In my visits to museums, I always appreciate the art works that make me laugh. Works by Paul Klee and Jean Dubuffet have always rewarded me in this way. It's the element of surprise and recognition that pulls me into the art work and the vision of the artist.
Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) is an artist who incorporated images from popular culture in his work. In this painting Look Mickey, we are presented with those very familiar comic figures of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. The many cartoons featuring these almost "real” characters have kept us laughing for years.
Laughter has long been praised for its healing qualities. Yet we are still such serious people and deem laughter as a frivolous ingredient in life. In this painting, we see poor Donald Duck who has hooked himself on his fishing pole instead of the "Big fish” he had thought. Mickey, in the meantime, has covered his mouth in an effort to try not to laugh too hard at Donald Duck's misfortune. We cannot help but smile ourselves.
Hearing the words "the jokes on you" can be a painful and embarrassing moment; it's hard to laugh at yourself. Yet, recalling when you have been able to laugh at yourself, you may well realize that those times were both fun and freeing. It's a humble act that brings you in touch with your inner core where the divine resides.
Certainly, there are situations in which "teasing" and practical jokes carry a certain mean spirit with them. But, even on these occasions if we learn to laugh at what diminishes us, we gain our own freedom. I'm reminded of a quote from Ted Loder: "Laughter is like mercy; it heals. When you can laugh at yourself, you are free."
Roy Lichtenstein's Look Mickey is owned by the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. It is currently part of the International Pop Art exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Patricia Repinski lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is a lifelong lover of art who has traveled the world to see exhibitions.