Kid in a Candy Shop
If you really want to know about the art in a museum, talk to the security guards. Curators know the art’s context and its historical importance, and PR people can sell you on the show. But who, besides the security guard, spends eight hours a day staring at the displays, stopping only to remind visitors to put away their pens and to provide directions to the nearest restroom?
A case in point is J.D. McGuire, who worked as a security guard at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art throughout his undergraduate years at the Kansas City Art Institute. “It’s a lot of time to look at art and think about your projects,” he says, crediting his museum job for being a major part of his art education.
“One day, I was standing there thinking, man, my stuff’s never going to be in here.” And that’s when the idea came to him. He went home and did some research on ancient sculpture, and made his own re-creation of a weathered, ancient-looking ceramic bust. He then sneaked it in among the works in the ancient Christian collection. “Which is kind of close,” he explains, “but anyone who knows their stuff would look at it and say, no, this doesn’t belong here.” A friend went in later that day and, acting like a camera-happy tourist, photographed McGuire’s art in a renowned museum. “I worked there,” he explains. “I figured they owed me.” Documentation of this experiment was incriminatingly displayed at the Cube last summer.
McGuire was able to carry out the prank mostly because he was comfortable in the museum. “I was there so much, I could stand in front of a Caravaggio and it was like it was a piece of candy.”
The fact that McGuire associates feelings of homey comfort with candy will come as little surprise to anyone who’s seen his contributions to UrbanSuburban. For that show, McGuire took photographs of paintings of recognizable candy wrappers and toys, distorting them just enough to make a viewer wonder what’s different about them.
He picks candy wrappers and toy soldiers because, as far as he’s concerned, they’re the epitome of familiarity. “I’m still kind of a kid,” he says.
What’s he going for with this series? “Line, form, those sorts of things. I wish I could say it was more than that. Ultimately, I’m just looking for beauty. I’m old school.”
Old school, maybe, but not old enough to legitimately be considered ancient.