Today’s post touches on larger aesthetic and moral issues, but first let’s showcase some weird art! This is “Blossom Monster” a 3 foot by 7 foot chimerical monster which I made to celebrate the annual reappearance of the cherry blossoms. It is a sort of cross between a deep sea fish, a scorpion, and a horse. The creature is crafted from paper mache (or papier-mâché?) and has LED-light up eyes and fluorescent pink skin which glows faintly in the dark. I initially placed it beside the tulip bed, but then I realized it was on top of the iris, so now the creature has been shuffling aimlessly around the garden looking for a permanent display spot. “Blossom Monster” is made of discount glue which I bought in bulk from the 99 cent store, so, as soon as it rains, the sculpture will probably dissolve into a heap of gelatinous ooze and that will be that.
There is nothing more beautiful than cherry blossoms, so why did I make a weird ugly fluorescent monster to go with them? I have a story to answer that question: every year the Brooklyn Botanic garden has a famous cherry blossom festival which is attended by tens of thousands of people (at the least). Although I think the tree in my garden is prettier than any individual specimen they have, the Botanic Garden has orchards full of Kwanzan cherry trees along with hawthorns, quinces, magnolias, plums, horse-chestnuts, and other splendid flowering trees. The effect is truly ineffable—like the Jade Emperor’s heavenly court in Chinese mythology. Yet over the years people became bored with the otherworldly beauty of trees in full flower, so the Botanic Garden was forced to augment their festival by adding odd drum performances, strange post-modern theater, and K-pop music. They also invited cosplayers–so now the blossom festival is filled with space robots, ronin, mutant turtles, and provocatively attired cat-people (in addition to the already heterogeneous citizenry of Brooklyn).
Adding layers of kitsch, tragic drama, manga, and human aspirations (of all sorts) has greatly augmented the peerless beauty of the blossoms. The prettiness of the garden has been elevated into high-art by the plastic hats, spandex, and makeup. The blossom festival now has a fascinating human element of ever-changing desire, aspiration, and drama which the blossoms lacked by themselves (except maybe to gardeners, who know exactly how hard it is to get perfect flowers to grow).
Of course the shifting annual particulars of novelty do not match the timeless beauty of the cherry trees. In a few years we will all hate princesses, k-pop, and furries which will seem like hopelessly outdated concepts from the ‘teens. The blossom festivals of tomorrow will be attended by future people wearing neo-puritan garb, or hazmat suits, or nothing! Who knows? The allure of the cherry blossoms will never change, but the whims of the crowd beneath will always make the blossoms seem new.
Novelty has always struck me as weak sauce, but it is, by nature, a new sauce. It needs to be drizzled on things to make them appealing (even if they are already the best things—like cherry blossoms). This is a monstrous truth behind all fads, tastes, and art movements. I have represented it in paper mache and fluorescent paint! Once my monster dissolves I will have to come up with a new act for next year.