Homer Simpson as Outsider Artist, or How I Learned to Accept Ambivalence (Maybe) Author(s): Reva Wolf Reviewed work(s): Source

: Art Journal, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Fall, 2006), pp. 100-111 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20068484 . Accessed: 31/01/2012 13:40
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reveal barbecue disagreement is art sets the stage toward to the For local in which a bit Homer and Marge pay art museum. than the creator the comic-strip The Simpsons. contributes "Homer by disorienting to fit the idea significantly the artist" neatly of categories initial pit stereotypes. Marge s exclamation of disbelief Ipresented an earlier version of this paper College Art Association Annual Conference sion "Comic Art. February 20. an unintended the alternative to our into our confusion. Ambivalence enthusiastic this hunk pit labeling o' "You mean barbecue artist?" junk?" me asks. Columbia University (June Photography 2004).AII Simpsons rights reserved. it's a Marge. by none occasions this museum of of visit. Homer. and Eugene Heath prodded me to articulate what in an earlier draft I only hinted at. store. with the art dealer's for a scene a visit determination the end of that his the Iwill zoom and Homer's ruined episode. Matt Akbar other Groening. that pushed over of the edge. How ILearned to Accept (Maybe) agrees: "You? An ambivalence enter the picture and confusion Homer of his he about the what and who gallery as art. the he makes the project. later it dislodges up and at his that the street with crashes house. Moore. the present. Thanks to Alfred Bie and Andy Bandit for kindly offering their time and expertise in the area of reproductions and permissions. into he the object tethered to the back fender of him. The judgments ambivalence and enjoy. early scenes in a spring 1999 episode of the The Feature These entitled "Mom and Pop Art. of when responds failed barbecue "This isn't His to the pit art." New York. and at the National Graduate Seminar of the Institute. the Homer's know. now-mangled it in other ways. Steve Martits and Susan DeMaio generously assisted me with some unusual technological needs. Ireceived the best assistance with my research from a Web site. (to the day). existing to convention. traits and stand had for sent Ringo Starr a portrait she had painted of him. she a car behind is certain an art shows she Instead. Not barbecue surprisingly pit (for in his and. is rich in association. drawn at the museum." We earlier years aversion too. with anyone attempt the help who knows of daughter to assemble of to the Homer). as or Simpsons.creates art in the "Mom and Pop Homer Art" episode of The Simpsons on Fox. explains she owns gallery would like to exhibit his object. The art first owner's encounter thereby our latent art and confusion artists. while Homer's represents does not fit Philosophy Club lecture series of the State University of New York. (The &? I999TCFFC. Iwill later what discovery. releasing that we ought to welcome. When is there where the driver of this she to sue. Lapp. ." written Simpsons. For habitual viewers The Simpsons. seemingly readymades and meaning here punctures the the episode: worn-out of on the The staid These Duchamp's reverberate Reva Wolf questions 191os but new energy Homer Outsider Simpson Artist. he Unsuccessful tries to get rid of to return in vain. we are unable and Yet Homer as a character us. purchases starts a mess item a build-it-yourself it. incongruity. Kristine Harris and Robert Polito provided numerous beneficial comments. As he then drives down his car car. that as a high school student Marge herself had aspired to be an artist." wife. confront. characters in on Homer's Jeff. introduce the What twin questions that is art? Who go are back infused incisive about and is an artist?' to Marcel with wit we by Al Jean and directed by Steven throughout old.2 contraption Marge's por conventional alternative bill. We know Marge to any cultural activities with that might Greatness" from the episode "Brush is perennially be deemed of exactly annoyed by "high eight art. This since artistic skill. ? Fox Broadcasting) Homer his Simpson Lisa. chaired by Benjamin Binstock and Benjamin Other versions of the paper were given at at the ses 2003. A United University Professions Professional Development Grant provided impor tant support for this project. New Paltz (April 2003).

her name isAstrid Weller. judgment parallels Homer's own gut on his doorstep. 7. ." New York Times Magazine." which refers to the "wellerism. available online at www. Groening has stated. Groening has commented that the charac ters inPeanuts are based primarily on "variations on hairdos". culture.)3 Homer's judgment of Groening's work. 1989. (The &? I999TCFFC.html. as transcribed by Bruce Gomes and available online at www. 1991 ): 30-35." But Astrid 3 Weller's and at the same is more it. 1999. its own genre. Brian K. September 20."5 As the fans have observed. ciendy to hang on the museum's walls."7 Such son. com/ other/interviews/groening89. Reuters. "Groening against the Grain: Maverick Cartoonist Matt Groening Draws inReaders with Gay Characters Akbar and Jeff" (interview with Matt Groening). An implication of this parallel is that neither Homer's nor Groening's productions qualify as art. Else com/other/interviews/groening91 where.in the "Mom and Pop Marge and Homer Art" episode of The Simpsons on Fox. Groening's For that viewpoint). the program regularly poet Robert Pinsky and other Simpsons makes fun of.html. "Mr. Bergman. Lisa Goes deep meaning. This association of art with love and acceptance love voke love and our and is an important theme in the "Mom and Pop Art" episode of The will go that to great society lengths. "Prime Time IsHeaven for 'Life inHell' Artist.com/episodes/AABF 15). originally aired on Fox Network. is not merely an indirect reference to the cartoonist's identification with his character. when viewed from the side.snpp." While we can take the recipient of these words to be The economical either Akbar or Jeff?the two are identical?the recipient also may be you or inwhich case these words might signify that the comic strip is loved suffi me.AII Simpsons rights reserved. available online at www. is in the "Weiler. the zig-zag pattern on the shirt of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comic-strip character Charlie Brown. Annemarie Wyley. "What's the he author doing of this Groening!" in a museum? response He can barely draw!"This when the art dealer declares. that theM formed by Homer's hair. originally aired on Fox Network. ? Fox Broadcasting) as an aficionado drawing and of popular is stunned. tells Marge "Mr. Idedicate the essay to Marc. 1999.html. beyond about the anagram. see Doug Sadownick. criteria. His of to to gain actions the pro Simpsons. They're just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh. 6. lavishes as we as the narrative on ponder the successful the art." The Simpsons. at this juncture.4 in the don't consistent to Washington." character. and This anagrams Bart. able which history is an anagram for "sell weird art.com/other/interviews/ groening99b. "The Mother Jones Interview: Matt Groening." The Simpsons.1 credit this observation to Haynes Lee (www. 4.motherjones. Roberts (writer) and Jim Reardon (director). The schematic M of Homer's collar and hair (aswell as Bart's hairdo) resem bles. April 11.com/arts/ 9a/1999/03/groening. Cartoons are cartoons". "Brush with Greatness. 3. "Mom and Pop Art. You Do Love Me.6 It does this with a striking economy of means?through a single sentence or a simple drawing. my nephew Marc Hartzman. for example. quoted in Erik H. The name time name of Homer's complex is an anagram a pun embedded surname "brat. in addition.Without the enthusiasm of a particular Simpsons fan. not work of art.snpp. "My Favorite Show. "Matt immediately he recognizes shouts. 1991. We progresses." a figure of speech typical of the . drawing of Akbar and Jeff intimates that the label "art" constitutes a form of acceptance. however. Groening himself has said that he identifies with Homer. September 26." TVHost. September 3.snpp.snpp.Who is this art dealer? Played by Isabella Rosellini.snpp. Homer acceptance dormant acceptance ambivalence.com)?a site that still makes me puzzle over whether a line really separates the scholar from the fan. has pun have a vener for in in The Simpsons. and Groening has acknowledged the influence of Peanuts on his work. March-April 1999. (It isworth pointing out. as criteria implications are able construing this for defining experience ambivalence because the episode ment provides or argument ample about room these for our itself refrains from presenting This generously and confusion nondogmatic any clear judg approach freely. Homer's 1991 episode have any 1. 2. George Meyer (writer) andWes Archer (direc tor). while simultaneously praising. and the one formed by his open shirt collar are very likely synecdoches for "Matt". Advocate 571 (February 26." originally aired on Fox Network. Look carefully at the text in this drawing: "Wow. also available online at www. April II. Lisa Goes toWashington. this essay would exist. ambivalence to roam It is the art dealer who first gives Homer a glimpse of how good it feels to have the love and acceptance of the "artworld"?and how bad it feels to lose them. by extension. "The Simpsons' Creator Groening Grows Up" (interview with Matt Groening). Brian Doherty. "cartoons (and. 1991. "I always think it's a mistake for cartoonists to demand car toons be treated as art. that Homer has made a "The Simpsons Archive" (www. 1998.html. 5. December 16." Mother Jones. Robert Pinsky. 55. This judgment also operates cartoons) judgment to convey are not art is also the opinion (which that happens with his he comic-strip to be drawings own example. artist.

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ambitions. 2. 2001). since the store & Pop Hardware. 112-13. Skoble (Chicago and La Salle. and title Pop Art" also contains multilayered refer the to Homer label pun aswell.. Artist. "What the devil do you want with me. 1994).When Lisa. A few examples are: Eugene W. priately. Mary-Beth Shine." inHigh and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture." art" is a wellerism since her The title of the episode "mom" distinct and artistic "pop" of "Mom The careers. ed. is added. is a and sto folksy these still allusions. often in the form of a pun. question insider-outsider example. dicted and Finally. is ameaningful. example. a commodity.'" in The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer. tells him that by chewing with his mouth great replies." It is hard to imagine a more ideal outsider artist than Homer Simpson. Weiler Being a professional. He certainly is self-taught." is "a subsidiary of Global Dynamics" Depot). Kingsbury (New York: Oxford University Press. of course. contributes are more the overall miniature ryline our to the complexity complexity and structure us the episode. Homer. outsider? as possible. The best-known example of awellerism Pickwick Papers is SamWeller's comment. rescued of the comics the hardware from store extinction. 11. Hyper-Irony. see A Dictionary of Wellerisms. "Comics. eponymous character Sam The wellerism is distinguished by its use of irony. consuming as much but we also spot the artist Jasper Johns filling his jacket pockets with refresh ments! The dialogue plays up the comparison of Simpson to Johns. 9.8 Astrids name designation embodies of Homer's the anagram object "sell weird as "outsider art.Weller of Charles Dickens's PickwickPapers(1836-37). ed." purchases It's called lead him the name is to outsider-artist disingenuous. "Us and Them. the unusual the ambivalence likely to result from such scrutiny. 1990). and. IL: Open Court. 213-27. the paradox of the dress term "outsider art"?which as a label. see Roger inThe Cardinal. Adam Gopnik and Kirk Varnedoe (New York: Museum of Modern Art and Abrams.William Irwin. Hall and Eugene W." To offer doing is.Two insightful discussions of the use of allu sion inThe Simpsons areWilliam Irwin and J." inThe Outsider and. 81-92. to come) gratuitous. of welcoming This complexity is especially clear when the episode turns its focus to the concept of "outsider artist. a sign in the storefront reads. as the man said wen he see the ghost?" For more on the weller ism. n.12 seems opening. Metcalf. "The Simpsons. Still. The and Marge art. Metcalf. does "Congratulations. only Homer's a the gallery. and Aeon J." in The Simpsons and Philosophy. ed. the barbecue "Mom to one refers pit of the 1960s that took some of its imagery from the critic. Art Journal 57. and the use of these two terms (or comparable ones) inessay titles to highlight the paradox of the concept of outsider art is common." In fact. all artists is . I'd Never Belong to a Club thatWould Have Me as a Member" (review of the exhibition catalogue Self Taught Artists of the Twentieth Century). which this There. another he at this Homer?the food what everywhere. and the Meaning of Life." in their appro "Pop alluding. professional is incompatible opening we an outsider. says. For at the exhibition sculpture artist. "Toward an Outsider Aesthetic. 1972). 4 (Winter 1998): 99-101. Lombardo. 208.Mark T. by Homer paradoxes of of own is and "mom and and Marge's pop" has artistic each one (it clearly ismeant a down-to-earth. no.Wolfgang Mieder and Stewart A. New York: Praeger. Michael D. 39. stardom. Outsider once so that "Louvre: American distinction (underneath enter may Similarly. Check out Jasper Johns. Cardinal credits an editor at Studio Vista for coining the term. "mystique. And everything in his demeanor and is antithetical to the stereotypical art-world insider. sold. 1994)." Outsider Artist Geativity and the Boundaries of Culture. Adam Gopnik. Jr. 12.The term "outsider art" is considered to have originated with art critic Roger Cardinal's book Outsider Art (London: Studio Vista. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press. Jr. Conard. from the pages of the present periodical. to the artmovement comics and inThe 8. or. R. and Carl Matheson. same namely.There is a growing literature about the "insid er" dimension of "outsider" art. (and there of None of to resemble a Home tenor that is contra puns. ed." 3 love free food. 10. to exist when now being it. trying tomonitor her father's behavior. "From Domination to Desire: Insiders and Outsider Art.lo judgments and It is a that ultimately that affords us allows to scrutinize experience distinctions.9 at which "Mom Homer to the name that will soon but pop. according in addition. Johns (the character's voice was recorded by the artist himself) open he will lose his Homer "Lisa. You're with find "Inside. "The Simpsons and Allusion: 'Worst Essay Ever. and a subject of intellectual into full view as the episode unfolds inquiry is the creation of insiders?comes and Astrid Weller includes Homer's barbecue pit in an exhibition of outsider art she holds Art" we we at her " gallery. Style").

" National Review. in its hilarity.html. "Homer vs. such as LightBulb I.A conspicuous example is the episode. Marge: That's my life you're describing. yet the absurdity." in the National Matheson. I've always had an interest in art. O.nytimes. February 7. observed ." by Steve Pepoon (writer) and Rich Moore (director). watch this and about of insider and ambivalence have or those episode drawn The Simpsons between as we Johns. yet the application of this criterion may limit his range of aesthetic experience. involve Homer and confusions that awaken artistic Simpson identity. Homer: From this I think I remember my own life. Lisa and the 8th Commandment. cerebral Johns to the loud. but don't you think itmay have been a fluke? he Homer: Hey.The light bulb. Marge! conversation. and confusing about our us. or between types of objects. originally aired on Fox Network. on The Simpsons. Timesfilm critic A. Both the overt and the implied comparisons of the reserved. May 1. dating back tomy schoolgirl days when I painted portrait after portrait of Ringo Starr. Jonah Goldberg. succeeds in disorienting The outsider. or not: either approach has its pitfalls and limitations.com/2001 / I l/04/magazine/04SIMPSONS. "Homer Never Nods: The Importance of The Simpsons.com/01 may00/goldbergprint050100. fine art and popular as we just seen culture. 14. 2001. November 4.nationalre view. in spite of the vagueness and ambiguities of art and artists. draw.'3 We catch Johns stealing a light bulb from the gallery.html. Marge: Marge: Homie. 15. then Homer is applying some criterion according to which an object may hang on themuseum wall. (For instance. an obvious allusion to Johns's own early sculptures. in the parallels between Simpson drawn and Groening. Homer soon takes on the artistic closest at hand that best suits his purposes. as Homer confuses himself with Marge. Scott has called the show "gleeful in its assault The New York on every imaginable'piety. we realize that. and no of philosophy. has professor syndicated stated that "its columnist satire has Jonah spares nothing in his Goldberg. like the barbecue pit.2000. too?a weakness also shared by Homer (aswe know from several previous Simpsons'episodes). as in differences." New York Times Magazine. whether the present case. started out as an everyday object and ended up elevated to the status of art. a conservative Review. I'm really happy you sold your sculpture. To discern between people. Listen to this discussion identity has with his wife. available online at www. available online at www. 1991.made out to be a petty thief in other ways. Scott. impulsive Simpson are absurd. of 1958.) It iswith good reason thatwriters of divergent political stripes and wide-ranging professional backgrounds have called attention to how.A."'4The writing '5Carl one. all sides of an argument are scrutinized and laughed at. O. ifHomer decides Matt Groening's Akbar and Jeff drawing is not art because he thinks Groening cannot 13. We see that the show makes fun not only of meaningful distinctions that may seem vague or arbitrary (about art and artists). but also of the inability to properly make distinctions. "How The Simpsons' Survives. it actually is to draw distinctions. Fueled by his triumph at Weller's gallery.

. is always trying new things: in episode likeMichelangelo addition business. some to categories More thing new this order Marge desperate allows to take him to the Springsonian Museum seek inspiration.Matheson. "Shaq O'Neal.May 20 2002. holds a one-person exhibition of his work at her gallery. even referred to himself as a renaissance man.. 17. . an NBA star. See Els Hoek. available online atwww.)'7 O'Neal. 181. great things." New Yorker. these writing. Homer is thrilled. 235-51.contribution humor It treats and works nearly to a collection of essays entided The Simpsons Philosophythat "its and by putting everything forward positions every only in order to undercut character. foible.." Washington Post. These pieces are just like your earlier work. Marge had admired David when it traveled to the Springsonian Museum in an earlier Michelangelo's of the Simpsons. Earlier in the episode. "Itchy and Scratchy and Marge. inspired by the sale of Homer's barbecue-pit sculpture." (Not coincidentally. He is led back there by what ismost familiar to him: failure. and then." inThe Simpsons and Philosophy. notions Homer. things new were diagnosis: point is.48. the restaurant he has Marge and more. split spots pea . 16. I'm afraid they only love what's new and shocking. objects are scorned by all present. For example. O'Neal has bopedia. "AMan-Child in Lotusland: Inside the Big World of Shaquille O'Neal. stereotypical every institution. December 20." origi nally aired on Fox Network... poor Homer feels deeply dejected." Apparently no longer judged Marge kind of by outsider-art standards.com/oneal/)...] are to be elaborates the same. after all). 1998. 18. finally. They look at paintings by Pablo Picasso and Joseph Turner. The failure comes when Astrid Weiler. On the Ball. successful artist. up Marge. 19. and he calls this technique "hyper-ironism" (118)." Art inAmerica 77 (February 1989): 137-43. When the exhibition opens and his new Applesauce. of has a penchant popular to find the accepted occur when art and Despite for using culture. a Mondrian painting is featured on the cover of an issue of Art inAmerica that contains an advertisement for Homer's one person exhibition... concerning this identi fication.. with his first sculpture.] The all of your always trying avant-garde.Wallace. August 6. Perhaps it is not a coincidence. "Mondrian inDisneyland. Because man. 1990. see James M. been called he has taken up rap music.htm. just Astrid diagnoses the problem: "Homer. in a new layer of confusion. we need to examine where Homer failed. if only by accident. law enforcement. Another detail of O'Neal's makes him an especially suitable reference on The Simpsons is his strong identification with a comic strip character (Superman). Groucho) Marxist inSpringfield. like Homer. He has lost the approval and love that he had gained. on Astrids [. thinking this is the sort of object his audience wants (it worked the first time around. which.. Matheson argues that the undercutting of the viewpoints itputs forth is the basis for the humor of The Simpsons.. FailedShelving sculptures accordingly (Botched and and AttemptedBirdhouseI). that a real issue of Art inAmerica includes an essay about Mondrian's interest in theWalt Disney cartoon SnowWhite. is also that of a To understand his paradoxical journey back to himself. Homer eventually manages to slip back into his own identity. as a target. see Kevin Merida. John Swartzwelder (writer) and Jim Reardon (director). trip "Mmm that Homer . every them. and he tides these Unit with StupidStuckChainsaw Hibachi.wpyellowpages. see Rebecca Mead. Perhaps this moniker is what has inmind when her own interest in ways mix-ups to make. in she puts him in the same category asMichelangelo. sometimes to basketball. a "renaissance varied activities."l8 of acting. then. how he found away to overcome his failure.."'6 In the "Mom and Pop Art" episode.cele Moreover. the latter distracting Homer 3 ject he [drool]. [gasp] with ham! of often: Groening's drawing . "high" that mix of culture. His strong desire to regain this approval and love lead him. the biographical sketch of O'Neal on Celebopedia describes him as "truly a Renaissance man for the modern age" (www. back to his own identity. He has put all his energy into the production of a series of sculptures that resemble the barbecue-pit piece. For a critical assessment of this aspect of the humor of The "A (Karl. or Shaquille O'Neal. They see an abstraction by Piet Mondrian and a Campbell's Soup can by Andy Warhol. Homer is now "Homer artists expected [."'9 thinks about more It is on this museum from the subject of art and refocusing him on a sub food. not Simpsons.com/wp-srv/style/daily/ life that shaq. 120.

Homer objects to the presence of Groening's work and in themuseum. is Bourdieu's dis cussion of the ramifications of the fact that the word "taste" applies to food as well as to culture (99-225). that let's pause to look at the sign posted backfired. connections analogous Pop Art" to Bourdieu's analysis. "Mom to get a handle on. become dreams. 1984)." (His question might be explained as Homer's response to an elitist disdain for unrefined types such as him. Aesthetic distinctions whereas another intricate many ways class matter. a cartoon. distinctions as the are befuddling But Pierre taste and how we and difficult interpret observes in fact. in the process Yet as soon This is one instance inwhich a distinction applies time between a distinction art and of a pencil to he does make a judgment comics. for its fascinating connections to Homer's food consumption at the art gallery and his drooling before Warhol's Campbell's Soup can painting. As we know already. confusion as it does with exists about the particular the categories The symbolism of these socioeconomic or position art-popular e S I ?1 insider-outsider culture.Worth highlighting here. The museum attacked him. the next Oldenburg. object As he is he the eraser raises as Homer art and Groening's unable encounters. Bourdieu's exposure of how intellec tuals are implicated in the creation of taste and therefore of class equates with the ambivalence wish to articulate in the present essay. by the so-called Euro-trash who fre quent her gallery. class artists. 1996. sociologist between Bourdieu class.20 Suddenly. as narrative. including by erasing him. has In his proportions guns. while Simpson around drives for some a pink. and by Homer Simpson. to see one?this an enormous between reality?in by Claes sculpture end of the pencil approaches his head. The dream represents for Homer the rejection he had felt after the failure of his one-person exhibition. Pierre Bourdieu. and art. "Single vehicle that's been indicat 'n' Sassy. the Springsonian Museum is "Where the Elite Meet Magritte. we idea read entails. No each the car since before he was married). "Why does art hate me? I never did anything to art. for and Take." written by Jennifer Crittenden. February 4. a source is a of professional fascinating subtext ambivalence of this "Mom subtext. drawing. and he goes everything to sleep. trans. Michael Maltese (writer) and Chuck Jones (director). respectively). props. seeing what Homer's There. Warhol throws soup cans at him. Homer obliterated. Duck Amuck." Visual are used to elaborate example. by as far as Homer exhausts Homer. class distinctions study of is the is in in his and are not." These words express bluntly what Homer's question ("Why does art hate me?") suggests: that there is a vexed connection between social many 20. This and as well connection.2' . inwhich Daffy's animator (later revealed to be Bugs Bunny) incessantly pesters him." ing he has owned cars of is obvious. years but (the otherwise bumper generic. sticker on Detroit-made it reads.) Marge's quest to inspire Homer at themuseum seems him an to have idea. Warner Brothers.Akbar and Jeff. and first aired on Fox Network. Pop for critics. Leonardo drawing him with of human machine punches Dal? Picasso's three musicians a Salvador clock drips on him. Daffy Duck in the famous cartoon DuckAmuck (1953). Art. he asksMarge. da Vinci's shoot is concerned. directed by Susie Dietter. However. Richard Nice (Cambridge. Distinction: A SocialGitique of the Judgement of Taste. art historians. 21. Upon waking. Turner's painting of the canals of Venice gives Before outside the museum. he is art. 1953. the cars driven by Astrid Weller. MA: Harvard University Press. "Oh no! I'm being erased!" he is convinced Homer's that he is about to be fear is an allusion to screams. expensive European cars (a black BMW and a green Jaguar. character. The I Simpsons takes up the issue of social class directly in the episode entitled "Scenes from the Class Struggle inSpringfield. Weiler and the Euro-trash drive fancy.

a one Mrs. which Olive Oyl and her brother Castor. love?). sometimes neither do been artists. Raw Geation: Outsider Art and Beyond. But in the end Homer does recognize the originality of Warhol's pic ture. to set in against An open in especially example is an early Popeye strip. of steals all the doormats in town. art has gained awidespread appreciation (although its growing popularity has eliminated neither its elitist patina nor debates about what it is). 1996). sense but never he grow up. in themuseum. destructive as Homer the courts to decide. intro. is dumbfounded. a contrivance to win back the love and affection of his audience. He explains that "it only cost five too?an' mine's got a bathin' suit on which 'er stuck makes itmore fitten to look at. painting of DeHotsy. one of the paintings on display at a school art fair isof a Campbell's Soup can. he might "do something really radical. also had made an appearance in "Brush with Greatness": here." Popeye responds to the painting in terms of the matter only. Bart. he asks his dad.When precocious he returns comes home to his from aid. Soon the entire town of Springfield is flooded." Homer's at this point. and he 22. didn't the Lisa the museum inspire him. in an attempt to refine and polish the rough Popeye (not unlike Marge's attempts to refine Homer).Elzie Segar. A new "That's for spin on artistic judgment is introduced son. like Christo.. though. a female When nude. just as Homer does. even noting the accidental deaths caused by TheUmbrellas. like several other details in this episode of The Simpsons. initially." a soup he moans and can toMarge attribute (in a brilliant ironical snippet) never come up with Homer this difference between that some and that he?Homer?could can. 1930 (? King The association of social class with the comics their work to question. To put it of fine art in the decades since the simply. proposed at least in is not grown . Warhol thing was like a "genius. is the existence of a collage-drawing of a Campbell's Tomato Soup can in an illustrated book of 1929 by the outsider artist Adolf W?lfli.22 We Popeye to the increasing popularization Popeye cartoon was written. since Popeye's day." He then takes it upon himself to show her "a real piece of art": the tattoo of awoman sinkers to get emblazoned on there. Thimble Features Syndicate) Theatre. when looking at the Warhol subject soup can. 23." She instructs her father on Christo 's wrapped Reichstag and Umbrellasproject. More extraordinary.Warhol's Campbell's Soup can paintings. the attention he so craves. informs DeHotsy that the figure is so bad that "they wouldn't print that in a funny paper. DeHotsy Popeye proudly shows them and her acquisition. then opens all the fire hydrants. "Are you sure this is art and not vandalism?" replies. the museum She proposes more that. as he concocts a work of art that weds Christo 's environ mental projects with Turner's portrayal of the Venetian canals. impulse has kicked in as his best bet for reacquiring 3 to be even more and in this he seems of a brat than If cartoons (Homer may be in some an adult. take him to the home new of a socialite. Enlisting the help Bart (and now behaving like the Homer Simpson we all know and . Roger Cardinal (London: Phaidon. All thismakes even Bart a little nervous. uses them to cover up the street drains. on his back. and the route that leads him back to his own iden tity. This unfortunate detail gets Homer's creative juices flowing. Homer even dabbles in conceptual art.. as has up). see John Maizels. and even in the past "fine art" while appealing had been at the artistic judgment has a long history used same by time comic-strip leaving creators the distinction of 1930. depressed since than before.

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Even when the art-world luminaries Astrid Weller and Jasper Johns love Homer's creation. When we can't help but worry about all the water damage Homer has inflicted on his town (a 3 problem the citizens of Springfield do not seem the least bit concerned about). "Annoying Performance Artist" is reproduced inMatt Groening. 30-32. exposes for who Once exposed. which are collaborations involving many individuals." The 23. Real people might not be so understanding. Homer explains. as transcribed by Richard Copping and available online at www. Seymour rejoice it turns masterpiece. in Groening's Akbar and Jeff drawing that hangs in the Springsonian Museum. see David Joselit." are cartoon characters. "real people" viewers Krabappel. Even though Groening does not write the individual episodes of The Simpsons. For example.23 In a 1990 drawing from Life inHell. 1979). people. I believe." inThe Visual Culture Reader. 26. 2nd ed. "The Video Public Sphere. see Jason Mittell. in "Ecce Homer. it is worth why the people resist art such as Christo ask whether . as we see not only on The Simpsons but also in his comic strip Life inHell. New York. we are provided with than with an answer to the question. 2002)." Marge remains unconvinced. the stories covering within his body with red such as ants.24The cover shows Binky. it would are "in seem that we are not and another after the all. Yasco Horsman.inwhich the family members. we are left wondering how to judge what appears in front of us. out. 15. Marge still hesitates and cautions Homer that "they'rein the business. June 21." In both Life inHell and The Simpsons. If we can or at least appreciate. 2003. in this like Weiler case. in Sadownick interview.make a beeline to the sofa towatch television. ed. but different. 's. each other. it's like when like you don't somebody see exactly the same as you criticizes It's hilarious. Our them. I pointed out earlier that Akbar and Jeff are identical." However. 24. 'The Grand Canals of Springfield. When Marge discovers the flooded Springfield and ismortified. "How to Form Dramatic Flecks of Spittle in the Corners ofYour Mouth" and "How to Get Back atYour Parents for the Rest ofYour Life. "Will Comics Ever Grow Up?" paper in the session "Comic Art" of the 2003 College Art Association Annual Conference. and it is fully in his spirit. For a different perspective on audience identification with television characters. 451-57. Johns. 2000. he over sees the program." The Independent (UK). of Springfield and and his all that school the other regular principal.snpp. 1994). for example.27They are like us.25 answer can be found. We watch this sequence from our sofas and on our TVs."26 In effect.Matt Groening's view.The difference assists us to identification with more reflect clearly on ourselves in ways we otherwise might not. the mirror. at Homer's does course. (London and New York: Routledge. more than the motivation a little of to create as well as the form Groening the creation us takes we have are. See. he has portrayed the cover of a fictitious magazine called AnnoyingPerformance Artist. do we give up creativity ambivalent in order feelings to eliminate rather immaturity? Once again. Seymour.com/ other/articles/eccehomer. The Huge Book of Hell (New York: Penguin. Quoted 27. The comic artist Scott McCloud offers an interesting "explanation" of why we identifywith comic-strip and cartoon characters inhis book Understanding Comics: The InvisibleArt (New York: HarperPerennial. "real know people. the childish in them. the magazine. the business. If immaturity is a source of both big trouble and great creativity. For an attempt to tackle the difficult topic of realism on The Simpsons.' just likeVenice.html. as has been noted often. Where "real the people." well. arriving home at the end of the day. "It's conceptual art. is central to our ability to enjoy this program. this leave us? On the and surface." "real since we. suddenly some a door opens that allows us to understand. "Cartoon Realism: Genre Mixing and the Cultural Life of The Simpsons. February 20. Akbar and Jeff function in the same way as the opening sequence to each episode of The Simpsons. one while of Groening's surrounding stock him comic-strip are titles of characters. of such Skinner. The Simpsons are reflections of us. Gilbert Adair proposes that we view Homer as "gross" but we nonetheless iden tifywith him. as Bart's As are all teacher. the characters Edna Edna. 25." The Velvet Light Trap 47 (Spring 2001): 15-28. Groening has stated thatwhat appeals to him about these two is that "when they criticize you. Nicholas Mirzoeff.

opens us were us to receive trained to accept perspectives to embrace. our judgments. 1991 ). because pun. The laughter.28 our ambivalence (just as Homer's other It can about life than the ones us we we might think we and. . 28. environment some degree to be of confusion if it is easier. "By displacing certain anxieties and dis abling habitual resistances. and all. give us a complexity that approximates?but is not equal to? life. 1997) and Goya and the Satirical Print (Godine. The Simpsons gives us the liberty to laugh at ourselves." "The Function of Fiction: The Heuristic Value of Homer. but that we must recognize their limitations and dangers. too. comedy can bring to light things that might otherwise be too comfort able to acknowledge. This cartoon complexity reminds us thatwe need our distinctions. and Gossip in the 1960s (University of Chicago. precisely Each in the process.expense and destruction to create a flood. She is an associate professor of art history at the State University of New York. 230. in turn. taken together in their totality. Poetry. Through this and many other implied and seemingly absurd comparisons. The muddling of distinc tions where in "Mom our own and Pop Art" has and the potential ambivalence seems to create can wander entirely more a mental with acceptable. contradiction. paradox in The Simpsonsstands on its own as a funny detail." inThe Simpsons and Philosophy. comfort?even clear about and crystal Reva Wolf is the author of Andy Warhol. As philosophy professor Jennifer L McMahon observes. it is a cartoon and and we are not isn't Marge's). should have or allow expand who in this way are. we also can ask whether it is worth the expense and destruction to install giant umbrellas in the landscape. New Paltz.