The Emperor Has No Clothes

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have missed my calling in life. I should have been a sculptor.

Anyone who knows me will find that a shocking statement. It is widely acknowledged that I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler; stick figure drawings are beyond me. In primary school when we had to work with clay as part of art class I was the one who could not make anything more representative than a ball, and not a very good ball at that.

While my artistic skill and talent remains abysmal, the art world has changed, and perhaps it is time for me to consider a professional career. I am no Michelangelo, I will never sculpt a “David;” nor am I Rodin, “The Thinker” is beyond me. My abilities haven’t matured in all these years. Hand me a lump of clay and I might be able to make a ball. Give me a chisel and a piece of granite and I am pretty sure I could make rock shards. But lack of artistic talent is apparently no longer a barrier to a well-paid career as a sculptor.

I was working in the kitchen and the radio was playing in the background, so I wasn’t paying the closest attention, but a documentary piece caught my ear. It was about a sculptor in New York City, much acclaimed supposedly, who was pioneering something called “invisible sculpture.” Instead of actually creating the works she would sculpt them in her imagination; she was said to be selling “sculptures” for $35,000 each.

It sounded silly, but much in the art world seems silly to many people. A couple of decades ago Canada’s National Gallery purchased (at great expense) a painting called “Voice of Fire” for a large sum of money. Critics said it was a masterpiece, but the average person just saw three vertical stripes. I was sure I could create invisible sculptures.

If it had been April 1, I would have thought the news report was an April Fool’s joke, but April was a long time ago. Then I listened more closely and realized what I was listening to was a comedy program. It sounded so believable. Maybe I just have a low opinion of what passes for modern art.

As I was listening to the radio and hearing people praising the idea of “invisible sculpture,” I was reminded Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen’s well-known tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” There are times when critical thinking goes out the window, especially since we don’t want to be seen as different. It can take a child-like innocence to bring us back to reality.

I shouldn’t poke fun at invisible sculpture. There is, after all, merit in being able to paint word pictures; I do it for you here. I suppose if we both tried really hard we could imagine that you paid me to write this. What was that, you have no money left? Oh, you spent it all on an invisible sculpture. Well, I hope it matches the décor in your living room. It is sure to be a conversation piece.


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