Have You Burned My Mona Lisa?

MonaLisaNo1, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

One of the great things about the SXSW music festival is that, as an Austin local I get to hear a lot of new music on the radio. Often, it’s stuff we don’t usually get to hear, sometimes it’s new bands, sometimes even local bands that are just coming into the mainstream.

The other day, I was driving along and this song came on the radio that I really enjoyed. After the song, the DJ said that it was a local band who just had a showcase at SXSW. Of course, I did not write down the name of the band, no, that would have been thinking ahead. Silly me just sort of forgot about it and went on with my day.

The song kind of stuck in my head though-it was a memorable song. It was all about art and music and I could remember some of the lines in it. “Have you burned my Mona Lisa/It’s a new morning…”

It’s very interesting to me, the entire concept of “burning the Mona Lisa” actually. If you stop to think about it, it’s really a strange turn of events. People have talked about “burning the Mona Lisa” over time-I don’t think anybody actually wants to burn it, more like it’s the concept that artists sometimes have-the notion of burning something of value. Maybe it’s the idea too that art is in the process, the creation and, once the thing is made, it has little value. It becomes a commodity. It’s a product. No longer art, it’s just a thing to buy, sell, trade, etc. and that’s, well, that’s sort of a bad thing, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t the whole point of art to sort of create something new, vibrant, exciting, a piece of your soul, an expression of self, not just another “product” to hawk?

The idea of the Mona Lisa too, of burning that famous piece, because it’s one of the most well-known paintings. No doubt about it, she’s famous. Her subtle smile, her glance, she represents everything “pretty” in some ways, everything classical about painting and, in some ways, art itself. The notion that somebody can “burn the Mona Lisa” comes about because it’s throwing away something society values so much-she’s a priceless work-it’s like turning your back on the world, turning away the things everybody else values so much.

So, I was thinking about the song, and I had few clues to go on. Something about “burning the Mona Lisa” and an Austin band who had a showcase at SXSW. Would the great gods of Google be by my side for this one?

Indeed they were. I found out the band is called “Alpha Rev” and you can see the video and hear the song “New Morning” at this link. I also found out that, starting April 5th, this band, this local Austin band is to become the latest “You Ougtha Know”artist in VH1. How cool is that?

The back story of the band is even more interesting. The band was started by Casey McPherson, who once fronted another band that was signed and set to release a “major label debut.” As is sometimes the case with “major label debuts” though, the album, “became embroiled in contract disputes and, to this date, has not been released.” (according to the Wiki.) After this, Casey McPherson when indie with Alpha Rev and, about two years ago, started the recording of the now soon to be released CD, also called “New Morning” eventually getting signed to another major label and now, by all accounts, the album appears to be actually happening.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, for starters, the video is just as cool as the song. I find myself looking at it and finding inspiration in so many ways. The main reason I’m telling you this though is because musicians, like painters, photographers, and the rest of the lot we call “artists” often face obstacles. Sometimes the obstacles are insurmountable-we’re left stuck holding the bag. Other times, if we’re lucky, we can use some skill ingenuity or what have you to climb over that wall, to break down the barriers between where we are now and where we want to be. I don’t know of any artist really who just sort of “sailed into it.” Everybody, each and every single one of us has a barrier of some kind. Maybe part of being a successful artist is, in fact, tearing down that wall, digging deep inside, finding that presence to forge ahead no matter how the odds appear to be stacked against any kind of success.

It worked for Alpha Rev and maybe, if you’re a struggling photographer, it could work for you too. Nobody ever said that road was going to be easy, but people can do it if they want it badly enough. You have to want it, to want it really badly, and maybe then, after all is said and done, to just do it.

Until next time…


  1. Donna
    March 25, 2010 / 5:13 pm

    Hi Carol, I've been a huge AR fan for years, glad you found them! The line is actually, "have you heard my Mona Lisa, you're a new morning." Just didn't want you to think they were suggesting burning art treasures, LOL!

  2. Carol
    March 25, 2010 / 6:45 pm

    Hi Donna,

    Thanks for stopping by. I'm getting old so I shall chalk this one up to bad hearing and a horrible radio in my car. I actually like the (real) AR lyric better.

    I think "burn the Mona Lisa" is a common expression though. I've heard artists use that phrase before anyway. Kind of like "my waterloo" or some such thing. I think "burning ones Mona Lisa" would be like deleting a photostream from flickr or throwing out a storage shed's worth of paintings. That's probably why I didn't listen too carefully and just assumed that's what they were saying.

    Interesting how even that small change kind of gives a whole new meaning to the song. I'll have to go back and listen again to see how it sounds different now.

    Thanks again for stopping by!

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