Many years ago, I was asked to write a newsy critique about the winners of an important outdoor art show in a nice little town south of here.
You may notice I haven't written any since then.
Oh, I still write previews about art shows, go to art shows and love art shows.
It's just that even though my title includes the word "arts," I'm really only comfortable writing reviews on the performing arts, more narrowly, musicals, dramas and comedies.
But visual art? I just don't know the lingo.
Take that time I did write a semireview of an art show. I poked around the 225 booths and was totally blown away by the technique, beauty and/or fascinating aspects of most of the entrants.
I had given the eventual big winner (chosen by a highly credentialed expert) a hurried glance, since most of the work looked to me as though someone had bunched together some chicken feathers, twigs and string and glued them to old pieces of wood.
The artist described the work as "assemblages of 'found' objects."
See, I would have never thought of that.
A few months earlier, I'd covered a local "art show" that consisted of some artsy magazines arranged in a circle on the floor of the art center, but described by the artist as "anti-authoritarian, post-individualistic work that strives to eliminate the perpetuation of Modernistic egocentricity."
I would have never thought of that either. But I'll confess I've thought about memorizing it so I could use it at some future art show I didn't quite get.
I suppose that's why I'm excited about four programs on understanding art coming up this summer in New Port Richey and Tarpon Springs.
The first is a panel discussion by people who do know art, and the other three are films with titles that are as intriguing as any art I've ever seen.
All four programs are my favorite price: free.
The painless art education kicks off at 7 p.m. June 12 at Progress Energy Art Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. Illustrator/artist Ralph Butler, who designed the Florida commemorative quarter, will lead a panel discussion on "What Is Art?" and "Who Is An Artist?"
The panel includes artist Jo Baughman, author Chris Coad Taylor (Amber Moon and the Rainbow Murders; Secrets of Havenridge), poet Fran Durler, multimedia artist Robert Mateja, actor Jim Poe (Tommy Award for Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof), writer-artist Scott Smith and Pasco Arts Council executive director Ann Larsen.
They'll talk about the importance of arts in the community and ask the audience their thoughts on art.
The next three programs are films at 3 p.m. on the last Sunday of June, July and August at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art off Klosterman Road (half mile west of U.S. 19) in Tarpon Springs.
On June 27, it's Who Gets To Call It Art?, a 78-minute documentary made in 2006. It features never-before-seen archival footage of the late Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, and the living Jasper Johns Jr., as well as interviews with Frank Stella, David Hockney and one of my very favorite people, James Rosenquist.
On July 25, it's Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?, a 74-minute adventure about 73-year-old former long-haul truck driver Teri Horton, who bought a $5 painting at a thrift shop and later became convinced that it was by Pollock and worth $25 million (she was once offered $9 million for it). The film follows her attempts to find someone who can authenticate the painting and appearances on big time television shows. As the film progresses, it seems to be less about Pollock and more about snobbery in the art world.
On Aug. 22, the movie is Herb & Dorothy, an 89-minute documentary which was voted Audience Favorite at the 2008 Hamptons International Film Festival, and it's easy to see why. It's the amazing story of Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, who, starting in the early 1960s, began building one of the most important contemporary art collections in history. The pair had magic eyes when it came to spotting great art among the then-unknowns. They devoted all of Herb's salary to buying works by artists who later became world-renowned. Over the years, they stuffed more than 2,000 pieces into their tiny, one-bedroom Manhattan apartment.
The most astounding part is that in 1992, they donated most of these valuable treasures to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. — and continued collecting even more art.
Wish we could have Herb and Dorothy on our June 12 panel. Bet they could tell us a thing or two about "What Is Art" and "Who Is An Artist."