There's an old saying that there are only a few basic storylines which form the essence of every novel, movie, short story, or other literary work.
(Those storylines are: (1) Someone comes to town, (2) someone leaves town, and (3) It's really hard to be the assistant manager of an aquarium.)
I've commented before that if you're going to boil everything down that far, then we only have, say, three different meals, too -- because at its heart, a taco, a steak, and a hamburger all contain some of the same basic ingredients. (And, of course, if you take it down further then everything is composed of pretty much the same elements, which means that if you push the "few basic storylines" to its logical extreme, everything in the universe is identical, and we are all in fact made of stars.
Even Todd Bridges.
But today, I'm not talking about writing. I'm talking about art. Or, as is more apropos for this feature, Art? And, even more apropos of this blog, the kind of Art? that begins with pictures of a naked woman painted to look like Van Gogh's Starry Night:
That is someone named "Jennifer Nicole Lee," and she is posing "topless in body paint" (I use the quotes because that way you know I am being a serious person and not just doing numerous google searches for women in body paint for no good reason) for PETA.
The connection between PETA, and treating animals ethically, and topless-models-wearing-classic-paintings might have escaped you. I missed it, too, which is why I had to spend hour after hour looking at that picture and at this one:
To try to figure it out, but I still wasn't able to. Was Van Gogh noted for his ethical treatment of animals? I wondered. Is PETA saying that remembering not to be cruel to animals is akin to a troubled night in which the entire world seems to be in motion? I asked myself. Could there be any way that I could convince Sweetie to do this to herself? I questioned. (No, was the answer to that last one. No, with a side of no.)
I had nothing but questions -- including "Who is Jennifer Nicole Lee?" which, let's face it, was the least important question.
So I began at PETA's site, trying to figure out what this Jennifer Nicole Lee person, Vincent Van Gogh, and body painting had in common with not being mean to bunnies and other cute animals (because I have never heard PETA standing up for the rights, of, say, jellyfish)
(Has PETA stood up for the rights of jellyfish? A google search suggests no. I know PETA fights animal testing and fur and something about vegetables, too, but I believe that PETA's record on the rights of jellyfish, hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, and okra, which may not be an animal but which is disgusting, is pretty slim; so PETA actually should be "People For the Ethical Treatment Of Animals We All Agree Are Not Gross.)
Anyway, PETA(WAAANG)'s site had no mentions that I could find of Jennifer Nicole Lee or her bodypaint, which was supposed to be part of a PETA(WAAANG) ad campaign. So I searched, instead, for "PETA Starry Night Ad Campaign" and found nothing.
Which kind of put me in a bind because I really felt it very important to get all the facts involved with this almost-Jennifer-Lopez-y looking woman with a Van Gogh painting barely covering her naked body, if only to justify this all to Sweetie, who is getting kind of suspicious of my Google history.
I ended up at Jennifer Nicole Lee's website itself, where I found out she is a fitness expert, who wants you to live "your best life," and that didn't mention PETA(WAAANG) at all, either.
So a lot of sites say that this Jennifer Nicole Lee person did a topless/body paint/Starry Night photo shoot for PETA, but none of those sites has a source for this information and PETA(WAAANG)'s site didn't mention it and Jennifer Nicole Lee's site didn't mention it, so I was left with but one conclusion:
I'd better look to see if anyone is painting naked ladies out there.
And if you don't see how b follows from a, there, well, I feel sorry for you.
The first person my brave/definitely not something to get mad at me about, Sweetie, because it's for research purposes only search led me to was a guy named Danny Setiawan, who has one of those kinds of names that always makes me think it's an anagram. Remember in Lost when Tom Cruise's little brother playing one of the Others arrived at the site of the crash survivors and said his name was "Ethan Rom?" Remember how silly it seemed that anyone would believe that someone was named "Ethan Rom?" I remember that. I also remember thinking "Ethan Rom sounds like an anagram" and despite hating anagrams I am always drawn to them like a moth to flame, almost literally except that there is very little chance that an anagram will end up burning me alive.
Still, you never can tell.
Ethan Rom, by the way, I decided was an anagram for "More Than," which I used early on to convince myself that The Others were some sort of supernatural people and that the island was purgatory. Only later did I realize that was way off and that the island was supposedly real and that Ethan Rom probably stood for Other Man, making it still an anagram but a lot more silly.
"Still this one thing but sillier than you thought," by the way, turns out to be the driving idea behind every single J.J. Abrams movie or TV show ever, which makes me both hope for and dread seeing The Cabin In The Woods.
I am free, by the way, to talk to you about Lost because not only did I finally finish watching it, two years after it stopped airing, but also because Nathan Fillion has decreed, in his B-list-celebrity-ishness, that after 1 year you cannot spoil something anymore. As quoted on Gawker in their weekly roundup of stupid things celebrities say because they want you to think they are clever (they usually are not):
See what I mean? I kind of like Nathan Fillion, although I won't watch Castle because how many unsolved crimes are there, people? Not that many. But then Nathan Fillion goes and posts that on Twitter, and I now have to have a grudge against him for several valid reasons:
(1) It still can be a spoiler, Nathan: I started watching Lost on DVD at the same time as my wife gave birth to twin boys who are now 5 years old. Which meant that for the past 5 years my total free time per week has been about 7 minutes. (Somebody has to buy them a bow and arrow at the Dollar Store and teach them how to use it, after all, and that somebody by God is going to be me. I will not have a nanny teach my boys how to hunt imaginary Dollar Store game.)
(2) You said "you be behind da times." What's that about? You know who sounds funny talking in a fake vernacular? Nobody. -10 points for you on the imaginary point system I invented the other day to be even better at secretly judging people.
(3) Also, I DVRd every episode of Firefly because I thought you were a cool actor and was going to watch them in order but now I find out that you might just tell me what happens because it's more than a year old, and you won't even feel guilty about it? Screw you, Nathan Fillion. Maybe I'll just watch The Big Bang Theory.
So where was I? Oh, yeah: Danny Setiawan and his anagrammatic name and his pictures of naked women.
According to his bio,
Danny Setiawan started creating art as early as he was able to make a mark. It was his way of understanding the world around and inside of him.That lonely struggle was, for a time, expressed by having naked women pose for him as he painted them into classic paintings, like
Born and raised in Indonesia, a strategic country that absorbS influences both from the Eastern and Western societies. Danny absorbed a wealth of visual vocabulary that ranges from Indonesian traditional aesthetics such as Batik and Wayang, Japanese anime/manga, to American and European visual styles that were dominant in fashion and entertainment.
Right before the monetary crisis that happened in 1998 hit South East Asia, Danny was given the opportunity to come to the United States for higher education. The hardshipS that he experienced under the harsh financial condition shaped the way Danny sees the world. The image of a lone struggle contrasted with hope becomes a theme of Danny's art even today.
Moulin Rouge After Toulouse-Lautrec
Dance After Mucha
He also did a Starry Night:
So that seems a popular choice.
All art has a message, right? That message, when I do art, is "Man, this guy cannot do art." But other artists may have a different message. Although Setiawan is available for private parties assuming that you go to the kind of parties where people get naked and get painted, those being the kinds of parties I imagine that I would have wanted to go to at some point in my life only really I didn't, because I'm not a partying kind of guy and I certainly don't want to get naked in front of other people, whether or not I'm going to end up painted as "Naked Guy With Dogs Playing Poker," Setiawan's real message in painting naked women is "Make art relevant to the people again," as he told Brooklyn Exposed:
As a medium, painting is dead, because people look at it, but the masses are not really engaged. A lot of people consider the high art thing are people who are really into art history, go to galleries, or art museums—but I’m not that. So the relevance thing is this: I want to bring it back to the people.
He also revealed in that interview that he got started in the body painting business when he was in LA and a bunch of women asked him to paint their bodies, so everything you ever imagined about artists, and LA, is absolutely true and that's why you shouldn't study engineering no matter what the amount of your student loan debt is.
Danny Setiawan isn't the only artist trying to make you pay attention to stuff by putting naked women underneath it; I also found an artist named Alexa Meade, who gets around what I assume is the awkwardness of painting on a naked person standing in front of you by mostly painting herself to look like an oil painting. All of these:
are actually real people who were painted to look like paintings; the lower right corner is the artist herself.
Her website says:
Alexa Meade is a 25-year-old artist whose work lies at the intersection of painting, photography, performance, and installation.
Rather than creating representational paintings on a flat canvas, Alexa Meade creates her representational paintings directly on top of the physical subjects that she is referencing. When photographed, the representational painting and the subject being referenced appear to be one and the same as the 3D space of her painted scenes becomes optically compressed into a 2D plane.
True story: I once got into a three-way car accident at the intersection of painting, photography, performance, and installation. The other driver? James Franco. Since then, they've installed a Stoplight Of Artistic Critique and a Crossing Guard of Bourgeoisie Indifference to slow things down a bit.
While there's a lot more of what seems like art to me in what Alexa Meade does -- the more you work something, the more artistic it is, right? That's how art works?-- there's certainly a lot less "visibly naked women," so it's hard for me to judge how art her stuff really is. What she does (in her own words, again) is:
In my current work, I construct and then photograph ephemeral installation sets that feature an assemblage of found objects and live models, which I have covered in layers of acrylic paint. I paint the surfaces of the human subjects, the material objects, and the architecture of the installations so as to collapse the subject, foreground, and background into one continuous plane. I present my ephemeral portrait/performances as both live, interactive installations as well as permanent photographic indices of these experiences.
That leads to art like this:
which really is quite amazing.
And we finish with "Swiss Artist Dave", who created this:
Says Swiss Artist Dave,
"There is no such thing as a flat surface."And that thought is best translated to the masses by having a Group of Obama walk around a hill while a guy throws fire at them.
Give it some thought and you will realise that this somewhat unusual statement is nothing but a simple truth – everything that we usually consider to be flat turns out to be a three-dimensional relief when sufficiently magnified. A flat surface is an illusion, a mere misapprehension – one that illustrates perfectly the fact that the world around us is often completely different than we imagine.
The verdict: ART. This trend has all the essential ingredients of art: Naked people, and... and... where was I? I got distracted there.