Moulton Barn at Mormon Row, Grand Teton NP, Wyoming. Image via: Hazboy
Prompted by James Gardner’s article in the WSJ asking why the Mona Lisa is so disappointing in person, The Awl’s Alex Balk ruminates on whether hot ladies might not be the most well-known portraits of today. Of course, nobody’s labeling Megan Fox art (at least not correctly), though both star culture and art provoke the common question: Do they look the same in person?
Nothing ever does, of course, which reminds me of a scene in Don DeLillo’s White Noise in which Murray and Jack visit the most photographed barn in America.
“No one sees the barn,” [Murray] said finally.
A long silence followed.
“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.”
He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced by others.
We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”
There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
“Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. It literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”
Another silence ensued.
“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said.
He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from the other barns, how was it similar to other barns?”
In other words, no one really experiences Megan Fox. She’s a religious experience, just like tourism. Same goes for the Mona Lisa.