Decade in Review: Fake David, Art, and Iowa Caucus Night 2016.

By Michelle Railey

February 2, 2016

In the shops at Caesar’s Palace.

This picture (see image) does not show the actual masterpiece by Michelangelo. Don’t be alarmed, internets, the real David still rests at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence (sculpted 1501-1504). Italy has not placed the real thing in a mall.

Las Vegas has placed a spiffing good reproduction in the midst of shops and slot machines. It’s what Vegas does best.

I have never known what to make of a world that will plaster Botticellis and van Goghs on coffee mugs; Caillebotte on umbrellas, and stick Michelangelo in the middle of a shopping mall/casino.

Yay, I can and do celebrate Starry Night (via coffee mug) in the brilliant, blurry-eyed, and “jesus, I’m running late” morning. (As long as there’s caffeine in the cup, I don’t much care what’s on it.) But on the other hand, what makes art meaningful and special is when, in fact, it is singular and special. Does the human audience for art lose its respect for it when it can fill vanGogh with coffee or vodka or whatever your morning beverage is? Does Michelangelo lose just a little gravitas when it’s surrounded by neon and metallic, electronic pings spitting themselves into paper receipts in 49-cent increments (Caesar’s thanks you for your twenties, enjoy the change, Sparky)? Do our cultural artifacts, our historical and intellectual treasures become diminished at all when they can be screen-printed on leggings?

I don’t know.

Fake David is pupil-less. And still he looks thoughtful. Great abs. A man, a boy. Massive. Unreal. My favorite part, not that you asked me, is the right arm: the wrist, the veins in the elbow, the thumbnail, the curve of the index finger. It’s a nice reproduction, really, but there’s something cheap about him being set in a glorified mall and cash-for-luck free-for-all, amidst neon lights. How to turn Michaelangelo into Magic Mike in one easy step…

Michelangelo, I have to think, would be gratified that he was copied, but unhappy that it was possible and unhappier still that the copy isn’t the star of the show; that the chance of buying luxury goods or winning the money to buy luxury goods takes precedence over stone and skill and sweat.

Well, that’s the world we live in. Art is art, great for its own sake, but completely appropriate for a t-shirt, a pencil, a coffee mug, a paper poster. Art for Everyone and Everyone for Art. A photo of a potato is art. An image of the Blessed Virgin Mary decorated with chewing gum and elephant dung is art. Art is an utterance. Art is everything and everything is art.

And now the U.S. is in Election 2016. Life is Art and Art is Art. Celebrity is Politics and Spin is King.

Miraculously the Reality TV Star did not win the Iowa caucus. Eddie Haskell (aka Ted Cruz) did. One could ask why a reality tv star is running for president, an actual important real-job: not TV, like, real. Fake David can sit amongst neon and slot machines and it’s weird but okay. Fake Serious Person (Donald, Ted) belong in neon, in the middle of slot machines and stupid Coach stores. But they’re competing to sit amid world leaders, representing the oldest extant democracy in the world.

Fake David knows he is fake. But Cruz and Trump think they are as eternal as real David, failing to consider what is asked of one who is placed in the Galleria dell’Academia.

Florence is different than a mall/casino. Being the real David, carved with little more than passion and a chisel, is a different thing than a computer-patterned piece of poly-something. And being president is very different than running for it.

There is something about Cruz and about Trump that smacks of T-shirts and cheapness, suitable for pencil cases and coffee mugs. Not for eternity. Not for history. Not for Florence.

I don’t expect a great man to be president. I don’t expect President to be Savior or Super-Human. But I do want a president who has veins in his elbow, who lives and breathes, who is legitimately a human being, not an icon, not a slogan, not a t-shirt. Not art or Art or fake-art. I’ll take a flawed but authentic David for president. I don’t know how to accept a fake mall/casino version of a real thing, a Favid (fake David) as president.

And here we are, in 2016, and I’m not sure where the real David is. Will the real David please stand up? All I see so far is neon and malls and Coach purses, slushees, and slot machines.

Looking for substance (or a president). And Favid is all I see. I have yet to see the one I’m comfortable voting for. Perhaps the slot machine? The lights stay on with that. At least. And the house always wins.

It’s a young country. We didn’t even exist when Real David was carved in 1501-ish. The real David has seen countries and popes and leaders come and go; powers rise and powers fall. Life goes on no matter who is elected. Even if its Favid.

I hope its not Favid.

As the Chinese curse/blessing goes, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, David, Favid, Michelangelo, and I all agree these are interesting times. I guess we’re blessed. I think I’ll celebrate by buying a t-shirt with Fine Art on it. Favid is the new black.

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