ASHEVILLE ART MUSEUM BATHROOM / by DAWN LOWNDES

I rushed from the front desk of the Asheville Art Museum in a flurry to relieve my bladder of the early part of the day's coffee.  Jetting into the bathroom and right into the metal stall... Ah, I made it!  I only then raised my eyes to find some very nice images. This was not your usual bathroom stall graffiti crap. This bathroom had been 'done' and installation type paintings patterned most of the vertical surfaces.  As I exited the stall into the wider space, I saw boldly painted blocks of color that were disrupted by even bolder images of people and animals that had been carefully drawn with paint and pen.  Title: 'The Writing on the Pharaoh's Wall' by Gabriel Shaffer

The drawn creature characters were in various moments of silence, as if someone had hit pause in a personal moment of conception. Whether they were  just looking, dancing, or in flight the beings seemed to repose for view by me alone. I felt as if I were a persistent observer caught doing the naughty, in the bathroom. I saw you… I imagined and admired your breasts behind that drawn ukulele. I know you play too loud, and badly.  

And then there was a fox who sat quietly plotting his next attack. The coyness of the cynical looks he bestows on folks in the ladies room. Why is he here? Did he get lost? Or, is he just here keeping a watchful eye as in the art-world's critical tradition? 

I washed my hands, assessed my own self in the polished metal mirror, and darted from the room.  

Outside on the wall, she abruptly introduced herself.   This Bitch, she rode high on the seat of her bike. She looked like a modern day wicked witch of the west, habit and all. I hated her immediately. I felt judged by her. Her paltry position between the men’s and women’s room made me feel she lived there simply to monitor the gender line.  She made it known to me that no bad behavior was to be tolerated here, and specifically not on her watch. I felt as if she would fall off the wall onto me. Her spokes would break the surface of my skin and I would pierce her with my shallow wounds.  I looked up at her once more and quickly slipped into the men’s room to peek. 

Yes, I knocked first!

Urinals have always fascinated me. They are dutifully amazing.  I, of course, took a theoretical liking to them in art school. Duchamp’s “Fountain” is every third year art student’s muse as they discover the idea that art is whatever you name it. We find our free art voice through a damn urinal. Every man points himself in the direction of the urinal at the early stages of his life learning, as does every inquisitive art student.  There it was, a vision of the readymade Mecca. Whether imitation or art, I felt an immediate need to kneel before it and pray.  A musician was imaged playing on the wall to the right and I wondered if he was offering an analgesic melody or a woodsy folk tune that would be common to the mountains of Western North Carolina. My mind experienced an abrupt withdraw into reality. I shook it off and backed slowly out of the men’s room. I hoped none of Asheville Art Museum’s civilized viewers had noticed my transgression.  

I have always known myself as a bit of a whore, and this was no different. Once more, I wanted to be taken and this piece let me know that I was.  Art defines me and I love the element of defilement that can be present in a good piece of work. 

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