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J. Shane Mercer, Published December 25 2008

Art called ‘Bob’ a fine gift idea

By the time you read this, I’ll be in a house full of screaming kids, Viking-loving in-laws, discussion about the weather and maybe a hotdish or two. It’s Christmastime in Minnesota, and that’s a good thing.

I do love getting out to my wife’s parents’ place in the country. It’s the picture of serenity and the perfect place to watch the kids tear into some Christmas presents.

And that brings me to the matter of gifts and what might be on the wish list of that hard-working fine arts reporter at The Forum (aka me). Here are a few subtle hints:

Titles on all works of art. Here’s the deal. If a piece of art is labeled “untitled,” I don’t know if it actually has no title or the name of it is “Untitled.” What’s the difference, you ask? Well, if I’m writing something about the piece, I don’t know if I should write, “This piece is titled ‘Untitled’ ” or “This piece is untitled.” If in doubt, just call it “Bob” or something.

Big signs about touching artwork. “It’s a rare happenstance where there’s interactive work that you can touch,” says Rusty Freeman, vice president of curatorial at The Plains Art Museum. He says, if in doubt, don’t touch the art at a museum.

Yet, sometimes I am in doubt, but I still want to touch the piece. Then I’m torn. So I just want some big signs on any artwork that can be touched designating it as such.

Also, if there are any untouchable works that look as if they’d attract small children (or art reporters) to touch them, please have a sign making it clear.

No more art incorporating the image of President George W. Bush. There are a number of artists who strongly dislike the current presidential administration. I get it already!

Happy headshots. Judging from the promotional photographs of many artists/writers/

musicians, they were just barely able to gather enough willpower to make it to the photo shoot. “I’m such a tortured soul, I can’t even muster a smirk,” says their pained gazes.

Sometimes they can’t even bring themselves to look at the camera, so they look hopelessly off into space somewhere.

Look, I’m married to a classical pianist. I know artists are people of deep emotion. But it’s OK to be a gifted creative type and happy simultaneously. Come on … say “Cheese!”

Reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734 or smercer@forumcomm.com