The last time I was in Seattle, I had a chance to tour the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is really a very impressive public installation. Probably my favorite piece was Split, an actual-size metal rendering of a leafless tree by someone named Roxy Paine. When I went to the OSP website to learn more about it, there was this statement:
"Camouflaged in the natural setting and light, Split reflects its surroundings and poses the question, 'What is nature, what is art?' "
Now, this is interesting for several reasons. First of all, it's the type of vague, watery description which seems so prevalent in art museums now, and which I would expect to find in a B-minus art studies paper. And second of all, it's not how I regarded Split at all. I just thought it was a beautiful sculpture, period. No ambivalence. I've always thought that the form of a tree is one of the most beautiful things in nature, and I kind of gravitate towards art that includes representations of trees, and this one was especially striking.
But I guess you have to say something about art, don't you? You can't just describe everything in a museum with "Beautiful, huh?" So if it had been up to me, I would've written something like, "Who says you can't gild the lily?" Even though it's a tree, not a lily; and it's silver, not gold.