Brief reflections on joy and fun in art; and five pictures that make me happy

I’m often amused at portraits of artists. Check out this image of Modernist Man Ray.

Or photographer Alfred Stieglitz..

Or painter Georgia O’Keefe


Why so glum? I mean, would it kill you to crack a smile?!?! “Sorry, I’m too tortured and deep in reflection to be amused … Now take my picture!” Sometimes artists take themselves a bit seriously. In fairness, their tendency toward the dramatic is likely tied to their ability to create great art. But it can be pretentious to the point of comedy.

To be certain, I do a fair share of self-reflection and such. And, certainly, the arts can express the pain, loneliness and difficulty we face. But they can also express the joy, beauty and vividness of the human experience.

Given all that, one might find it odd to hear that, if you were to ask my what my dream jobs are, near the top of the list would be fine art photographer. I can imagine myself out early in the morning, catching the pre-dawn color and see myself driving in the rural countryside as the shadows grow in the late afternoon and the night turns the world blue in the early evening.
But while I am striving to create art with a camera (perhaps I’m only learning to do so at this point), I always hope to remember something: Photography can be fun. In fact, I’m going to go a step further and say a photograph can be simultaneously both a piece of art and (brace yourselves!) fun. And why not? Are laughter, joy and exuberance not as much valid experiences as struggle, sadness and melancholy? If it is a dishonesty to deny suffering and sadness, isn’t it also a dishonesty to deny happiness and abandon?
In that spirit, I offer five photos that make me happy. I’m not sure they’re all art … I’m not sure any of them are art. But they do conjure joy in me. Perhaps they will in you as well.
A tattooed guy in a white tank top with a giant Jamaican banana is just funny. I snagged this at the Red River Valley Fair in 2012. I like the kid on the left who seems a bit intrigued or maybe confused by the sight. I wonder if this guy is feeling awkward about carrying the giant banana around in public or if he’s just going about his business.
I don’t know if this one is really funny or not .. but for some reason cows amuse me. They’re slow, expressionless and, let’s face it, “Moo” is just a dufus-like noise to make. It’s fun to imagine what this cow is thinking — like “What? You never seen a cow before?”
I was out one evening on a dark road when there was a nifty moon in the sky. I was trying to get a photo of some yellow flowers against this stark sky with the moon in the background. None of them turned out like I wanted, but I did get this goofy picture of me with a Charlie Brown shirt that says “Call a doctor … ‘Cuz I’m the illest.”
This one needs some more toning, but, even in this more raw state, it brings joy to my heart. It’s my little guy Will when he was 2-years-old or so. He’s 4 now. He was hanging on to my leg as I sat during my daughter’s gymnastics lessons.
Took this with my Palm cell phone back in the day. This is my daughter, Ariana, holding a pinwheel up with the sun glaring in the corner of the frame. I love the joy on her face and the sense that she’s almost flying in play. Such a freedom. Even though it’s grainy and imperfect, I love the lightness of heart that this image brings to me.