Monday, June 11, 2012

The Art of Imitation

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life."
Oscar Wilde

So, have you ever let your vacation plans be dictated according to events/locations that you have seen in movies, or paintings, or the theater?

For example, have you ever been to the top of the Empire State Building simply to connect with wonderful films like "An Affair to Remember" and "Sleepless in Seattle"?

Or have you ever longed to visit places forever immortalized in art, like Monet's water lily pond?

Or have you ever wanted to visit a place so badly, simply because you read about it from a book? I'm so impressionable that I even wanted to visit Afghanistan after reading The Kite Runner. And I still kind of want to.

Are you catching my drift?

So have you ever done this? Just me?? Hmm.

It's things like this that have had me thinking a lot more on art and the way that it sometimes dictates or directs our lives and actions.

In my opinion, the hardest class I had to take as an English major was literary theory, because it takes art/literature and turns it into a science, with way too many break-downs and theories of the way literature works or what prompts the artist, or if it's not about the artist, it's about the art that creates the artist, and we shouldn't even talk about who wrote it, we should talk about the structure of the art, or talk about what it says about [insert issue] or what it doesn't say about said issue, and how scholars have been arguing about this ever since the days of Aristotle, and it all starts to get all mumble jumbled and it starts to make your head feel like it's going to explode and you're all, "Wait? what does this have to do with Jane Eyre? Isn't it just an good love story?"

But there is one theorist whose theories I can relate to. My man, Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde came and said that Aristotle was wrong about art imitating life. Oscar Wilde said that it's life that imitates art and is what sets the aesthetic principles by which we perceive life. So, things that are found in life and nature are actually perceived the way that we have been taught by artists to perceive them. I love his example of the fogs of London. Something like the fog in London has existed for centuries, and yet so often, people perceive it now as something mystical and romantic, because that's what poets and painters have shown to the people, and without them, those modern perceptions wouldn't exist. It would just be fog.

Even in just analyzing some of the actions in my own life, I really do believe this is true. I can't even tell you how many things I have done or have put on my bucket list because of a book, or a film, or a painting. All you have to do is read about my trip to London to get an idea.

Just this weekend, I found myself in NYC again. And, of course, some of my activities were involving me imitating art. I swear I do that every time I'm in New York City, because there are just so many artistic highlights that have roots to that city.

This time it was imitating the Hispanic community of the New York City area.

Maybe I should back up a bit. When I was still dating Victor, he took me to a Broadway musical that I had wanted to see after hearing great things about called "In the Heights." "The Heights" was referring to the Dominican-American neighborhood "Washington Heights" in northern Manhattan, but as far as the culture and community of the storyline and the characters is concerned, it could have also been called "In the Jersey City Heights" (they do exist.) because it is pretty much the exact same community. It was a fantastic show. Amazing music and very original. It makes me sad it's not still playing.

This musical is one that will always stick with me as a favorite, not just because of the great music and story, but because it helped me understand and relate to the man that I would eventually marry, and get a glimpse into the culture of his upbringing, which was so so different from mine in mild old Utah. The story is all about young Dominicans/Puerto Ricans yearning for something more: whether it be education, career, quality of life, etc., by basically getting out of the Heights. In other words, my husband's life story. And it's filled with plenty of cultural references and plenty of spanish phrases like "Que Dios te Bendiga," "Bendicion," and "Ay Dios Mio": all things that I hear on a regular basis coming from my in-laws' mouths.

So here I am imitating the way that this community is perceived from my experience with the artform of the theater. This weekend, it was something as simple as experiencing "piragua" aka a snow cone, one that is sung about in the musical, and also experiencing the piragua cart guy's competition: the Mister Softee. The song is great. Take a listen

Piragua by Piragua Guy on Grooveshark
It was something simple and unassuming. I know what a snow cone is, but you don't see snow cone shacks in the Heights, you see Piragua carts. This was the world that my husband grew up in. And isn't is funny the way I'm trying to imitate it from something I experienced through art?

To him, it's not art. It's life. So, wouldn't you say then, that at least for him in this case, art is imitating life, and not the other way around?

I agree with Oscar Wilde, but then I think of my own life. What art has ever imitated my life? Let's think. So, I grew up in quiet and peaceful Utah. I was taught to do what's right, and in my community, most people were taught this as well. Sometimes I was naive about the world. I decided to expand my horizons by living abroad teaching English, and then once again to teach others about faith in Jesus.......
.........oh wait, you know what?
I thought of something that imitates that life of mine:

You know what, I really like this song. So I guess for now I'll consider it as art imitating life. If you can call it art, because there are some who are firm in saying that the South Park guys are incapable of creating art. How about we just call it "broadway musicals imitating life." Victor gets "In the Heights" and I get this.


So, whose side are YOU on? Think about it. And if you can think of any other type of art that imitates my life, please share. Maybe I'll think of something, but right now all I have is Broadway on the mind. Maybe it was because the Tony's were last night.



  1. I loved In The Heights! Have we talked about that before? Anyway, great post! You've got me thinking...

  2. I definitely base a lot of my tourist destinations off things I've seen in movies (i.e. driving 45 minutes in Seattle to go to the troll under the bridge as seen in 10 Things I Hate About You.)

    Did you ever see the Book of Mormon broadway? I am curious about it. I hear it has actually gotten a lot of people interested in listening to the missionaries.