People don't know how to protest art properly. They do it so feeblemindedly that I'm moved to support art I don't even like.
The most recent case has been highly publicized. Brooklyn artist Mike Ross is proposing to entomb, in the underground Capitol Hill Sound Transit station, two vivisected fighter planes that are painted pink and hung nose-to-nose to look like they're kissing. Last month, after a public meeting in which Ross presented his idea to a firestorm of criticism, the 43rd District Democrats condemned it. The Democrats passed a resolution calling for "more culturally sensitive themes for public art... instead of warplanes."
If purchasing said planes means sending money to the Defense Department to fund more war, then Ross might want to reconsider his methods. But a wholesale ban on the "theme" of warplanes in deference to a neighborhood's projected vision of itself? Why? So that if a war, god forbid, is ever fought on pristine Capitol Hill soil, at least we can say we never saw it coming because we're just so, you know, different and interesting and peace loving?
During a recent visit, Ross agreed to meet with me, and I grilled him about his sculpture. Most of its details aren't worked out yet, and he was wishy-washy in places where I wanted him to be solid. Considering all the elements (the oddity of his idea, the fact that he's working in the impossible realm of public art, and the fact that he's creating art in a piece of architecture choked with view-compromising crossbeams), I was prepared to come out as undecided on the project. But given that his public enemies are so pitiful, I find myself rooting for the guy.
There's another guy I'm rooting for, too, even though his photographs (which I've seen in e-mail only) appear to be pretty average. This past Saturday, during Ballard's art walk, Kiss Cafe celebrated the opening of Jim Wilkinson's show of PG-rated nude photographs. On Sunday, Oakley Carlson, the cafe's co-owner, removed two images from the show—male nudes taken from the chest up, one with a slightly come-hither look. He also wanted Wilkinson to cut off the bottom third of a vertical triptych, the only third depicting male rather than female nudes. Carlson had already notified Wilkinson that some of his photos, including one called Friends, depicting five naked men hugging, would have to be taken down after the opening. Wilkinson removed the whole show.
"We're a family place," Carlson said, speaking in a phone interview. He added that he just didn't like the photographs, and "if I don't like it, it's gone"—fair warning to future Kiss Cafe artists. Fair warning to customers, too: If your family isn't the right kind, then you might want to consider taking it someplace else for a beer and a sandwich in Ballard.