One short block of North Fourth Street in Bismarck provided us this week all we need to know about the power of art.
About a week ago, Bismarck’s Capital Gallery celebrated a record-breaking night with the largest gathering we have witnessed at any of its art show openings. No surprise, given that the show featured the work of two well-known and well-loved local artists, Shelley Larson and Todd Clausnitzer.
Friends, family and local art enthusiasts learned the following day that Todd’s painting titled "8 seconds" set a Capital Gallery sales record of $20,000. Four of Todd’s pieces sold that evening, while Shelley sold a record 15 pieces the same night.
We attended the opening night of the exhibit and had a wonderful time visiting with old friends and making new ones, and celebrating the beautiful work of Shelley and Todd. Capital Gallery Society President David Borlaug and his staff know how to throw a party, and this exhibit was their best to date.
So it was ironic that on that same 100 block of North Fourth Street this week we saw the ugly, and frankly, uninformed, side of art when a building owner just across the street announced that noted Bismarck artist Shane Balkowitsch would paint a mural on the side of the building that houses the new Brick Oven Bakery.
Speaking of art, those who have eaten there know that their French pastries are works of art as well. Owners Steven and Sandy Jacobson have created Bismarck’s finest bakery.
When it was announced that the mural would be a portrait of young climate change activist Greta Thunberg, one would have thought something like a New York City Stux Gallery piece titled “Piss Christ,” which actually would be offensive to most area residents, was to be on public display in this city of traditional Lutheran values.
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In less than 24 hours, more than 75,000 people had read our story on Facebook, where hundreds commented/ranted about Thunberg, the George Soros puppet, the evil child from Sweden, the climate change hoax, and resorted to name-calling and vulgar language, as the fact-challenged and weak-minded are wont to do.
It’s not my intention here to argue the science, or the lack thereof as some claim, about climate change, but rather to distinguish between art and our personal beliefs.
Regardless of how one feels about the merits of the climate change debate, the real value of art is that the same piece can be both loved and hated by two individuals who but for the disagreement on the piece of art may otherwise be best friends.
Art doesn’t require us to choose sides, us versus them. Art just IS. And whether you love it, appreciate it, or simply tolerate it, no one really cares? No one’s opinion of my taste in art matters to me, because it is my own.
Art allows us to make our own judgement of its beauty value and worth, and is satisfied no matter the outcome simply because we considered it.
I can’t think of anything more dangerous to our democracy than being deprived of the ability to consider what I think about something.
As I scanned the comments of those who opposed this mural, I noted that just last week some of the same folks praised a Mandan bar for having fought the city to retain its right to artistic expression.
Hypocrisy knows no bounds, even in art.
Gary Adkisson is publisher of The Bismarck Tribune.
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