Life mirrors art

underwear art conflict
what is art?

Norman Mailer said that “once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever.”

Which is where we are now.  The Clyde Overcash/Anne Caldwell Cave/What is Art? conflict is basically over.  The rest is art.

I just finished reading several articles in today’s Salisbury Post that further advance and illuminate the story.

Emily Ford column

Sarah Hall Column

Emily Ford story

A story about the history of underwear art in Salisbury

My favorite line was the last of Sarah Hall’s:  “In this case, the finest art may be the art of forgiveness.”

This event comes just after a local production of Yasmina Reza’s play, Art, which is no accident.  This is a small town where the power of suggestion prevails like anywhere else.

Like the play, this incident has nothing to do with art.  It’s about, as Sarah says, the problem we human beings have with forgiveness — a simple act that looks so simple and feels so difficult.

In Reza’s play, a guy buys a work of art and gets into an argument.  The play is about the argument, not the art.

In Salisbury, a guy hangs out a pair of underwear and calls it art.  Somebody steals it.  The rest is about the dispute, not the art.

But Art gives the story a little glamor.  A bit of pizazz.

If forgiveness were as simple as it looks and sounds, then we would have no play.  And we would have no news story.  We would certainly not have a juicy trial to look forward to.

And we would have little if any art.

Whether it’s on the surface, or in some place too deep for words, conflict is the stuff of art.  We need it.  It stimulates our thinking and our emotions.  Otherwise — what have we got?  People going to work and being productive and getting along?  All hugs and kisses.  No slings and arrows?  Pleasantville?

Where’s the fun in that?

One could argue that we need art in order to examine our conflicts and be civilized beings.  It’s better than the real life alternative — acting on them.

Years ago, when somebody stole my bike, it wasn’t much of a story.

But stealing a pair of underwear art is just too rich.

Clyde's underwear marketing (thinking outside the boxers)

clyde's underwear
clyde's underwear

Artists need publicity.

It’s not easy to get the media interested, but the combination of art, underwear, conflict, and criminal charges seems to do the trick.

Salisbury Post Article

TV News Report

My blog about it

As I was driving down Council Street yesterday, in order to deliver my paper, Coffee News, to Wong’s Chinese Restaurant, I stopped and took a picture of the infamous underwear hanging in front of Clyde Overcash’s gallery (next door to Wong’s).

Originally, they hung on the side wall, in the alley.  With all the publicity, he’s moved them to the flagpole in front of the store.

We talked briefly and I was hoping to get a picture of him with the underwear (or maybe even a short video).

But we were interrupted.  I got a phone call.  He had to go wait on two customers who entered his store.

Is it possible the hanging underwear gave his business a bit of a boost?

Absolutely.  Whether it’s calculated or accidental — either way — the underwear stunt is a great example of effective marketing.

“Thinking outside the box” may be a cliché, but it’s a necessity for marketing any business.

When I was working on Coffee Therapy, a TV reporter contacted me, but whatever I said about the film did not seem to be enticing enough to attract a story.  Perhaps the film needed more underwear.

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