The Muses must be crazy

Photo of a partial female figure in bronze with an exposed interior at the foundry by Blake Ward Blake Sculpture

From time to time, I find myself thinking that the Muses must be crazy!

How do certain works of contemporary art make it into museum collections?

Am I missing something? Perhaps I am.

It is at times like this when I delve into the academic world seeking to understand that missing link.

In Ancient Greece, ‘Mouseions’ were temples built for the Muses, who were obviously the goddesses or divinities of the arts and sciences.

J.V. Maranto explains that: “Supplicants asked the muses to keep watch over academics and grant ingenuity to those they deemed worthy.

The temples were filled with offerings of sculptures, mosaics, complex scientific apparatuses, poetic and literary inscriptions, and any other tribute that would demonstrate a mortal’s worthiness for divine inspiration.” [1]

This is where the word museum comes from.

Are we worthy of divine inspiration?

Would Ennigaldi-Nanna, the Mesopotamian Princess who curated the first museum in 530 BC, have considered us worthy of her collection?

Human nature makes it so that we like that which we recognize or understand.

This is where the scholars come in and make all the difference.

Sometimes we just don’t get it.

As we stand in front of a 6 foot steel cube, for example, we might have a hard time regarding it as a significant work of art because well, it’s a cube!

We’ve seen one before and it really doesn’t display any virtuosity or hidden philosophical insight or message, or does it?

It isn’t remarkable, or is it?

It isn’t until we notice its title Die (Tony Smith, 1968) that we begin to make associations such as one of a pair of dice or even our own mortality. (Not that playing dice could kill anyone!)

Smith remarked, “Six feet has a suggestion of being cooked. Six foot box. Six foot under.” [2]

The point is that we can allow our minds to wander and reach for ideas.

There is that interplay between title and object, where nothing is absolute.

It becomes an experience as the monumental cube occupies the space before us and alludes to so more than the eye can see.

The Muses grant ingenuity to us mere mortals so that we might inspire deeper appreciation and understanding.

Without art and without scholars the world would be reduced to a whirling vortex of emptiness, museums would be vacant and lifeless and the Muses then, really would go crazy!

Written by Boky Hackel