A Town of Beauty
I read for 6 hours straight the other day. I haven’t done that in years. Literally years. I finished the book, Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty, at 11:30 with tired eyes and feeling slightly exhilarated. The book follows the rise and subsequent fall of a woman making her way in the art world.
It captivated me for the obvious reasons: Steve Martins amazing ability to craft a story that, at its very basic level entertains and at its most profound subtly forces you to question - in this case, to question the relationship between art and money and money and value -and because as a woman in her mid-20s, I identified with the struggle of the protagonist as she worked tirelessly, fearlessly, and perhaps immorally for success. But the main draw of the novel for me was the subject matter – art, and the business of art. I grew up in an art family, * so reading about the people who dealt with the Van Gogh’s and Matisse’s of the world was thrilling, but also a little heartbreaking. The art world in An Object of Beauty is one of exclusivity, money, and main draw of the novel for me was the subject matter, art. The art world in An Object of Beauty is one of exclusivity, backroom deals, wildly different from the art world that I grew up in, and as a result the art itself seemed to just barely manage to breathe under the stifling greed.In Athens, art can breathe freely.Growing up, art surrounded me, baffled me, came in and out of my life, and threw itself at me in multiple mediums. My parents owned an art gallery downtown, Clayton Street Gallery, and I loved everything about it: the old building, the creaky stairs leading up to it, the blue white washed walls and the floor to ceiling windows that overlooked the street of the town that I loved. As a kid, going to the art receptions was like going to a sophisticated, exclusive party. Although, I’m sure the sophistication of the art displayed was sometimes questionable and it was certainly not exclusive, that gallery introduced me to a world in which creativity and uniqueness were celebrated, and it completely captivated me. Art is embedded into the very backbone of Athens.
You can hear it pulsing through the walls of the music venues at 2 am, see it in the murals and the sculptures and the street festivals, and even wear it, courtesy of the many unique boutiques. In Athens, art is celebrated as an expression of yourself, not based on the arbitrary values placed on it by the market and the whims of the wealthy. And it’s for that reason that the art in Athens spills out into the streets and into the
restaurants, music venues, and beautiful old houses. I see in the cobblestone streets, the gingko trees, at dance parties, and in the eyes of the musicians walking hung over to work in the morning. Or perhaps now I’m talking about beauty – but isn’t that the fundamental idea behind art? A beautiful expression of yourself: that’s what Athens is to me, and interestingly enough, that’s what art is to me as well.*a point worth distinction: an art family, not a family of artists. Not to say that they aren’t creative or artistic, just that they deal primarily with the business side of art.