This Instagram Account Meme-ifies Art History with Captions About Sex, Lies, and Insecurity

It's like playing What Do You Meme? at the Louvre.

by Carl Swanson
Dec 27 2017, 4:26pm

Recently a friend told me about the Instagram @drugowl. It consists of shots of paintings straight out of that pre-modern gallery in your local encyclopedic museum that's probably best experienced mildly stoned—all that voluptuous drama! But now overlaid with arch commentary, largely of the "#mood"-meme variety. It reminds me a bit of Mystery Science Theater 3000, too, but with an art history degree. It’s ridiculous, droll, and often, in its oddball way, profound.

It turns out that @drugowl is a side project of a museum curator, who, given of her oh-so-serious day job, prefers to remain anonymous, on the chance that some important people she deals with might be too self-important to get the joke.

“Some people play video games to pass the time and I visit museums and scroll through art history books and images online,” she told me. “I look for paintings and some sculptures that have a sense of place or time or emotion—at times leaning towards the absurd. I search for images that can be layered with a contemporary context. Some things are timeless, such as love, war, regret, self-doubt, hopeless, insecurity, drinking, and sex. And it’s that connection with the past that I hope to carry across.”

Which, come to think of it, is a lot of why I love these kinds of paintings too: the feeling that humans are always, have always been, essentially the same. And that 400 years from now, I’ll be just as dead as these frisky creatures on canvas are today.

“I started the project because I want people to realize that past is always present, and that you can learn so much from about humanity and culture from art history. But most people need an avenue in,” she explained. “Sometimes it's just based on personal experience, such as when American Airlines changed their rules without a lot of notice and I was unprepared.”

art history
curators at play