Commentary

A.C. Snow writes of birth, death and art

August 3, 2013 

A plow to some is art, to others just a plow

The expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” dates back to Third Century Greece, with many variations since. Shakespeare, in 1588, wrote in “Love’s Labour Lost,” “Beauty is bought by the judgment of the eye.”

The same can be said of art. The quotations came to mind as I read of the $300,000 work of art approved for the new Terminal One at Raleigh-Durham Airport. Designed by California artist Gordon Huether, it will consist of seven sculptured figures suspended above the terminal’s baggage claim center. So far, reviews are mixed.

As anyone who has visited an art museum knows, what is art to some is something else to others.

For example, I remember a visit by my wife’s grandparents just after we moved into our new house. We had splurged a bit to have the fireplace wall built of old brick.

We learned later that Granddaddy Weant had said to my mother-in-law on their way home: “I wish I had known A.C. and Jean were in such financial straits. I would gladly have bought enough new brick for them to have a nice fireplace.”

At a Washington, D.C., museum, I once viewed a sculpture that included a plow. Others saw the plow as an objet d’art. I only saw it for what it was, an ordinary farm plow like the ones our mules used to pull through the bottomland corn field.

I devoutly wish that RDU officials had designated a small amount of that $300,000 toward replacing those garish, cheap looking signs at the airport entrances. In truth, they resemble the signs often seen in front of tattoo parlors or adult book stores along rural North Carolina highways. No amount of art inside Terminal One’s baggage center can erase the “washing-machine-on-the front-porch” image greeting patrons as they enter the airport grounds.

On and off switch

At the urging of a friend, I am reading Walter Isaacson’s bulky biography of Steve Jobs, the incredible genius who co-founded the Apple computer empire.

One of Jobs’ most interesting comments, made during a sunny afternoon in his garden shortly before his death, has to do with his religious faith.

“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt there must be something more to our existence than meets the eye.”

He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife: “I like to think that something survives after you die. It’s strange to think you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little bit of wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”

He fell silent for a long time.

“But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch. ‘Click!’ And you’re gone.”

Then he paused again and smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices,” he said.

It’s here!

At mid-afternoon, I left the computer to hurry into the den to tell my wife, “Kate’s in labor!"

“Good,” she said, matter of factly.

“You aren’t gonna run around the block or something?”

“No, I just hope she has a brief and successful labor.”

Such nonchalance would have gotten her banished from the United Kingdom.

Fish story

At the beach, I encountered Jerry Beil of Durham, unpacking his gear for a go at the fish at Indian Beach.

I asked about the fisherman mystique that causes anglers to stand for hours in summer’s hot sun or winter’s chilling winds, even when the fish never come calling.

“That’s what’s called fishing,” he chuckled.

He shared an anecdote in which, after a fruitless day on the beach, he had gone to a Morehead City fish market to buy a flounder for dinner.

Instead of handing him the flounder, the seller told Biel to back up against the far wall, whereupon he tossed the fish to him and said, “Now you can truthfully say you caught it.”

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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