The term "Bathroom Art," like the term "Cat Art," is a shorthand for a larger concept in our family jargon. In fact, it gets at two larger concepts. The first has to do with the idea that the art you hang in your bathroom is something you don't intrinsically care so much about. It's susceptible to damage from humidity, and anyway if you really loved it you'd probably hang it in a more public space that more people would see more often. Sometimes D and I might critique a piece with a disparaging, "It's just bathroom art," or I might wonder whether someone only likes my work as bathroom art…
But the larger idea that this term gets at is the difference between Art and Decor. There's nothing wrong with decor, by the way, and of course art and decor overlap extensively in real life. There's plenty of really, truly Art that people use to decorate their living and working spaces, and plenty of perfectly beautiful and handcrafted pieces that are Decor. In fact, the same piece could be Art for one person and Decor for another. To think about the difference, consider a couple of questions:
Do you love it, but you wouldn't want it hanging in your house? Art.
Did you like it only because it matched your couch? Decor.
Do you actually spend time admiring it on occasion? Does it give you genuine pleasure? Art.
Do you enjoy the over-all look of the room, but notice this particular piece only when (or if) you dust it? Decor.
Is it hanging in your bathroom? Okay, okay, could be either, but I still maintain that it's more likely to be decor.
I could conclude with a plea to keep valuable Art out of the damaging atmosphere of the bathroom, or alternately I could charge the world to use more genuine Art in all our rooms… But really I don't have an agenda on this issue. I just think it's an interesting phenomenon to notice and consider, and is part of that much bigger, wonderfully human question: What is Art?
[Picture: Still Life I, rubber block print by AEGN, 2008.]