Art History Class, My Ass

Disclaimer: I identify as liberal/unaffiliated, although some views represented in this humor story may come across as conservative. That’s just due to my style of writing.

At Middlebury, all freshmen have to take a seminar, and mine is predictably a writing course about ancient Chinese art collecting. The course itself isn’t terrible. We read essays about collectors like C.T. Loo and dealers such as Charles Freer, the big dogs of the industry, and submit 200-300 word mini-reflections before class every day. At 8:00am on Tuesdays and Thursdays (the optimal time for learning) we gather together to discuss what we ‘skimmed with intention’ the night before. I spend the time daydreaming about re-caffeinating myself and winning the final round of Jeopardy:

Famous collectors of ancient Chinese art for 500, please.”

And upon my correct answer and acceptance of millions of dollars in cash, I attribute my success to being well-versed in the realm of Art History, the most useful major, and that anyone with an ounce of brains could see that. Please, how can you not see that?

Truthfully, I never understood art classes in general. If emotional expression was Vincent Van Gogh, then a structured educational setting would be like the ear he cut off: an unwanted handicap. Then you realize that most art classes are not art classes, they’re how-not-to-fuck-up-a-certain-medium classes, which is why they’ve got names like “Wood in Design” or “Oil painting” or “Sketching.” Personally, I’ve always wanted to try “Body Art,” since mucus, blood, and semen seem particularly compelling.

And yes, it’s technically possible to use all these materials without actually creating any art. If I were to stick a poodle in a large bucket of oil paint, that wouldn’t mean art, that would mean an arrest warrant. Similarly, if were to swallow a bucket of acrylic paint, that wouldn’t mean art, that would mean death. Therefore, a certain sweet spot of temperance is required in order to avoid dangerous and undesired consequences.

Now, there are many ways to assess the quality of a class, my favorite how useful it would be stranded on a deserted island. In this regard, certain classes definitely stand out in terms of application, and some in their lack thereof. I can only imagine a doe-eyed college grad pacing among the palms, glaring at the exotic species of Toco toucans. “Female toucans are obviously oppressed!” he says, “Additionally, these coconut trees are feeling objectified by the size of their coconuts. We must end coconut shaming!”

Realizing that he needs food in order to not die, this Gender Studies grad consults a fellow strandee that just received a PhD in Latin. Perhaps they can cooperate in their quest for island nourishment, though speaking to someone who spent the last eight years reading the Illiad proves more difficult than expected. “Quid dicis?” responds the Latin friend, “Quamdiu licuit mihi discere Latinam ego possum quae non intelligunt anglicus.” Obviously headed nowhere, both grads decide to consult the remaining Mr. Art History. They find him, of course, sitting on a log with a makeshift knife hanging from the end of a rope above his head. “I am Damocles and this is my sword” speaks the Art History major, who seems to have gone insane from entrapment on this island.

“Whoa, how’d you get that woke knife? Also, is it gender neutral?”

“Quomodo vos adepto ut funem?” (Translation: “And how’d you get that rope?“)

The Art History major, despite apparently having a knife capable of slashing coconuts and killing toucans (and a rope making it possible to obtain these resources) chooses to utilize them to reenact the famous painting The Sword of Damocles. If you the reader are a smart person, you may realize that this seemingly nonsensical story about an island is actually a long extended island metaphor. The Art History major represents a squandering of limited and malleable mental capacity that could be used for either creation or improvement of the world generally. Even the Gender Studies major gains an insight to how the world works, however politically biased it may be. And the Latin major learns a language that, however vaguely, is the groundwork for useful languages.

What’d be the most useful major on an island? Maybe biology. Astronomy. Philosophy. Math. Medical something. These are the majors that come with a lot of collateral benefits, the ones that shape you into a better thinker, and dare I say a more worldly person. I may not know exactly what subject I want to pursue yet, but it would be a waste, in my mind, not to choose a Desert Island Major. Not to say an Art History major is useless, but if you do that, then you better be sure you want to be either a museum curator, historian, or Art History professor. Or a Jeopardy success story, I guess.

34-10 Guanyin MFW 001


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