If I were a lawyer, and I had to defend in front of the Supreme Court of Art the thesis that Charlie Spear’s Falling Down Man is not only an instance of the type – piece of art that was accidentally damaged by human agency but nonetheless improved or in some way completed by the damage – but is perhaps the purest such instance in the world, I would read the following bullet points in increasing volume until I was shrieking the last one as loudly as I could. Then I would bow and scurry out of the room.
I. Falling Down Man is about the homeless at a time when homelessness is an increasingly serious and troubling problem in the United Sates.
II. The United States Postal Service abused Falling Down Man. (Everyone who has seen the painting agrees that it is difficult to imagine what could have brought about such damage.)
III. The symbolic connections between the abuse of a painting about the homeless carried out by a government agency and the abuse that the homeless suffer no doubt at least partly due to the United States government are so obvious and so poignant that Charlie Spear immediately felt the painting had been taken to a completely new level.
IV. Falling Down Man was already, before the abuse, an eloquent painting by an extremely prolific, well-established artist.
V. Those who have seen Falling Down Man in person think that it has been added to and perhaps even improved visually because of the damage – there is now a three dimensionality to it that wouldn’t be there were it flat.
VI. Finally, unlike Duchamp's Bride no one has altered Falling Down Man since it was damaged.
Scurry. Scurry. Scurry.
I believe the Supreme Court of Art would rule in my favor. Indeed, the case seems to me so overwhelmingly strong that I can’t help but think that the Universe played a role in the whole event. It just strikes me as so terribly peculiar. I think that Charlie is right: there is more going on here than the mere physical.
In any case, I do think that this event calls for a new term of art, a term that denotes the kind of action that the USPS performed.
In honor of Charlie Spear, I will call such an act 'Spear Chucking'.
To chuck a spear is to accidentally damage a painting only thereby to bring about its improvement.
Very few have chucked a spear into a work of art.
The USPS, however, chucked a spear into Falling Down Man.
Little did the USPS know, though, that Falling Down Man would stand up and thrive as a result of their spear chucking.
One must certainly hope that one day the same will be true of the homeless that Falling Down Man represents.
AMANDA C. MATHIS
5 weeks ago