C'mon, It's Just Snow

By Ann Landi

Printed in ARTNews magazine, April, 1995. Vol.94, Issue 4, Pg.36

In several recent episodes of his syndicated strip Calvin and Hobbes, cartoonist Bill Watterson takes a few calculated swipes at the kind of artspeak that has long given critics and artists a bad name. "How original, how jejune," says Calvin to his feline sidekick as they pause before a traditional snowman at an outdoor snow sculpture exhibition. In the last frame, the two congratulate each other on their own contribution, extraterrestrials in front of a spaceship. "Talent like ours carries such an enormous responsibility," sighs Hobbes.

In another strip, Calvin explains a Henry Moore-like snow sculpture with a hole in the middle: "This piece is about the inadequacy of traditional imagery and symbols to convey meaning in today's world." At the end he defends his materials: "Well c'mon, it's just snow."

Has Watterson been making the rounds in SoHo? Or reading Foucault? He's not telling, "preferring to devote his time to the comic strip," according to a spokesperson at Universal Press Syndicate. Our guess is the strips might be a response to analyses such as that by Jack Hobbs, a professor of art at Illinois State University at Normal, who offered this deconstruction of Calvin and Hobbes to the Getty Center for Education in the Arts: "This strip is, not coincidentally, named after two philosophers who wrestled with the problem of harnassing the unruly passions of humankind in the service of God and the state. The comic strip's hero, Calvin, provides a worm's-eye view of this cosmic dilemma, existing as he does in a constant state of tension between self-gratification and the demands made on him by adults and classmates to conform to their rules."

How's that again?