A shrine to the tiny glass bead


This last weekend (friday night, to be exact), Jusje, Buddha, Travis, the Baublets and I went to Late Nights at the Museum, at the Dallas Museum of Art. Normally this is an amazing event, full of great art, music, and free Starbucks. This time, though, our expectations far exceeded reality. First, Starbucks stopped supporting the Late Nights program, leaving us a bit baffled at having to actually purchase our coffee (oh the absurdity of the thing!). And then there was the simply underwhelming art itself.



We were promised  "Gustav Stickley" and "Frank Lloyd Wright." We got forgettable furniture from the early 20th century, followed promptly by the museum's appeal to sell us overpriced replica's of said furniture, and dull—VERY DULL—architectural sketches. And then there was the modern art exhibit. Normally, this is by far my preferred section of the museum. I adore the quick brush strokes, abstractions of person and place, all wrapped in those breathtakingly vibrant hues  of blue and gold. This time, though, there was no such appeal. The two featured artists were Matt Connors (think 80's colors plus crescent moons plus messy spray paint and you've pictured his entire display) and Fergus Feehily.
Fergus Feehily's work is laughable. I mean this with all due respect to varying art forms and what not. As a longterm patron of the Dallas Museum of Art, I've seen a LOT of art that I didn't particularly like, but Feehily's was the first exhibit that actually sprung up in me an overwhelming, resounding "Ha!" These blank, torn pieces of notebook paper are no more art than my scribbled notes from my 'Monday Morning Marketing Meetings' (yes, don't you just adore the alliteration?!) and quite possibly less so. Only their residence inside this monolith to art gave the splotched-finger-painted-wood and black-paper-with-random-strings-hanging-off-of-it the slightest bit of artistic credibility. But is that enough to make it art? If I were to put a coffee-stained napkin on the wall juxtaposed to a Rothko and nailed a tiny, neat sign stating {Napkin with Coffee Ring} underneath it, would that now be art? Does it's mere association with other great art transform it, like the a dip in the river styx, into some great masterpiece?
But the critics say:

Fergus Feehily’s painting explores a long-term preoccupation with blurring boundaries, often between non-representation and image, text and drawing. There is an undertow of anxiety and ambiguity in his work, an unsettled searching in its making.


I guess if when they say "ambiguity" the mean "complete lack of artistic creativity" and "unsettled searching" they mean "confused attempt at recreating the artwork seen a few halls down, in the glitter-glue-and-tissue-paper Kid's Craft Section of the museum" then I'd have to agree with them.




But really all of this "is it really art" discussion is just banal echo heard over and over again at every museum in the world. I have little interest in debating what is and isn't art.  What really interests me was what Feehily placed in the center of his exhibit.


In the very middle of the room, there's this looming glass case with only a tiny, single bead in the center. It's displayed on a bed of black velvet and given a large sign saying only: "Striped African Bead."



We laughed, to say the least, and talked about how silly it was to make an entire display case protect a solitary, worthless piece of glass. But then I just had this overwhelming sense that this is what I do everyday. Every single day, I take my prized yet worthless glass bead—be it my job, my pride, my art, my free time, or my ego—and I enshrine it in a protective glass case. 'Look at that beautiful, priceless piece,' I say to anyone who will stop. 'That's mine and I've worked hard to make that.' God sees this and he pities me and shakes his head sadly. 'But I have this priceless, unique pearl, the size of your fist. Wouldn't you rather protect and treasure this?' I look at him and laugh. 'Why would I want that when I have this amazing bead?!'

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. - Matthew 13: 45