Of Cats and Dogs

Post Scriptum to “It’s Okay Not to Like Modern Art”

I’ve been cleaning out my draft posts, and I came across what was initially meant to be the final section of It’s Okay Not to Like Modern Art. I ended up cutting it from the piece, since the tone didn’t fit — but sometimes I regret not including it, since it directly addresses some points which keep recurring in the angrier comments I get on that post. Well, here it is.

I got carried away from self-defense into aggression, and said some nasty things about modern art I didn’t quite mean. I’d like to end on a friendlier metaphor.

There once was a girl who learned to love animals from her first cat. Each day, he would curl up next to her — sometimes, on her lap; more often, just touching his world to hers — and bring her the gift of purring.

On lists of favorite things, the girl would always put “pets.” But when she grew up, she learned that the Pet Experts had decreed, years ago, that the dog is the superior, more suitable pet. Shelters would take better care of dogs than cats; serious breeders would breed only dogs; “pet shows” would mean “dog shows.”

The reasons for this decision, Pet Committees across the globe explained, were self-evident. Cats are uninterested in the human concerns that really matter. They’re not sociable enough. They can’t decide whether they want to go in or out of a door. Since they typically don’t drool or smell bad, they give one mere pleasure, rather than deep artistic lessons. They’re responsible for the death of billions of small animals, and keeping one indoors won’t erase its species’ evil past. A cat’s grace is the grace of a stealthy killer, and appreciating it means complicity in murder. Anyhow, cats are rendered obsolete by the invention of the mousetrap.

In short — cats are irrelevant.

The young woman went to dog shows and petted her friends’ dogs. She read Dog History textbooks and Dog Appreciation manuals. She learned to tolerate the drooling and grew to like the tail wagging, and left the outmoded world of cat-love behind.

There was just one fact to which she couldn’t quite reconcile herself: dogs wouldn’t purr.

This is how it is with painting and conceptual art: they’re just different creatures. These days, one of them happens to be more fashionable — but that’s all it is: fashion. There’s no great tension between loving cats and dogs, but neither is there anything unnatural in loving one but not the other.

My preferences are simply preferences, and they come down to this: conceptual art doesn’t purr with beauty, emotion, texture, color; painting does.

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