One of the great explanations of art is that it organizes the chaos of life. Making the point is the film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a picture of America today – angry, violent, and vengeful. Apparently, this is true even in victory. Consider the horrific scenes in Philadelphia when Eagles fans rioted after their Super Bowl win.

Philly riot

Between the acts of vandalism - small fires, street light poles ripped from their mooring and even a couple of police horses stolen – there was so much mayhem that Homeland Security had to be called.

Three Billboards” is full of such mayhem, except people are enraged by losses, not wins. Racism is also part of the picture. Welcome to small-town U.S.A. - land of the free and the brave and the very, very angry. Is Trumpism to blame? To be fair, fury lived among us before the election; although it got worse after.

Multiple meanings

The beauty of this movie is that it’s about more than anger, more than any one emotion – like all great art. These movie characters, though deeply flawed, are layered in varying states of mind, and there’s no resolution of their contradictions, and no happy ending, either. The police case of a young woman who was raped and murdered remains unsolved. The grieving mother acts out her frustration by torching the police department.

The police chief suffers an incurable cancer. The chief’s deputy loses control and throws someone he doesn't agree without out a window. And the new police chief is black. So it goes in small-town U.S.A.

Movie magic

This movie, then - dimensional to its core – is as much a work of art as a favorite painting of mine - “Sleeping Gypsy” by Henri Rousseau — because it pictures the mysteries of life and the confusions that come with them.

Like the movie, it leaves you with questions and yes, anger as we ask — are we doomed to uncertainty in everything, even in a painting? The answer comes slowly. If art is about life, ambiguity must be the subject.

Silent night

What Rousseau shows you is a lone figure slumbering on a moonlit beach and a lion looming nearby. How did the animal get there?

You’re perplexed because you don’t see footprints in the sand. Is the gypsy dreaming? Or is she imaginary, too? The mystery is the artist’s emblem for the inexplicable turns in life. “Three Billboards,” tells the same disquieting story.­

Poster art

As the moving picture and the painted picture are about uncertainty, a hushed air marks them. And in the silence anger ignites. It’s important that art gets all that in. Sadly a lot of so-called art doesn’t. Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” doesn’t. Her face is wrenched apart with fear. Period. This is the stuff of Poster Art, not painting.

Mad dog

Maybe the best-unintended protest art for our time is Roy Lichtenstein’s painting “Grrrrrrrrrrr,” which describes a teeth-baring dog with staring eyes filled with hate.

It looks like us as we are now, but I like to think we’re more complicated than that.

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