I've been doing some research on Meso-American culture and archeology for a novel idea. A book I purchased recently is full of photographs of the ancient artwork and sculptures from the Olmec, Mixtec and other Pre-Colombian cultures. The photos are cool, but it always makes me wonder, if we are really interpreting the art correctly?
Think about it. Archeology has unearthed thousands of cave paintings, pottery shards and figurines. Some seem simple enough to understand. A horse is just a horse right? A buffalo battle a simplistic story. For example, an anthropologist finds a painting of a woman in odd clothing holding a severed head. It could be a priestess holding a sacrifice. Or a wife holding the head of her battle slain husband. Or maybe a queen holding the head of her enemy.
But what if the same painting was done today? Modern art would say that it's the Feminine Power beheading male dominance. Or maybe it's a metaphor for a woman examining her own mind and thoughts. In fact, a good portion of art today is metaphorical. It's not just a pretty portrait or peaceful landscape.
I wonder, if a thousand or more years from now when anthropologists look back at the art in our culture, what will they claim it tells them?
I have to wonder if an anthropologist would even recognize this as a piece of art. Maybe they'd write it off as a canvas used to cleanse the artists brushes by sweeping it back and forth and flinging the paint loose.
Maybe this one would be a tribute to the goddess of snakes.
This piece of graffiti from Kansas City, is actually recognizable as more than blobs, but a Caterpillar smoking a hookah pipe doesn't say much about our culture... at least not anything good.
This tag from KC isn't even an image. It's a word. One I can't even read. But surely anthropologists would claim this as a ward against evil in a sacred tongue.
Even art by the Masters, like Picasso, seem strange and obscure through the eyes of our future historians. What exactly DOES this say about women?
Salvador Dali's Enigma of William Tell has me completely stumped. What does an overly long butt cheek propped on a stick say about our culture? And the melting clocks and mismatched legs.... I don't get it now. I feel sorry for the anthropologist that discovers Dali.
Even our sculptures are weird. This 'birdie' on the lawn of the Nelson's Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO is photographed a lot. But come on, a lawn dart?! They'll claim we worshiped giant badminton players.
(I don't have anything against modern art, it's just not me. I don't get most of it, it doesn't 'speak' to me. I know there are those that love it. So don't think I'm trashing the last 300 years of art history. )
Honestly, some of the cave paintings I've seen, look better than current stuff. I just can't help but think about those artists 2000 years ago sketching spotted ponies. Did they think that it was a metaphor for the plight of their culture? Or was it just a homage to their favorite steed?
It's just a thought. One of the many odd one's floating around my brain.