Consensus can’t be final art decider - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Consensus can’t be final art decider

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Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2007 6:46 am | Updated: 6:09 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Art not only imitates life, as it has so often been said. It frequently is tied to the spot where you find it. Public art can and often does create a sense of place. But the place also can leave an impression on the art.

Perhaps the “Mona Lisa” would look just as intriguing, mysterious and iconic if it were hung in the dining area of a hamburger joint as it does in the Louvre in Paris.

But it would be hard to imagine Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” outside the Sistine Chapel or Picasso’s cubist whatever-he-called-it sculpture anywhere else but outside Chicago’s City Hall complex.

In what seems to be an effort to render Donald Lipski’s piece, “The Doors,” more striking, Denver artist Jim Green is to add an audio component to the sculpture at Scottsdale and Camelback roads, the Tribune reported Wednesday, with possibly the sound of a cat purring or some chanting.

Whatever he installs, given the decibel level of traffic at that intersection, Green had better record a cat with quite a strong set of vocal cords, or the effort won’t be for much.

(Instead, given the piece’s consisting of three huge wooden doors and its location across the street from a shopping mall, the most fitting chant might be the one from that old department-store commercial: “Open, open, open, open ....”)

Two months ago, the City Council directed that a proposed neighborhood public art project at the entrance to the Cox Heights neighborhood go back to the Scottsdale Cultural Council and residents for rework and a consensus.

Some neighbors liked the oversize wildflowers (some said they were pinwheels, since they would have spun in the breeze). Others disliked it. The lack of a clear consensus led to the request for a do-over.

Councilman Bob Littlefield was quoted in the Tribune as saying that those involved do not want to find themselves in the same situation in six months. (Four months to go.)

But should art be the result of consensus, that is, art created by committee? Unless expressly designed that way to produce an effect — imagine an entire gallery of artworks, each of which was purposely created by several individuals, each with an equal vote — there aren’t too many taxpayers who would like to see their money spent that way.

Earlier this year, an official with the Public Art Program told the Community Council of Scottsdale that a poll of residents found the two most popular sculptures in Scottsdale were the abstract “Windows to the West” by Louise Nevelson at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall amphitheater and George-Ann Tognoni’s “The Yearlings,” featuring running horses, at Main Street and Brown Avenue.

The residents group was told that this showed a healthy diversity of opinion about art in public in Scottsdale.

Overall, this is to the community’s benefit. But it means a tough climb for anyone trying to reach a consensus on art.

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