God gave me a great body and it’s my duty to take care of my physical temple. – Jean-Claude Van Damme
Like many of the pieces I was painting in the early months of 2020, the title of this week’s feature is a caption: Jean-Claude-Philippe-André, ça suffit maintenant ! The mouse has had it with the cat who, like his impossibly long name, is being ridiculous. The horse, caught in the middle of this conflict, looks back at the cat who is looking down at the mouse who is looking up at him. This circularity suggests that the conflict is not new. The characters have been here before.
And it’s true, they have been here before. Exactly three months to the day before, in fact. The title of this earlier piece is also a caption, spoken by the moose: Il a peur de descendre. Like the mouse, the little girl is annoyed with the fact that the monkey, like the cat, won’t come down from its perch. Unlike the horse, however, the moose appears hopeful. He offers an explanation for the monkey’s behavior. He believes perhaps that the little girl will ease up. What’s the rush? Why not let the monkey come down when he’s good and ready?
The little girl listens, but with impatience. She knows something the moose doesn’t: this monkey will not act on its own. This monkey needs to be smacked over the head with things. How many times did it have to lose its wedding ring before understanding that it was improperly matched, for example? Three. Three times. Once in an airport. Another time in a parking lot. And then a third time in its own kitchen when it went out with the trash. And even then, what did the monkey do? It went to its favorite jeweler on Court Street to have a fourth one made! If the monkey’s husband hadn’t sat him down and told him it was over while the damn thing was being made, that monkey would have worn the fourth one for who knows how long! The moose is kind and all to offer an explanation for the monkey’s conduct, but he’s not doing it any favors by enabling this bad behavior. The monkey needs to come down off that leg. But the girl is too small to reach him, and as long as the moose continues to protect him, that monkey is not going anywhere.
But it will. Eventually. The artwork tells us so. The cat is not as safe on the horse’s tail as the monkey was high up on the moose’s thigh where it could have resisted even a good shake. All the horse has to do is give his tail a little whip, and that cat will come flying off. The cat knows he is vulnerable. Nakedly so. He has to come down of his own accord. He has no choice. Especially since the horse is not making excuses for him. In fact, the horse appears to agree with the mouse. Enough already, Jean-Claude-Philippe-André. It’s time to come down!
So Chuck Boone* made fun of you that day in the seventh grade for being flat as a board, and perfectly shaped Rosie Owens made that astute connection between your excessive milk drinking and your small breasts in the cafeteria that other day in the tenth grade. To hell with those people and the stupid crap they said a hundred years ago. Are we really still stuck on this? So God didn’t give you the silhouette you allowed society and piddly little humans to convince you was beautiful. What do any of these people know about beauty? More specifically, what did the plastic surgeon who put the breast implants in your body know about beauty? Your beauty? She didn’t even know you. Not like God knows you. And the great body you inhabit, the one precious temple he gave you, is not yours to deform and distort. You are its steward; your only duty is to take care of it.
Art speaks truth. God’s truth. And God’s truth is not always easy to hear. Especially when you’re as stubborn and defiant as Jean-Claude-Philippe-André. How many times was the mouse going to have to smack him over the head before he understood what he needed to do? So many times. But who’s counting? What matters in the end is that the cat came down.
*Chuck Boone and Rosie Owens are not the real names of the people in question.