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September 02, 2003
Fandom

It's a topic that comes up from time to time and I always like to add to the body of knowledge (so to speak) on the subject of the latest appearances.

Fandom is not, as some believe, limited to prepubescent girls joining fan clubs for pop stars or people sporting Spock ears and practicing that Vulcan nerve pinch. It's found in all areas of life.

Men who would scorn to explore the emotional subtleties of a Merchant Ivory film by joining a group dedicated to discussing the nuances of the script and performances will spend hours a week for months on end playing "fantasy" sports games. What is that but fandom?

Women who would draw their metaphorical skirts aside to avoid being contaminated with an obsession over a television show will join on-line discussion groups with a preoccupation about embroidery patterns. It's just fandom.

Anyhow. The latest outbreak is in the world of art where a guy named Seward Johnson (Or something. It's hard to get the names right from the radio when you're fighting rush-hour traffic), one of the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, is gaining establishment acceptance for his particular fannish obsession.

It seems that Mr. Johnson has decided that great Impressionist works by painters such as Renoir should be turned into...wait for it....interactive dioramas.

He recreates scenes from famous pictures and the viewer is encouraged to wander into the space to see details not included in the original painting and to view the scenes from other than the artist's perspective. That's the bit that distinctly identifies this as a fannish obsession, the bit where he adds his own interpretations to the work.

"I am recreating the artistís subject, not his work," Johnson explains. "The artist painted only part of what he saw. What is beyond his frame is my territory. I have a tremendous amount of fun deciding what else to include."

If he wasn't a multi-multi-millionaire, he'd be just another fanboy.

These life-sized 3D renditions open in the Corcoran soon and the exhibition will be traveling to (one presumes) a limited number of other museums.

I have a passion for Impressionist art, but I'm not sure I'd go see Johnson's toys even if they showed up in Denver. (On the other hand, I'm looking forward to visiting the "Sargent in Italy" exhibit at the Denver Art Museum this weekend.)

Posted by AnneZook at 01:27 PM


Comments

Oh, I actually think this is a really good idea, it'll get a lot of people to appreciate (and want to find out more about) the original after their interactive experience with the copy. But then, I've been involved in various fandoms my entire adult life, so what do I know? :)

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at September 3, 2003 06:48 AM

Well, so have I, but I'm proud to say I've never lost my amateur status. :)

Seriously, a Monet is a Monet, no matter what subject the artist chose to paint each time.

This guy could have made dioramas of anything and no one would have cared. It's only because he's choosing famous paintings that anyone is taking him seriously. If it's not "art" without riding on Renoir's or Monet's coattails, then it's not art. It's just a gimmick.

IMO, of course.

Posted by: Anne at September 3, 2003 07:50 AM

I completely agree with your summation of what amounts to fandom by Mr. Johnson. I actually work at the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale. This same show was presented to our Exhibitions committee by a former interim director, they turned it down unanimously. After seeing this show and the reviews it has garnered, I can say quite honestly, thank god we didn't get saddled with Mr. Richy Rich's latest endeavor. I would refer you all to the art review by Washington Post art critic, Blake Gopnik, I think he accurately captures the spirit of the show, or is it lack of?
shauntelle

Posted by: Shauntelle at October 2, 2003 12:50 PM