David! Cover Up!
April 25, 2001 4:40 PM   Subscribe

David! Cover Up! But it gets so darned hot and humid this time of the year in Florida, even for great art. Is this likely to lead our school kids astray too?
posted by Postroad (20 comments total)
and look at that hair, fluffy under, flat on top. it's grotesque.
nobody has that much hair.

and those huge hairy hands, you know what that violent teenage dave's doing with them. i mean, who can resist that body? not even himself, obviously.
posted by elle at 4:46 PM on April 25, 2001

Once the girls saw it, I found myself in a position where I had to explain what a penis is.
God forbid the girls ever find out about such a dirty, dirty organ . . .
posted by aladfar at 4:50 PM on April 25, 2001

Dammitalltohell, aladfar, you beat me to it.
posted by delfuego at 5:15 PM on April 25, 2001

....and me, too...

this falls into the "i won't dignify it with a comment" department.
posted by jpoulos at 5:31 PM on April 25, 2001

This sounds suspiciously like the Simpsons episode in which Reverend Lovejoy's wife and Maude Flanders led a crusade to cover up David's doodle at the the Springfield Art museum.
posted by shinji_ikari at 5:32 PM on April 25, 2001

"I didn't even know it was art,'' Johnson said. "To me, it's just a naked man standing on the side of the road."

Translation: "I am as ignorant as dirt."

Just wait till her kids start asking her about the slang usage of their last name. "Huhuhuh. Your name is Johnson?"
posted by kindall at 5:36 PM on April 25, 2001

"I'm most bothered by the fact that someone has turned a classic piece of art into a lawn ornament,'' Miller said.

Personally, I'm most bothered by those bent-over fat lady lawn ornaments.
posted by fusinski at 6:38 PM on April 25, 2001

I'm most bothered by people who always seem to want to push their own sense of decency onto others.

(I've said this before, haven't I? Huh.)
posted by benjh at 7:30 PM on April 25, 2001

I don't know why this reminds me of one our crazy neighbours. My mother had a life size metal sculpture of a Blue Heron in our living room window. One of the neighbours came over to pay her respects after my mother passed away and was surprised by the statue. She mumbled something about thinking that we'd had the vaccuum cleaner in the window all those years.
posted by heather at 8:15 PM on April 25, 2001

I unfortunately have to suffer living in this county where gentrification is defined by the addition of a new McDonald's or Super Wal-Mart Center.

it truly depresses me from day to day, the fact that my wife and I will be raising a child in such a backward and uneducated place frightens me. you all should see the lowest common denominator of people that reside here. . .sheesh!
posted by SentientAI at 6:47 AM on April 26, 2001

We are all so smart! Hooray for us!
posted by rodii at 7:12 AM on April 26, 2001

And since the hype shows no signs of slowing down, Cole said he'll replace the old cleaning rag that currently graces ``David's'' waist with a leopard print bandanna in the coming days. ``I figure if I'm going to have to cover him up, I might as well do it in style.''

I think I'm going to be sick.

Yes. I'm going to be sick.
posted by J. R. Hughto at 7:33 AM on April 26, 2001

We are all so smart! Hooray for us!

I wondered how long it would take for someone to come along and play the elitism card. But if expecting people to be able to recognize what is arguably the most famous statue in the world makes one elitist, then hell, I've been called worse.

To me, it's not about being smart, it's about not sleepwalking through your whole damn life. How can anyone be so out of touch with their own culture that they've never seen David before? It's like being unable to hum the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or quote the first line of Hamlet's soliloquy. The only possible way you could be ignorant of these things at the age of 30 or 40 is if you just weren't paying attention, ever. You'll have a hard time convincing me this kind of willful ignorance isn't deserving of derision.
posted by kindall at 12:01 PM on April 26, 2001

This isn't even about recognising David. This isn't about being culturally in-touch, it's about being "big picture" stupid. David is only offensive to close-minded idiots - it has less to do with being in touch with culture as it does with being in touch with common freaking sense.
posted by Dreama at 12:45 PM on April 26, 2001

Personally, I'm most bothered by those bent-over fat lady lawn ornaments.

Hey don't go there man, I have one of those. And her bloomers are decently covering those naughty sexual organs too.

The one thing I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned is the fact that this issue, even with David in particular, goes back way before this century. We once had painted fig leaves on the figures in the Sistine Chapel as too remember...but since the Pope's infallible, that must have been right at the time...
posted by DiplomaticImmunity at 2:15 PM on April 26, 2001

Elitism? No way. You wound me, kindall. That was the self-congratulation card. The difference is subtle but real. Although SentientAI's comment above makes me wonder. No one is ever so quick to define a cultural hierarchy as the middlebrow.

Personally, I think anyone who hasn't read Wyndham Lewis' trilogy (The Childermass, Monstre Gai, Malign Fiesta) is simply beneath my notice. But you wouldn't believe how many people here "in my county" think Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities is the height of literary modernism. Rednecks!

(Not really. The point is that, if you're going to define people as beneath you on the cultural hierarchy, then it's legitimate for somebody to do it to you.)

(And so what if David is "the most famous"? Fame is about hype, not quality. And to many people, that particular sort of fame is simply not part of their lebenswelt. Lots of people don't know the difference between a box wrench and an open-end wrench. A case could be made that knowing about tools is a more important cultural virtue than knowing about Famous Statues. But what would be the point of sneering at people about it?)
posted by rodii at 5:04 PM on April 26, 2001

My point is, if you are alive, you have been exposed to David, Beethoven's Fifth, Hamlet, the Mona Lisa, and many other cultural artifacts repeatedly. It is virtually impossible to avoid finding out about the most popular of these works simply because they are referenced so frequently. You should recognize them merely due to repeated exposure, even if you don't know their names or particularly care for them. If, by the time you reach the age of spawning, you have not noticed most of these things, you just are not paying enough attention to the world as it passes by in front of your face.

"I didn't even know it was art," the woman said. Where has she been hiding all her life to avoid finding that out?

I'm not saying you have to like any of these "greatest" works, I'm saying that unless you're legally blind, or very young, you have little excuse to claim you weren't aware that David was a famous statue. It is, as I said, arguably the famous statue. (Others in the running are the Venus de Milo and Rodin's Thinker, but off the top of my head I can't think of many more that might make the cut, unless you count monuments, in which case the Statue of Liberty is probably the front-runner if you're an American.)

It is like saying, "Oh, that's an unusual color" when someone shows you a swatch of red, as if you had somehow managed to live your entire life up to that moment without seeing the color. It's preposterous.
posted by kindall at 6:06 PM on April 26, 2001

Maybe the problem is that you think I was responding to that claim up above, when I was actually responding to SentientAI's. Sorry I didn't make that clearer.

But I still think you're overstating the extent to which David (e.g.) is known. I would guess its Q-factor (so to speak) isn't in the same league as the Mona Lisa, the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth, or Britney Spears. Obviously, in the absence of actual data it will be hard to resolve this. I would bet you a kielbasa (Detroit nostalgia for ya), though, that if I showed a slide of David to the freshman class I just finished grading, more than half couldn't identify it and a substantial number wouldn't recognize it. And I bet that if I asked them cold "how many of you know Michelangelo's David?" I might get 25%.

And these are smart kids, just narrow and not inclined to retain information they don't have an immediate use for. Four years from now, I bet it will be a different story, but not everyone goes though four years of college. (I heard yesterday that only 22% of Americans have a college degree, still.)

OK, I just asked my wife, who's an art historian and who works in an art museum. I asked her, if she showed a slide of David on the first day of her intro art history course (at Michigan), how many people would recognize it as a work of art? At first she said "Lots, because it's a refrigerator magnet," which accords with your point. When I pressed her for a number she shrugged and said "75 percent?" Obviously there a big margin of error there, but it says something if a significant portion of college sophomores and juniors--and these are the ones that are self-selecting for interest in art!--wouldn't recognize David. When I asked her how many could correctly attribute it, she said no more than 10 percent. (We agreed the numbers for the Mona Lisa would be much higher.)

She also told me about a tour she gave to a group of Detroit high-schoolers a couple of days ago, in which no one could identify the pyramids of Egypt or the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Didn't know 'em, hadn't heard of them. I have no idea what to make of that.

I'm not disagreeing that people *should* know these things--though again, I think the idea bears some inspection. But when it comes to "is" instead of "ought," I think you're underplaying the differences in education and attitudes toward culture in the US. You think the woman in the story is an outlier; I don't.

(Sorry to have gone on so long.)
posted by rodii at 7:04 PM on April 26, 2001

I guess you may be right after all, that David isn't in the same league as the Mona Lisa in terms of recognition. When I mentally reach for an archetype of sculpture it springs to mind, but on the other hand, I can name a lot more famous paintings or musical compositions than I can sculptures.

I might be tempted to say it's sad for people to be so culturally impoverished, but I guess you can only really miss it if you know it's there to begin with.
posted by kindall at 7:47 PM on April 26, 2001

High school students not able to identify the pyramids of Egypt? Egads! Did they even know what pyramids were? Or did they think they were just weird triangular stone thingies?
posted by lia at 1:07 AM on April 27, 2001

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