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Life as performance art

Life as performance art


By Fr. G. Corwin Stoppel

Chicago, our southern suburb, recently marked the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of its giant Picasso sculpture.

The piece was instantly polarizing. Some people loved it; others thought it was a monstrosity that should be taken to the nearest steel mill and melted. A half-century later it remains controversial.

We experienced some of that here about a decade ago when the late, much-lamented Art Round Town was active. Residents and guests alike had the opportunity to see sculptures in public places. As in Chicago, some works raised eyebrows and hackles. Saugatuck made the national news when city council sought to remove a piece called “Who’s Responsible Here” from next door to city hall.

Controversy was the death knell for ART and that remains a tragedy. I don’t think any of us loved or even liked every piece displayed. That was a good thing. If all we look at is art we like, or listen to is our favorite music, we’re stunting our growth. The same holds for shutting our minds to any topic from astronomy to zoology.

I’m starting to think (and I may change my mind someday) that the world is divided between people who are linear and symmetrical thinkers and those who aren’t.

Linear symmetricals have it easier. They might learn something early in life, decide it is right and refuse to consider other possibilities. Change, if it comes at all, is hard for them. An example is people who grew up during the Great Depression, refuse to trust banks and believe investing in anything other than land is a foolish risk.

We need these people in our lives. They are the sages who know history, rule keepers and conservatives who slow us down once in a while.

Non-linear and asymmetrical people are like magpies who gather information from a variety of sources, sometimes delight in holding two or more opposing ideas in their mind, and can see both sides. It allows them to be creative and innovative in the arts and sciences. They will ask, “What if? and then try something.

Fifty years ago people looked at the Picasso sculpture with awe, wonder and confusion. They all benefited, whether they loved or hated it. It changed everything. Art began to move out of museums and private collections into public places.

Had it not been for the Picasso piece, there is a chance there would be no Millennial Park. There might not have been Art Round town either. If we’re fortunate, someone will resurrect the project and we’ll all benefit.