Monday, March 8, 2010

Go Ask Alice, When She's Ten Feet Tall

But I doubt that even she could give me my infinitive answer, no matter if she were tall, or small.

However, it is because of her, and her darn White Rabbit that I have resurrected swirling thoughts that repeatedly have no place to land, so I let them vaporize away, unsettled until once again, like on last Thursday, they come back to haunt me.


Last Thursday was the first warm and sunny day that we have had in quite a while, and my darling Hubs had a Barnes & Noble gift card from Christmas burning a hole in his pocket. Not wanting to have to buy him another pair of pants right now, I thought we’d take advantage of the day, and go browse books.


At some point in the previous days, along with all of the gathering attention to Tim Burton’s Alice opening that Friday, Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit popped up out of his hole and made a quick dash into my mind, where he stayed, whirling around and around., repeating the lyrics over and over. (Now admit it, who of you over the age of say. . 40, haven’t thought of that song within the past week? And for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve heard that it is used in the movie)


And so it happened that during the hour drive to get to the store, my mind was once again filled with the almost continuous droning feed of:


One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall. . . .and so on. . .all 4 verses, over and over again.


I had a bit of de je vu when I realized that in the background, an author on NPR was describing the horrors that she saw while embedded with a military company in Iraq, and I had a flashback of riding along in my Mustang, humming White Rabbit over the background of news broadcasts of another atrocious war. But that wasn’t the last of my spooky moments.


As we approached the double front doors of B&N, I’m trying to mentally stuff the rabbit back down into his hole so I can enjoy the heady experience of books, but the second I stepped inside, what greets my ears, but the very song that I’ve been trying to escape from! Which finally leads me to the point of my quandary.


I found out that that track is part of an album that has been released with a number of songs all related to the story of Alice In Wonderland, by that master of merchandisers, Disney, and is separate from the soundtrack of the movie. At that very moment, the Rabbit took a mighty leap from my mind. Looking around me, I discovered display after display of everything “Alice” and everything remotely related to Alice.


Being that we were in a place of business whose whole purpose is to sell things, I wasn’t surprised. What was unsettling to me what to the extent some had gone to, to latch onto the current Alice craze.


The various books were fine. Some more than others, but I loved looking at the different illustrator’s interpretations of the familiar characters. The compositions of the individual original songs that are on that compilation CD are fine too. They are each a creative interpretation from a known reference, just as all of the dolls, and paintings that are popping up here on the internet. Alice and especially the other characters are ripe for creative juices to flow, and I delight in seeing the various forms.


So why does a compilation CD, and the other mass merchandise bother me so much?


Maybe it is because I’m looking forward to seeing the movie from an artistic point of view. I want to soak in the costumes, makeup, props and sets, to discover what makes the whole atmosphere. .the sum of its parts. Even though it, in itself, is a commercial endeavor, I’m still looking at it as a form of art, and for some reason, all of the exploitation of that version of Alice into mass merchandising, somehow tarnishes the magic for me, and I’d like to know why. Maybe to understand it, will lessen its power over my thinking and feeling.


I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by art, not only from the artist’s view, but I also worked in a boutique art gallery for quite a few years, so I know the business end of it too.


And throughout the years, I often wondered at what point does the commercial aspect of art take on a life of its own, and in doing so, does it overshadow the art itself? I know the formal definition of commercial art is using a creative process to promote or sell another product, and in “fine art”, the art itself is the product. But the minute you put a price tag on it, it becomes commercial too. To make prints, even limited editions from that original, you are putting one more toe into that commercial pond. To begin merchandising with notepads, coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets and such, and to my way of thinking, you are now treading water. (I’m not going to get into the marketing of collectibles here. That is a related, but whole other topic) But does that diminish, not the monetary value of the art, but the intrinsic value? Maybe this is an arbitrary thing, or it can be subjective from one instance to another or one patron to another. Maybe there is no cut and dried answer. I’m not an art snob. I buy prints because I can rarely afford an original, and if I enjoy something so much, that is the only way that I’m going to have it in my home.


Maybe it is because I look at art as living, breathing entities. An artist leaves his or her imprint that remains with the piece, and in cold reproductions, there isn’t any personality at all. (I’m not going to get into working conditions here either. That is a soapbox topic) At least with me buying signed and numbered prints, I console myself that the artist has thoroughly inspected it, and given approval. In acting, and in musical composition, or a vocalist’s song, we are the recipients of that person’s interpretation.


And maybe in my heart, I’m hoping that the artist would still create, the composer would still write, and musicians and singers would still play, just for the pure joy of it, even if they knew that no one was ever going to buy one of their pieces, or hear their music. (I’m obviously leaving the need to make a living out of the equation, but hopefully you know what I’m inadequately trying to say)


So while I’m trying to sort this all out, maybe you can share some of your insights. Do you create your artwork with selling in mind, or do you ever create something where you have put so much of yourself into it, that you know that you’ll never be able to part with it?


I know of one person who will give me a resounding “Yes!’ if she reads this. She lost her beloved horse last year, and poured so much sorrow into a doll, it radiates through the computer monitor. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that the doll sheds real tears when no one is around. It also didn’t surprise me to learn that she will never part with that doll either.


And what about mass merchandising? How do you feel about it, and do you have a comfort zone as far as what you find acceptable, and what is exploitation? And how do you feel it affects art?


I’m truly interested in your viewpoints, and maybe concentrating on what you are saying will help me ignore that White Rabbit that has once again taken up residence within my head. So please ignore the humming. Maybe I should have heeded the doormouse’s advice.

1 comment:

  1. When I do my crafts, I do it because that is what I love to do. I do believe that I have given away more than I have sold. I enjoy making things for people that truly enjoy them. I too buy prints, this is the only way that I would be able to afford to own them.

    (((HUGS)))

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