The Bean, Chicago: I’m in Love!

I love art in all its forms. I’ve studied the arguments about what makes fine art versus mass art, and I think they are all a bunch of hogwash. I’ve loved art that the person next to me is saying “you call that art”. Art is so damn subjective, I’m going to leave it at I love all art and try to avoid the conversation of what really constitutes as art.

Even though I’m avoiding this art argument, I am going to make an argument for my favorite kind of art and why it makes my heart sing.

The Bean! (Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor)

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Now, I’m not from Chicago. I don’t know the overall impact that the “Cloud Gate” created by Anish Kapoor with it’s endearing Bean nickname has left on Chicago. But on my road trip, the Bean completely changed my relationship with art and how I think about it. So let’s get my view on the Bean straight out in the open. I’m in love with the Bean. It is the epitome for art that I will hope to strive.

I’m sure one of you reading this right now, especially my San Francisco friends who disdain anything touristy, are questioning my sanity. The Bean is tourist trap numero uno for Chicago, and I join those tourists in their chorus of praise. Luckily for me, in Utah or in NorCal, I could give a rats ass about trying to make sure that I like the right things to fit in, and I won’t ever be ashamed of my love of touristy things.

Back to the Bean – on the day my Dad and I visited, it had been raining all morning and the sky was still cloudy. However, that did not keep the visitors away. The platform the Bean rests upon was crowded with families, couples, and kids from all over the world. Almost everyone out their had their phones out and were taking selfies with the Bean. Oh crap, art that makes you want to take a selfie with it! I’m reading my Facebook feed now and see friends complaining about the lameness of the selfie. Shit, double negative whammy for the Bean – tourist trap and selfie magnet. Yet, my love still burns so very bright for this magical Bean.

Dad and I joined right in with the pictures and seeing what kind of reflections we could get from the Bean. We didn’t act any better than anyone else out there, and didn’t let the nature of the tourist trap keep us from truly enjoying the Bean. But I would say this also allowed us to experience the Bean’s true nature, the reason it wrapped itself around my heart, and made me fall in love.

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Even before experiencing the Bean, my relationship with art has been focused more on experiencing art rather than just a passive voyeur consuming art. Art even in sculpture, painting, photography, is a performance that tells a story. This story will always place art where it fits into culture and society. The Bean has perfected this performance of art.

I don’t think it’s possible to just go see the Bean and look at it. The Bean calls you in, and it enters into a relationship with you. The Bean reflects yourself right back at you, but in a very different way. When playing around the Bean, even when taking all those selfies, it is really a dance with the Bean.

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I still haven’t explained why I love the Bean. I’ve so far just hinted at it. It’s not just that the Bean creates a relationship with you when you visit and you become part of the art. It’s that this relationship creates joy and happiness. Visiting the Bean was one of the most happy stops on our trip. I loved watching all the people interacting with the Bean and taking photos. Everyone was laughing, and making silly poses and faces. The Bean is a piece of art that makes the viewer or participant experience joy. The Bean makes the people visiting it play! Not just with the sculpture but also with each other. It is this ability of The Bean that makes people play and feel joyous is the reason I’m absolutely in love with it. It’s also now what I hope to create with my art.

I’ll be honest that I haven’t seen many sculptures, paintings, or fixed art objects that have had this ability to create the interactive relationship of the Bean that then creates joy and makes people want to play. Art definitely creates an emotional reaction, and my preference is for art that makes me feel good. And I do understand the power of art that makes you feel other things. But typically it is only emotion that is stirred, at most maybe I’ve cried. For joy and play, it usually comes from music, performance art, and improvisation theater.  The Bean creates interaction and relationship that is performed on that platform. It is not merely a static sculpture. The Bean is constantly in change and morphing as each different person is reflected in it’s metallic skin. The people playing with the Bean become part of the art.

I could have sat at the Bean for hours watching all the visitors play with the Bean. It was such an amazing experience to see all that joy and play. So now as I start exploring my creative path, the Bean is shaping my experience and my hopes for my art. Luckily, the Bean was not the only encounter of this type of art on my journey.

In the Little Italy neighborhood of New York City, I found a street art mural of angel wings called What Lifts You from Kelsey Montague. People will posing in front of the wings and taking photos. Again, people were laughing and interacting with the art. It was the way the wings were painted that called people in and invited them to pose. I wanted my photo in front of the wings but my Dad was too impatient for me to wait in line that long. But once again the piece got me thinking about my art; how do I create art that invites people to interact with it and find joy?

What Lifts You, Kelsey Montague

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I’m just beginning again on my creative journey, and exploring how I can translate my vision of the world into art. However, I’m grateful that I’ve already found such a tenet to guide the development of my artistic vision. I admit I’m overwhelmed about how I will create art that brings joy and makes people play. But I’m so happy this type of art already exists and is spreading it’s joy.

On one last note, I’m also reminded by a photo instructor that recommend to never try to take the perfect shot of a place when traveling and don’t worry about the people in the picture. Rather, embrace the people, embrace your travel companions, and embrace yourself in the picture. What makes travel photos unique and special is to include yourself or your companions in the photo. I think this advice is true for all art. The museum experience seems to keep you distanced from the art with it hung on walls high up with wires or steps keeping you from getting close. But you can find that perfect picture already take online or in a book. Isn’t it better to throw yourself into the mix and interact with the art?  From now on, I will remember that sometimes art like the Bean just calls me in to play, but other art that’s a bit more static requires me to step up my game and be the one to initiate the play.

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