Art Criticism: A Penguin’s Cold, Cold Eye

Art does more than just make our hearts soar. Sometimes it helps promote a cause or a business. Centuries ago, even churches promoted themselves by funding the creation some of the great works of antiquity. The painting up for critique today falls into the category of promotional art.

The artist created this work on the outside of a very large outdoor freezer/ice vending machine. Canvas is for pansies. Snap dragons and daisies are good on canvas too. If you’re going to paint a penguin, the best place to do it is on an ice vending machine.

Let’s examine today’s painting.


Who Doesn’t Love A Penguin Or Two?

The artist chose to use penguins to promote the sale of ice. That’s a good decision. People equate penguins and ice. They equate penguins and tuxedos too. I am not aware of a machine that dispenses formal wear, yet.

Penguins on a stark white background bring to mind their Antarctic home.  A rainforest background would detract from the penguins’ credibility. I’d buy ice from an Antarctic penguin because I am certain they understand the product. I would not have the same confidence level with a penguin from the Amazon.

The point of the large penguin’s interaction with the letter T is left to the viewer’s imagination. Only the painter knows whether he intends for the bird to be stealing the letter or replacing it. I’d like to believe he is putting it back after realizing that no one is going to make money selling “wice the ice”. We all know that penguins are mischievous scamps, so if you see it as him taking the T away, I don’t think you’d be wrong.

No One Ever Says “That Penguin Had The Prettiest Eyes”

There is a Yiddish saying that says “when a worm sits in horseradish, it thinks there’s nothing sweeter“. That has a lot less to do with this painting than another Yiddish maxim – “the eyes mirror the soul”. What have we learned here? I believe the lessons of these words are that worms are stupid and it is alright to judge someone based on how they look. I think only the lesson about worms is correct.

If the eyes really do mirror the soul, penguins have empty souls. The eyes in this painting are where the painter made a great error.

By reproducing the blank stare of real penguins, the artist failed his patrons. They commissioned a work that would make people want to buy more frozen water. They received a painting of penguins with disturbing eyes. Those cold, cold eyes drive away customers instead of making them feel a warm welcome.

Art should interpret reality, not reproduce it. Our unknown artist was not under any constraint to portray the cold stare of these Antarctic waddlers. Artistic license would have permitted some depth in the eyes of the penguins and perhaps a benevolent smile on their beaks. Realism is the downfall of this painting.

This painting was created to help promote a product. That doesn’t mean it isn’t permitted to make our hearts soar like others can. Unfortunately, it does not do that.

It could have been so much more.

31 Comments on “Art Criticism: A Penguin’s Cold, Cold Eye”

  1. The Jagged Man says:

    “Two penguins are standing on an ice floe. The first penguin says, you look like you’re wearing a tuxedo. The second penguin says, what makes you think I’m not?” Garrison Keillor.

    Maybe Garrison should have been commission’s to do the eyes because this joke always makes my eyes twinkle just a bit!

    • omawarisan says:

      I haven’t heard one of their joke shows in a long time.

      • The Jagged Man says:

        I know! I posses not one original thought or punch line so I steal…err… borrow some of their material from time to time.

        • omawarisan says:

          Apologies, that did come across as snarky and for once that’s not where I was going. I really was going for “I like the joke show” but did a bad job of it.

          • The Jagged Man says:

            No apologizes needed Oma because no offense was given nor taken. I am just not a funny guy even when I try to be. Just ask me wife because I try her patience…. often with my non-sense of humor!

  2. I must admit the advertisement did have an effect on me. I don’t plan on buying any ice, but it did help me remember I’ve been meaning to call my tuxedo guy.

    • omawarisan says:

      See him while you can. The tuxedo vending machine is coming as soon as they work out the glitches in the inseam measuring device. There have been some anomalies.

      • There’s never a tuxedo machine when you need it. Buying a tuxedo puts a lot of pressure on yourself because you see it the closet and it’s a constant reminder of how rarely you get invited to anything fancy. But if you don’t own a tuxedo and you finally do get an invite, you need a tuxedo fast and that’s where a vending machine would come in handy.

  3. The artist did indeed fail to move me. But your photographic skills are truly sublime–there is a cosmic irony to seeing “Twice the Ice” juxtaposed with the “50 Off Store.” I’m sure the universe is trying to say something to us.

    • omawarisan says:

      Double times half is… Damn I’m not sure.

      The 50 off store has been gone for at least a decade, but the sign stays on as a monument to the business model. I thought they’d make a go of it because they saved so much by eliminating the % sign.

  4. Laura says:

    For me, the real problem with this picture is the ice. It looks like snow that has gone through several cycles of starting to melt and then refreezing, collecting bits of dirt and twigs along the way. It does not look like something I’d want to add to a refreshing beverage.

  5. Wendy says:

    These penguins look robotic. That is why the larger one collided with the “T”. The smaller one appears to be a clone. Thus, they are representing the cold world of science, as opposed to the warmth of humanity (or penguinity).

  6. I am so proud to know you. My biggest pet peeve is when people use the word “arctic” in relation to penguins. It warms my frost-bitten heart to know that I don’t have to tell you that penguins are not found north of the equator.

    Personally, I don’t think the penguin is stealing OR replacing the “t.” Penguins are clumsy creatures. I think the bird in question simply knocked it over. The artist is making a clear statement about social awkwardness.

  7. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Some day, when global warming melts all the glaciers in the world, the only thing we’ll have left to remind us of what icy cold feels like are these ice houses. Millions will flock to them to get the experience of being in the arctic. Ice houses will be museums. People will pay out the nose for ice and to just sit on bags of ice.

    I know. I am such a downer. Anyway, the artwork is okay but my issue is with the text, which is baffling and imprecise. Twice the ice – where’s the comparison? Twice the ice that the Antarctic or Greenland has? Twice the ice you can find in Hell?

  8. Lenore Diane says:

    I’m thinking the penguin is knocking down the “T”, but that thought frustrates me. If the “T” is being knocked, the “W” should be knocked, and so on and so on and so on …
    Once again, you bring a seemingly harmless painting to our attention, and you leave us obsessed with the artist’s intent. *sigh*

    • omawarisan says:

      The obsession is part of my plan. Eventually I will open a gallery with all of the art I’ve featured. I’ll have the artists come in and speak on their vision of their work.

      I will have you come up and introduce this artist.

      Omawari-son and his marching band heading to ATL area for a Friday night game. If you feel a wave of goodness pass thru on Thursday night, it’s him.

  9. I’d be interested to know if you get angry mail from the Worm Lobby.

  10. Blogdramedy says:

    The artist was willing to sacrifice the love in this work. This guy’s cold…cold as ice. And someday he’ll pay the price. He’s a foreigner. *snort*

  11. List of X says:

    My take: it’s a blind penguin assisted by a smaller insufficiently trained seeing-eye penguin. That explains the cold staring eye and the fact that penguin’s head is knocking into the T

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