Mark Cline’s much ballyhooed “Blue Ridge Barnum” exhibition officially opens today at the Taubman Museum of Art, along with Alan Cohen’s somber and thoughtful variations on landscape photographs, “Earth with Meaning,” and “Metempsychosis: The Power of Transformation,” a show assembled by adjunct curator Ray Kass that explores the power of spiritual transformation and startling juxtapositions. Kass’ show seems to mesh well with the spirit of Cline’s, while Cohen’s provides a striking contrast.
When I interviewed Cline for the first time in 2000, the first words out of his mouth were “I am not an artist! I am an entertainer!” So I went to his talk yesterday evening during the Taubman Museum of Art’s membership preview, because I had to see how someone who’s adopted that mantra addresses an audience of art museum supporters.
Cline’s talk was certainly a bit less academic than the lectures I’ve seen at other previews. He introduced himself by saying “I’m Mark Cline, and I am an entertainer,” called his wife and two daughters onto the stage and asked the audience to give them a round of applause for keeping him grounded, and then told the story of how he came to be a creator of fiberglass roadside art in a rambling, colorful, and entertaining way that frequently brought laughs. Cline is not a lecturer, but the sort of fellow you’d love to have telling stories at a campfire circle.
All of us had envelopes on our chairs that read “Do not open!” At the end of his talk, he asked the audience to open said envelopes, revealing that everyone had been provided with whoopie cushions. For his final point, he had everyone blow up the cushions, then sit on them in unison. The resulting sound effect was side-splitting.
About 400 came to the preview, and Taubman executive director David Mickenberg later expressed delight to me that so many members had brought their kids.
I won’t be able to go to the free Spectacular Saturday programs tomorrow (Anita and I will be spending most of the day watching the Metropolitan Opera’s “Götterdämmerung” at Virginia Western) but I can’t help but think it’ll be something of a madhouse.