Illustration by Petra Larsen.

Illustration by Petra Larsen.


Etiquette for Artful Living


Dear Babs, What do you think about using live animals in an artwork? I recently went to a museum in Montreal and witnessed an entire exhibition of finches playing guitars! The air conditioning was blasting and I thought they needed little sweaters! Seriously!
—Shelly, New York City

Dear Shelly, I’m shivering just thinking of those rock-and-roller finches playing guitars in the buff. I’m a little on the fence about animals and art. If the animals aren’t being abused in any way, then I don’t see the harm. But I can hardly fathom the reality of a guitar-riffing finch going along with the script. It’s probably best to let all the finches let their freak flags fly… and I mean really fly, in wide-open spaces.


Dear Babs, I am a professor of art history at a local Cal State school. My students are starry-eyed and think they will have “careers” in the art world. I want to encourage them, but I know the sad truth about what the art world has become—what advice should I give them?
—Pamela, Los Angeles

Dear Pamela, For some reason, I have no sympathy for your students. Hopefully they are in your art class, or picked art for their major, because they have a passion for art. Especially in an undergraduate program a student should be exploring what they might want out of life. Career? Perhaps, but if it’s art, tell them to forget it. Young people might play football in college because they love it, that doesn’t mean they are going to become a pro. Literature students study the Great Books because of their love and interest—that doesn’t mean they’re going to be the next Hemingway. Encourage your students to explore as many subjects they have a passion for. If they are seeking employment, I would advise them to go to a vocational or trade school—but not one of those for-profit diploma mills!


Babs cares.
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