Lindy West Has It, Art Does Too (With Notes)
Courtesy of Platform Gallery
[Ed. note: This review is based on the fallacy that art is about its content and not its form. We know fallacies are false.]
The first two results in a Google search for "bears" are (1) the Chicago Bears and (2) bears (gay guys)—instead of, you know, ACTUAL BEARS. The internet is a disrespectful fuck.
It is no secret among people who know my secrets that I am a slightly creepy bear mega-enthusiast and honorary doctor of bear science (the internet is good for some things, such as pretending to be a doctor). My number-one favorite Wikipedia page is "List of fatal bear attacks in North America." If I had $400, I would own a furry, bear-shaped footstool that cost $400. I sleep with two stuffed bears, one of whom is named Mr. Bear and the other of whom went nameless for 23 years until a friend dubbed him Osito, which seems appropriate because his stature is smaller than that of Mr. Bear, and also he enjoys tapas (to be fair, this has less to do with my bear enthusiasm and more to do with the fact that I am an unsettling child-woman who refuses to grow up). I have long dreamed of doing a weekly podcast titled Bear Talk in which I talk bears (their habits, habitats, foods, fears, likes, dislikes, turn-ons, turnoffs, and whatever is going on in bear culture that week. Currently accepting sponsorships!). [Ed. note: This paragraph is long.] For years, I had my hairdresser do my hair in "grizzly bear colors"—like, darker underneath with a lighter, frostier topcoat—so that maybe, if I were ever to find myself confronted by a she-bear in the forest, she might feel a faint follicular kinship and consent to accompany me back to civilization where I would teach her the ways of humans and maybe we would form a family band. I am really, really into bears, you guys. Is that enough bear cred for you? Now please stop asking, because it's currently taking everything I have to resist making a pun that involves the words "my long-form bearth certificate" and—there. Now look what you've done.
Anyway. Let's talk less about me and more about what bears are doing RIGHT NOW! (Answer: Just looking for snacks, pretty much all the time.) At this moment, wherever you are, you are probably less than 20 miles from a wild bear (even fewer miles if you count zoos, but fuck zoos, obviously). Bears are near. Just a few weeks ago, a little black bear found its way into the city of Lynnwood and ran around until it was shot to death by frightened humans. Little black bears aside, if you are in Seattle, you are maybe 100 miles from a grizzly bear, 1,900 miles from a polar bear, and 6,300 miles from a panda bear. [Ed. note: A lot of math went into that segment. It involved the city in China nearest the panda bear sanctuary, its latitude and longitude, and the distance from here because, weirdly, there is not a website called www.howfarawayisabearfromme.com.] [Ed. note: Okay, that Ed. note was written by Lindy.] It is not such a great idea to seek these bears out, though. They are busy, or they might eat you (especially if you are made of fish or bamboo).
Fortunately for you, you are much, much closer to Seattle artist Scott Fife's current show, Bear Season, at Platform Gallery, and those are bears that you should visit. [Ed. note: This is the art that Lindy West was assigned to review.] It is a small show, and a wonderful one. You enter, and first there are the bear heads—grizzly, polar, panda—made from recycled paper and screws (just like Fife's Kurt Cobain head that you surely saw on tens of millions of SAM posters last summer). The heads are calm and smell like wood glue and cardboard. They regard you indifferently. They are big—impossibly big, comically big, as big as a boulder or an oven or half a car. I asked the man in charge whether the bear heads were life-size, and felt disappointed when he replied, predictably, "No." But then—then!!!—"Real bears are slightly bigger." [Ed. note: This man's name is Stephen Lyons. His bear cred is untested. He is a good art dealer, though. Nice guy.]
On the wall to the right of the bear heads are three rearing, inky grizzlies—drawings on paper—in various stages of completion. "What about those?" I asked. Are real bears so tall? These grizzlies must be 10 feet at the shoulder. "Taller," was the answer. I jumped. This was the best possible news. As humans, we like things to be as big as possible or as small as possible. A blue whale, a giant squid, a teacup poodle, one of those runty golden finger monkeys... who has the patience for a medium-size animal?
[Ed. note: In art terms, these grizzlies might remind you of Seattle artist Brian Murphy, who paints self-portraits this same way. And he is something of a handsome bear.]
The big art grizzlies are dangerous but not malevolent, like the ocean, or [insert simile], or really anything that isn't some asshole human person. [Ed. note: Art has a whole history of expression of the "sublime" that disagrees with the idea that the ocean is not malevolent, but FINE. I guess the sublime is just an asshole human invention.] All of this causes a bear-obsessed child-woman (who is already planning a trip back to Platform to spend more time with the bears) to wonder what the fuck it is she likes so much about bears. It's the danger and the bigness and the fur, for sure—
[Ed. note: End.]