A dreadful country song, “If I Could Have a Beer with Jesus,” plays over the loud speaker as my younger sister and I make our way past rows of John Deere paraphernalia and antique sewing machines. Walking through the large antique mall, I have a chuckle at some of the more ridiculous items such as empty Pepsi cans from the 2008 Superbowl, teddy bears in bonnets, and IU basketball stacking dolls. I wonder why on earth anyone would want to buy this junk. I would like to say that this inclination toward hoarding exceedingly tacky art was limited to the antique market, but unfortunately it prevails in the majority of homes in “small town” USA.
One can never have enough John Deere. Photo: Kirsten Hall
This is the world in which I now once again find myself in, a place where Vera Bradley is considered haute couture and a ceramic dog butler is the height of sophistication. Without a gallery or art museum in a 200 mile raduis, Marion, Indiana is truly a fine art wasteland. Now all I can keep thinking is, “I am a Berliner, get me out of here!
Pilgrim in an Unholy Land
It is quite the reverse culture shock, going from the artistically rich Berlin to a place where fine art is virtually nonexistent. But what is even more unnerving is what is actually considered “art” to people in this town. Where exactly does this bad taste come from? In the nature vs. nurture argument, I would like to officially cast my vote for nurture after seeing the overwhelming effect of the midwestern environment on aesthetic sensibilities. More specifically, the seemingly collective mentality of my small Indiana town, Marion, where I am convinced there is some sort of kitsch-inducing mineral in the water which causes normal, tasteful people to resort to plaid couches, bad Christmas decorations, and terrible yard sculpture including, but not limited to, yard geese, bowling balls, painted tires, and rusted out Chevys.
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