//Ad libs: Simple gifts of Shrinky Dinks

Friday, February 27, 2009

Simple gifts of Shrinky Dinks

It may be bad form for a journalist to say she's sick of bad news. But in the car yesterday, I'd had enough of the recession, and put on Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic instead. "Appalachian Spring" cheers you right up.

It made me wonder why anyone didn't think of playing the actual "Appalachian Spring" at the inauguration, rather than that tepid spin of "Simple Gifts." And really play, not soap-on-the-bows "play." (If we can send a man to the moon, can't we find a way to heat up cold musicians?) It's a piece that embodies all the burgeoning optimism of the day. Plus, for folks who think classical music is highfalutin', there are passages that kinda sound like the movies. Even our previous prez might've dug Copland's "Hoe Down."

Speaking of accessible art, I feel strangely connected to an exhibit of paintings done on
Shrinky Dinks, as anyone who spent a portion of her childhood baking suncatchers might.

I was reading the other day about this Palo Alto show, of works by an 85-year-old Russian prince who paints scenes from his exile's life in Windsor Castle on shrinkable plastic. My friend K.K. called. Naturally, he said the whole thing was a hoax. Well, the gallery does bill the artist's work as "fantastical," but apparently Andrew Romanoff is one of those Romanoffs.

Before I'd had a chance to ascertain the truth, K.K. was working it out on his own. At first he speculated that someone had made a bunch of Shrinky-Dink paintings for whatever reason, and was pushing them as "art." But then he stopped himself. If you go to the trouble to make the art, he said, isn't it actually art, regardless of the motive? You can label a painting Folk Art or whimsy or primitive, but not fantastical. It exists. It's hanging on the wall in front of you. Make of it what you will.

The Shrinky-Dink paintings aren't my glass of tea, but I salute the effort that went into creating them. The artist was telling his life story, in his way, in his chosen medium, even if it makes journalists titter. I have more respect for someone who bakes a collection of plastic napkin rings in the oven than someone who stands up in front of the nation and lip-syncs the national anthem. Sing out, Louise. Even if your piano strings are freezing and your voice cracks and you forget your lines, at least it's real.

Pictured: A painting by Andrew Romanoff