Disclaimer: I’m a crazy, nutso fan of The Replacements. This will not comes as a surprise to MN Readers who know me. I run a Paul Westerberg fan site. I also named my personal blog after a ‘Mats song.
However, I’ve always been a little afraid of Chris Mars’ art. Which is why I was surprised by how much I enjoyed looking at and reading Tolerance: The Art of Chris Mars. It is a beautiful book.
From page one, it's awesome. I especially dug this disclaimer: “This book was manufactured with respect for the environment, workers rights, and human rights.” Let's give it up for socially-responsible art and commerce. Seriously.
Chris Mars’ Signing
8 p.m., Tuesday, December 16th
Magers & Quinn Booksellers
3038 Hennepin Ave. South, Minneapolis
(P.S. Leave your ‘Mats junk at home, he’s only signing the book)
Those of you who are familiar with Mars' art already know that it's dark, dark, dark stuff. So the book is filled with that, but more than that (and my favorite part) are all kinds of, for lack of a better term, explanations about some of the paintings. As I said, I’ve never really been a fan of Mars' paintings. The darkness kind of scares me and makes me uncomfortable. But, after spending a few days with the book, looking at the pictures and reading the passages, I've decided that it's okay. Art is supposed to move us. It's not always that giddy, joyful sort of experience. Sometimes it is dark and uncomfortable, and that's okay too. Sometimes life is dark and uncomfortable.
I was surprised by the political backdrop and tone of some of the paintings. I knew the story of Mars' brother, who is schizophrenic, and knew that a lot of his artistic inspiration sprung from that experience. There is a lot of that in this book, with explanations that will literally move you to tears. But, I think, the pieces that most affected me were the more politically-themed ones. The political was new to me, and because Mars' and I seem to have the same political leanings, I really liked those portions of the book the best. For instance, he writes this about his piece called “State of the Union:”
The central figure is a disheartened, despondent Lady Liberty, who is being probed and prodded by shady practitioners who fail to comprehend her. She's been reduced and dons a warhead dunce cap. Some smugly endorsement her belittlement; some turn away. Others are aware, but feel confused and powerless. All this creates chaos; there is infighting. . . ” it goes on, but you get the gist of it.
I cannot deny that I am surprised my how much I am enjoyed this book. I think you might too.