Matthew Barney

When I think of Matthew and Barney, here’s what I see in my mind’s eye.

But the two names together are something entirely different: an avant-garde artist, Matthew Barney. He had a show at the Guggenheim museum in NYC when my family—mom and dad, sister and brother-in-law, DH and I—visited in 2003.

Touristy activities over the years blur together in my mind, but not this one. The Guggenheim itself is memorable. I remember the functional and elegant grand spiral ramp. And Matthew Barney and his work are memorable, too. Definitely not functional. I’ll let others judge the elegance.

The show was “The Cremaster.” Cremaster is an anatomical term: a muscle that moves the testicles. This alone gave me and my sister a chance for tittering. How would our culturally conservative father react to this provocative art?

The work was odd and disturbing. I recall images of Barney himself in various goat-like costumes. The Devil? Lots of bloody mouths. At least one room had sculptures made from Vaseline (and appropriate temperature control). The work was multi-media: drawings, sculpture, performance art, movies. It was massive in scale. The Guggenheim was an appropriately vast canvas for it.

I do not pretend to have deep appreciation for art, modern or otherwise. But I did deeply appreciate something that day. I remember thinking, “if this guy can get up in the morning, fired with enthusiasm for building an entire kitchen out of Vaseline, and make an entire series of films in honor of the cremaster, then I can probably finish the damn paper I am working on.”

Matthew Barney is my icon for single-minded focus and absorption on projects with intrinsic importance. If he can do, we can, too!


Ha! If you looked at this post right when I posted it, you saw broken image links. I got into the guts of my GoDaddy files and fixed that issue. YAY ME! Further project for today or this week or month is updating my PHP version.

And I got the darn PHP updated, too! A testament to single-minded focus…devil goats or web servers.

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