Some time ago, I wrote (despairingly) about human waste and the twentieth-century art world:
“The world is ready for the bold new artistic move. That can come only from those not content with spotting the latest trivial variation on current themes. It can come only from those whose idea of boldness is not — waiting to see what can be done with waste products that has never been done before.”
I was wrong to despair. For as this loving spread in Britain’s Daily Mail shows, Millie Brown has spewed new life into a played-out line of development:
“Vomit Painter artist throws up on canvas to create Jackson Pollock-style splatter.”
Ms. Brown drinks colored milk and then throat-gags herself to induce regurgitation onto the prepared surface. The resulting multi-colored spreads do not quite speak for themselves, but they do speak volumes about just how far the art world has progressed in the sixty-plus years since Pollock’s first drips.
I feared that the pomo gross-outs were no longer grossing us out, but this is really gross! And that, by postmodern standards, is true progress.
Yet I suggest, gently, that perhaps Ms. Brown has only set the door ajar — and that the rest of us in the art world should boldly shove it open and stride through.
1. Authenticity — What Ms. Brown disgorges is not authentic vomit, like one would get from food poisoning or a night’s heavy drinking. It is only milk with food coloring. This suggests that her engagement with the theme of vomitus is less than fully sincere. So bring on the true spew.
(b) The Sickness-Health tension. Vomiting is symbol of sickness — yet the Daily Mail piece injects concern with health: “cleanse,” “healthy vegan lifestyle,” “recover properly,” and Brown herself works in a sterile studio of clean white walls and canvas. This tension all very pomo-dialectic, yet the contradiction is merely suggested in Ms. Brown’s ouevre and not sufficiently developed.
(iii) Feminism: Ms. Brown’s vomiting is a nod to J. Pollock, noted womanizer. But it could be an edgy, coded reference to bulimia, which is a plague among women victimized by society’s unrealistic beauty standards. Brown’s work indicates feminist mileage not yet traveled.
Related topics: Ear wax’s untapped potential. Menstrual blood. That greenish-yellow snot that may or may not mean one is getting a cold. Drool.