Art & Aesthetics Art Blog
I was at a potluck supper at the church when the reverend leaned over my folding chair and asked me,
___Did you hear about the skunk that went to church?___ ___No,___ I replied. ___He sat in his own ___pew!__™___ I had to laugh, although I prefer humor from certified comedians. Clergyman should offer homilies, not homonyms. Don__™t get me wrong, Reverend Liscomb is a cool guy __" stops by now and then to borrow my belt-sander or talk theology, the Nicene Creed and whatnot. But that skunk joke stuck in my brain like a pop-song. It was like trying not to think about a blue nun or a holy mackerel. So, at home I checked it out on my Model 1300 Laf-Graf humor analyzer. Sure enough, it was a matter of semantics. That verbal quip hinged on the double meaning of the word ___pew.___ Did the skunk sit in his own ___pew,___ as in bench seat, or his own ___PU,___ as in bad odor? The answer is, of course, both. It was a play on word __" a pun!
Now, I trust you__™ve read my previous blog on art, humor, and aesthetics so I won__™t cover the same ground, but the parallel between humor and art is form and essence. The two types of humor are practical versus poetic, the former being a mere glitch in the medium that renders the message ambiguous. Poetic humor, on the other hand, is also called irony in real life: poetic justice. In art, it__™s the surface that provides the optical illusions (my rendering has none, but I could have, say, superimposed my face on the skunk to make a visual pun) while the content tells a story, be it comic, tragic, or just anecdotal. The narrative beneath the surface is, in this case, the congregation dutifully accepting their new member (insufferably, by the looks on their faces).
In a book review of Richard Wollheim__™s ___Art as Representation and Expression,___ David Hills of Stanford University cites a similar duality thusly:
___...there is a sense in which a detailed point-for-point comparison between them...is out of the question: seeing-in and the simpler experiences to which it is in various ways analogous are ___phenomenologically incommensurate.__™ (Painting as an Art - Princeton University Press, 1988, 47) Such, Wollheim thinks, is the ___twofoldness__™ involved in seeing-in. A painting ___represents__™ a given subject matter when we are retrievably intended to see that subject matter in its surface and can indeed do so.___
Boy, I__™ll have to read that one sometime.
Meanwhile, I ponder the social implications of the skunk scenario and reconcile the use of humor in church, what with all of the singing and dancing, guitars and hand bells, spotlights and theatrical hoopla to keep the faithful from nodding off. After all, it was Jesus who quipped about stuffing a camel through the eye of a needle. I__™m not sure, but maybe He was being just a little sarcastic to get His point across; more proof that the Good Lord has a sense of humor. But by the way: You know those Ten Commandments? Sorry folks __" no joke.