Once upon a time, Art and Beauty lived happily….  but that is the beginning of the tale, not the end.  Art and Beauty seemed the perfect couple.  Art was so virile, so passionate, so capable, and Beauty was so… so… beautiful.  They cohabited congenially for years, and Beauty, for her part, remained perfectly content to just sit there looking pretty.  But Art became restless and went out and outdid himself, outwitted himself, and outgrew the relationship.    Poor Beauty still sits there looking pretty as a Dante Gabriel Rossetti painting, but Art has taken a fancy to the devilishly inventive exploits of those such as Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Alice Neel, Edvard Munch, Salvador Dali, and Willem De Kooning. .. artists who have led (and followed) Art astray. .. .


[Rossetti - Proserpine]

Left – Marcel Duchamp’s mustachioed rendition of the Mona Lisa

Right – Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s (of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) The Day Dream


Since the winsome and bucolic

were scrapped by Jackson Pollock,

Jackson Pollock’s Autumn Rhythm

art’s nature isn’t what it used to be.

It’s a bit more energetic

but a good deal less aesthetic

since art and beauty parted company.

Both the lithe and Rubenesque

have given way to the grotesque.    

What decorates our walls is strange to see.

The classic nudes’ pristine appeal

has run afoul of Alice Neel

Self Portrait

Alice Neel’s Self Portrait

       since art and beauty parted company.

The Pre-Raphaelite brothers,

all the Whistlers and their mothers

were knocked off their rockers by Dada decree.

Trash is art and art is trash,

Mona’s sporting a mustache

 since art and beauty parted company.

                   I am haunted by Munch’s Scream,

The Scream

Eduard Munch’s The Scream

    the nightmares Dali loved to dream,

Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory

    and de Kooning’s women sort of frighten me.

Willem de Kooning. Woman, I. 1950-52

Willem De Kooning’s Woman 1

                  But the furies have found grace,

                   the world’s become a homely place

                   since art and beauty parted company.

 (Mike Cohen – Nov  2007)


Art may not have a real job, but it is never idle.  Art cannot be still and still be art.       

           WHEN THE VAN GOGH VANISHED          

                                                          When the Van Gogh vanished
I do not know.  It’s still there, I suppose,
on the wall in the corridor,
but I haven’t seen it in a very long while.

The extraordinary painting has somehow been lost
in the warp and woof of the everyday,
as so much is lost
senselessly, to a dulling of the senses,
a perceptual erosion that does not discriminate between ugliness and beauty. 

            I’ll walk down that corridor many times, abstracted
with frets about
my doubts or my debts,
my love or my lunch,
my toil or my toilet.
And I will ignore the Van Gogh as I have so often. 

Then one day, perhaps,
my mind blank as a newly stretched canvas,
I will stop on my way down the corridor, and be
surprised and delighted to see it there,
like a lost treasure returned.

(Mike  Cohen – Jan  2007)


From neo-classicism to realism to impressionism to cubism to dada to abstract expressionism, the movements keep art going.  A figurative (as well as physical) restlessness is essential to art and how it drives aesthetics.  Rather than simply leaving beauty behind, art repeatedly redefines beauty, saving it from fading into the oblivion of stagnation.  



          Years later you walk into a bar and notice a strange, yet strangely familiar couple.  Then you realize it’s Art and Beauty and you are surprised to see them still together.  You scarcely recognize Beauty, she looks so different.  At first the difference just doesn’t look pretty, but as your eyes grow accustomed to the peculiar light you recognize that for all the turmoil Art has put her through, Beauty remains beautiful, yet beautiful in ways you never imagined before.  Art gives you a wink as if to say he can see you like what he’s done with Beauty.  And Beauty, noticing the favorable turn of your reaction, winks at Art as if to say she likes what Art has done with you.                                                                          

(Mike Cohen – Feb 2012)


Art never will have a real job, but keeps at its unreal job tirelessly, ceaselessly playing the angles, playing tricks, playing on your aesthetic sensibilities.  That is how art works. 


            Uncle Bernar was an artist whose complete works consist of one painting that he left unfinished at his death.  He was in the process of the final revision, which would not have been the final revision if only he had survived the aneurysm that took his life.

            One painting.  Leonardo he wasn’t.  But like the great past masters, Uncle Bernar was always hard at work by his easel. Yet he spent his entire artistic career at composing and revising that one painting. 

            When I became old enough to wonder about this, and asked him why he didn’t finish it, he said to me, “Isn’t this painting a beautiful thing?”  It was indeed beautiful, even in its uncompleted state. “Yes, Uncle,” I replied.  “So, why not finish it?”

            Uncle Bernar smiled and said, “Look at the sunset.  Isn’t it also a beautiful thing?”  I looked and nodded.  “But keep watching,” he continued.  “It changes and changes even after the sun goes down. It changes as long as it lasts. And it lasts as long as it changes. That is the nature of beauty.”

            Years have passed.  And still I watch the sunsets and admire their mutable splendor with Uncle Bernar in mind.  And still I look often at his masterpiece.  Each time it seems to me changed and changing.  Never finished.  And always beautiful.

           (Mike  Cohen – Nov  2002)

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