soho.  My friends were raving over these ridiculous sculptures that were so ugly I felt like vomiting.  I was thinking:  What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I see the beauty here? Am I the stupid one…or are they?  I politely excused myself, caught a nice looking cup of coffee and met up with them later.  They were still chatting about the artwork, and I came to realize: They were faking it!  When I found this piece in the book The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga (which should be on my favorite book list) I jotted it down, because it said exactly what I felt that day. 

(By the way, this was not the gallery we were in: those two drab whores are not my friends, and I’m not the pudgy queen-want-a-be in the blue dress. Or am I?– Love those shoes!)

4 Responses to “Culture 101”

  1. Lisa Chapman Says:


    I have one of those stories too! My husband and I were at the Detroit Institute of Arts and we were standing in front of a still life painting of a table which had lying on it some dead rabbits, vegetables, etc… and a college student walks up next to us and says totally serious “It’s amazing isn’t it?! You just want to pick up a glass of wine and toast!”. We grinned at each other and when she walked away we burst out laughing. Sometimes it’s subjective but other times it’s just someone tryin’ too hard!

    Love, Lis


  2. I think you speak for us all with this post… 🙂 Sometimes it’s all I can do to muster up a raised eyebrow, lol. There are legitimate occasions when I’m interested, even intrigued by something I’ve seen or read. But at least half the time I haven’t a clue. No clue at all…. 😆


  3. This was a funny post, Jenn. Been there, done that. I hate/despise/detest cubism. Picasso can kiss my ass. (I know–I know–BIG COLLECTIVE GASP.)

    It’s so fucking freeing to admit that shit.




  4. i just trust my first impression. if you look hard enough at anything you’ll start to pick out mistakes and faults


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