It seems The Simpsons has something to say about everything, including the value of art. In “Mom and Pop Art,” a treasure of an episode from 1999, Homer is discovered as an “outsider artist” after a home improvement mishap. As the value of Homer’s work on rises and falls on Springfield’s art market, Marge becomes increasingly disappointed that no one seems to appreciate the worth of her representational paintings. The whole family takes an outing to the Springsonian museum, and Marge explains the art historical significance of her favorite works to Homer and the kids. Homer is then besieged by nightmares of being attacked by Andy Warhol throwing giant soup cans. Lisa tells Homer about Christo, and he finally gets some inspiration for a new work. Homer’s final artwork is vastly public; he snorkels all the zoo animals and floods the streets to turn Springfield into a nouveau Venice. If it weren’t a cartoon, the destruction that would ensue after this rogue act wouldn’t be at all light or funny (images of New Orleans post-Katrina can’t help but come to mind) but as a fiction Homer shows us some of art’s worldmaking potential, the ways in which it helps us imagine fantastical possibilities.
A cameo by Jasper Johns makes this all the more delightful.
Thanks to Marc Mayer for leading me on a dig for this little gem. Watch the full episode here.