Clyde's underwear art

Pops at the Post Concert
Blurry picture I took of Clyde Overcash (L) and Gordon Hurley (R) at the Pops at the Post Concert (2009). I wish I had had a steadier hand.

The latest scandal in Salisbury, NC is a local news story about Clyde Overcash, an artist, who is pressing charges against Anne Caldwell Cave, the director of the Rowan Arts Council, because he hung a pair of underwear in front of his building and called it art — and she took it down.

This reminds me of a course I took in college.  It was a philosophy seminar called “The Philosophy of Art.”

Dr. Helm, our professor, was an extremely kind, elderly gentleman.  In fact, I thought he was pretty old.  A little research reveals that he was actually only four or five years older than I am now.

Here’s a bit about Dr. Helm and some photos.

Dr. Helm infuriated me with some of his ideas:

‘A well prepared meal is a work of art,’ he would say.  I couldn’t relate to this.  Most of my meals at the time came from slightly raunchy restaurants, or our absolutely raunchy kitchen in the house I shared with other students, or from the Wake Forest cafeteria, a.k.a. “The Pit.”

‘A soap opera episode, in some cases, can be a work of art,’ Dr. Helm would also say.

This also didn’t seem to make sense to me.  My soap opera experience was based on time I spent visiting my grandmother while she watched.  The story never seemed to go anywhere!

Of course these statements were meant to provoke discussion around the seminar table, and they did.

I don’t remember much content from a class that took place 32 years ago, but I remember the emotion quite well.  I was frustrated.  It was a seminar.  The others in the class were upper class philosophy majors and I wasn’t.  The other students were better at the lingo and referred to other philosophers.  I fancied myself a poet (a kind of artist) — and although I loved philosophy, I wasn’t much of a talker on the subject.  So I mostly just sat there, wanting to participate but too afraid, and listened.

But I do have my opinion about the underwear.  In my view, it depends on whose underwear it is.  If it’s a pair of my underwear, hanging from a tree in front of my house, then it’s just underwear.  I’m not that kind of artist.

Clyde Overcash, on the other hand, consistently produces visual art.  I own a number of his paintings.  His underwear, hanging in front of his gallery — is certainly a work of art.

It may stink, but it’s still a work of art.

The fact that someone in the art world assumes the role of art police and censors the work proves his point even further:  it’s a provocative work of art.

Maybe the whole thing is staged media hype — a publicity stunt for Salisbury artists.

In a phone call this evening, I reported the incident to my son (a painter and musician).  He likes to get the latest updates from Salisbury.

“That’s a juicy story,” he said.

When I told him I was blogging about it, he suggested I allude to Duchamp’s Fountain.

"Fountain," by Marcel Duchamp
"Fountain," by Marcel Duchamp

7 Replies to “Clyde's underwear art”

  1. I would love it if people who are going to gossip about me would spell my name right and get the name right of the local arts council. You really shouldn’t wade in on the subject, though, because you do not know what you are talking about, Sam.

    1. I apologize for the misspelling. It’s correct now, I think. The Salisbury Post had it spelled wrong also, which is where I saw it. I got the name of the arts council correct (if you go back ten years). My apologies.

      I never pretended to know anything about the specific circumstances (the gossip). I agree, that wouldn’t be fair to write or talk about that, without knowing what actually happened. Even if I knew a lot of the gossip, I wouldn’t write about that. What’s constructive about that kind of gossip?

      I do think — overall — it’s good publicity for Clyde, the Rowan Arts Council, and the art scene in Salisbury.

      However, this happens at your expense, which I’m sure is a real aggravation. And a distraction from the real work you are trying to do. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this and hope for a peaceful, positive resolution.

      But the blog was mostly about a class I took in college, which is just a personal story and seems okay to me. I’m pretty sure I knew enough about a class I took to wade in on that.

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