Snowpocalypse (What is art?)
This afternoon I received an email from a local artist with the subject line “Snowpocalypse.” Here is the email, copied in its entirety:
We’ve got a big storm coming to New York and I’ve been waiting for one. I have this art piece I’ve been thinking about for awhile now and I need your help to realize it.
I am looking for people to help me make a giant snowball on Sunday afternoon.
The storm should be over by then and hopefully the trains will be running.
I was thinking to do it under or around the Unisphere out at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens as it would be an apt setting. One big globe near another as it were.
The largest Snowball I know of was about 11 ft in diameter. A quick google check should answer that though.
So if you are free on Sunday I would love to meet you out there. Please let me know by Saturday evening or Sunday early if you can come.
PS. I also would like some help documenting this. If you feel like running a video camera or still camera for me that would be a great help too.”
The first thing I did upon reading this email was smile. Huge smile, ear to ear. I’m not a cold weather person but I’ve always loved snow, especially playing around in it like a little kid. Snowstorms are one of those things that I believe bring out the kid in all of us, no matter how grown up we all act otherwise. (Other things on that list: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, bouncy castles big enough for adults, carnival food.)
The second thing I did was sigh. Alas, Flushing Meadows Park in Queens is too far and inconvenient a destination for me, so realistically I just don’t see participating in this gigantic ball of fun.
The last thing I did though was contemplate exactly what Lieb is trying to achieve, besides breaking the world’s largest snowball record. He is, after all, an artist. He says right in the opening paragraph, “I have this art piece I’ve been thinking about for awhile now and I need your help to realize it.” Lieb isn’t really trying to break a world record; that’s a means to an end. His end is to create a work of art, which is how he defines this preposterously large snowball.
The question of “what is art” has been asked for centuries and the answer changes with the times. It’s something that you think about even if you’re not a fan of art per se. In fact, I think it’s a question that people who don’t particularly appreciate art ask more than those with such an appreciation. They don’t art in places where artists, like Lieb, do.
I am not an artist. Nor am I anywhere near an expert, though I’ve been trying to educate myself of forms of art of late. I have a sense of what I definitely like (pop art) and what I don’t (sculpture of any kind), with many things falling somewhere in between. But since familiarizing myself with Warhol and the pop art movement, I’ve learned the most critical thing about art is that it can be found anywhere. Not everything is art, but everything has the potential to be if the creator – the artist – has that vision in mind.
Lieb is setting out to make snowball art. I can’t guarantee that he’ll be successful, only that by Sunday evening Lieb himself will know whether he’s successfully executed his vision or not. If so, he’s made a work of art, albeit one that I can guarantee will melt away quicker than any before it.