While I have been known to do unspeakable things like defend Thomas Kinkade, I’ll be the first person to tell you that sometimes it’s the function of art to shake you up a bit. (I attended, for instance, this exhibit, and wrote about it here.)
“Shake you up a bit,” though, stops well short of what Jennifer went through:
The art was as painful to look at, a withering internal glare the artist forced mercilessly upon herself; a train wreck of pain and destruction, twisted fear and mental instability, so hideous you couldn’t take your eyes off it. Even when the gawking began to wrench knots in the spot where your neck greets your shoulders; even when finally seeing it for what it was bruised your eyes. Even when you realized what you were seeing was the bottomless pit of one woman’s tattered, tortured, wilted soul, the lurid, hellish evidence left smattered and splattered on the wall for public consumption. Not one thing more, and not one single thing less.
This was, I believe, the desired effect. From a promotional page for the same artist, and possibly even the same exhibit:
Using her own visual vocabulary, [the artist] orchestrates past, present and anticipated events connected to her misplaced sense of self. Utilizing paint, ink drawings, found objects and collage, [her] work references her own feelings of inferiority, abnormality, social anxiety, nervousness, and misplacement.
My insides twisted, my face flushed hot, my hands shook. From disgust and fear. From devastating sadness and aimless pity. From anger, directed toward an vast unknown, so vile its metallic aftertaste stung my throat.
A little of that, I submit, goes a long, long way.
The artist in question, apparently, is the visual equivalent of Jandek, a few of whose recordings I have heard over the years, despite warnings from Irwin Chusid, who says things like this about him:
[I]magine a subterranean microphone wired down to a month-old tomb, capturing the sound of maggots nibbling on a decaying corpse and the agonized howls of a departed soul desperate to escape tortuous decomposition and eternal boredom. That’s Burt Bacharach compared to Jandek.
And yet Jandek has made forty-eight albums at this writing. (Corwood Industries, Jandek’s record label, is normal in one respect, anyway: they started numbering with “0739″.)
There is, I conclude, a market for this sort of thing. The Muses, I assume, have their off-days, or a fairly warped sense of humor — or, conceivably, all of the above.