politicians destroying art…vol. II in the Chronicles of the Asinine

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Thomas Merton


(just one wall section of the murals at George Washington High School in San Francisco)

Today we continue our venture into the tales of the asinine with another example
of idiocy outweighing common sense.

It is now officially a sorrowful fact that we, as a culture, have a serious issue
with common sense…as in, we don’t possess any.

Case in point, a high school in San Francisco—oh wait, that alone probably says all you
need to know…but I digress.

This particular high school has some very historic murals that have sadly found their
way into the sites of the Political Correctness Police.

Wait.
“Are they a thing?” you ask.
“What?” I ask…”You mean the PC Police?”

Well, sadly yes…I’m afraid to report that it does seem that the
PC police are indeed very real, very powerful and very scary.

George Washington High School in San Fransico has a collection of murals that
are on display throughout the school and have been there since the 1930s when they
were painted and funded by FDR’s New Deal.

The murals depict the life cycle of George Washington.
They show images of slaves and even Native Americans—some living, some in battle
and some dead.

Images in part because this was part and parcel of this man’s life in the 1700s
during the inception of this nation….not all positives yet realities of the day.

The San Francisco School Board has voted to allow approx. $600,000 to go toward the
destruction of the murals.

All because our culture no longer likes the truth about how life used to be in the early
days during the founding of a nation.

And so we are now seeing that art, which depicts a life that was, is being deemed to be
politically incorrect–as it is viewed through the closed lenses of a 21st century
gone mad.

The culture we live in has deemed that the life of George Washington is obviously
politically incorrect…
Incorrect to those liberal progressive nuts of the 21st century who don’t like the reality
of a man’s life in the 1700s.

I was an art student at the University of Georgia in the late 70s into the start of the 80s.
Well, let’s make that an Art Ed major who took a copious amount of Art History courses,
as well as a great many studio classes, right alongside painting majors, printmaking majors,
sculpture majors, interior design majors…

And it’s never been much of a secret that art majors tend to be a more liberal lot.
Which is in part as to why my conservative younger self sometimes looked a bit out of place,
However, I managed to find a love for many of my professors and fellow classmates.

It was a different time when differences of opinions and lifestyles could still enjoy
one another’s company while still offering nuggets of growth and wisdom to one another.

I did not like modern art…Post-impressionism, Postmodernism, Op Art, Surrealism, Dadaism,
Pop Art, assemblages, installation art, etc…
but rather I loved Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Impressionism periods.

Yet I learned early on that art tells a story.
And I do not believe in the notion of art for art’s sake…
Because there is responsibility to art as well as a responsibility from the artist.

I would often tell my students that art must be aesthetic…
that which is “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”

As a class, we would spend hours discussing the blatant destruction of the ancient
artworks of Iraq and Syria by ISIS fighters. From the smashing of statuary to the actual
blowing up of temples and centuries-old carvings.
Destroying the stories of a previous people—whose breadcrumbs were left as gifts to
future generations—left to be everlasting in order to tell a story—-
telling their story of then to us today.

Much like the murals in George Washington High School in San Francisco.

According to an article on artnetnews.com at least 400 writers and academics are
protesting the planned destruction of the murals.

The 13-panel painting was created by Russian-born artist Victor Arnautoff in 1936
through the Works Progress Administration. The cycle depicts the life of Washington,
and includes images of America’s first president as a slaver.

But the decades-long debate—which pits activists who take offense at the startling
images against those who say the works were specifically meant to be critical,
not celebratory, and should be used as a teaching tool—is lingering on.

Last week, the academic online journal Nonsite published a fierce defense of
the murals in a letter that has since been signed by nearly 400 writers, historians,
and artists, including prominent academics such as Michael Fried, Aijaz Ahmad,
Adolph Reed, and David Harvey.

“It is an important work of art, produced for all Americans under the auspices of a
federal government seeking to ensure the survival of art during the Great Depression,”
the letter reads. “Its meaning and commitments are not in dispute.
It exposes and denounces in pictorial form the US history of racism and colonialism.
The only viewers who should feel unsafe before this mural are racists.”

The letter has since been submitted to the San Francisco Unified School District,
which had not responded to Artnet News’s requests for comment.

Rocco Landesman, the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts,
wrote a letter to the New York Times decrying the planned destruction of the
painting cycle.
“This just in: A significant segment of the liberal community is turning anti-art,”
he wrote.

“When important artworks of our cultural heritage are not just hidden away but destroyed,
how do these desecrations differ from those of the Taliban, who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas
in Afghanistan, or the ISIS commanders who destroyed ancient monuments near Palmyra, Syria?”
Landesman asked.

These continuing tales of the asinine are more than simply stupid happenings
by self-righteous ignorant people.
They are a blatant reminder that we are not progressing as a culture…but rather
rapidly regressing.

And the sad thing is, as much as these rabid masses fuss and cuss that which they
claim to be politically incorrect, we as a global family are suffering
due to some odd sense of entitled hatred.

When will we say enough is enough?

Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.
From the sole of your foot to the top of your head
there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts
and open sores,
not cleansed or bandaged
or soothed with olive oil.
Your country is desolate,
your cities burned with fire;
your fields are being stripped by foreigners
right before you,
laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

Isaiah 1:5-7

the tale of the ever-present invisible gentleman

A gentleman is one who puts more into the world than he takes out.
George Bernard Shaw

“Gentlemen, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color.”
― Louisa May Alcott

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(Rene Magritte /L’Ami de l’ordre 1963 / oil on canvas )

We are a fickle lot, you and I.
One moment we are as fresh as a downy feather loosed from a newly hatched chick, caught drifting along the tempestuous winds, bourn aloft without thought or care.
Other times we are cunning and conniving as we stealthily crouch in the shadows, hoping the darkness will hide our secrets.

When does the knowledge begin?
Early on I suspect, beginning more upon the surface and being of a rote nature.
The real knowledge, the real recognition, comes along say, around age 10 or so.
The time of life which is perched between single digits and the long litany of double digits, possibly pushing triple digits if one is so blessed. . . or cursed.

And when the knowledge actually does take hold, with the time of decisions and choices seeping into the cognizant away from the involuntary, the dance of life and death gingerly begins its most elegant and macabre promenade.

Yet in what seems to be the blink of an eye, a time arrives when we decide we’ve outgrown our need of the seemingly simple knowledge.
We relegate those thoughts of such assumed mediocrity to the recesses of the heart and mind, deeming it nothing more than that of a child’s fancy. We have moved on, growing sophisticated and worldly.
We come to take greater stock in our own puffed up sense of importance.
Our depth for and scope of knowledge now borders on self proclaimed greatness, pushing aside the old for the new and imagined.

Yet Time is no kind taskmaster, events and moments transpire together and against, leaving us lacking, wanting, needing.
We stand, simply staring, alone.
What has happened?
What was that?
What.
And just as quickly, rage fills in the gaps
We rile with fists raised.
We scream into the air.
Why?
How?
No!
We are helpless.
Nothing we can think,
nothing we can do,
nothing we can be or will be can change things,
fix things,
move things,
stop things.

The self importance, no longer remains important.
The money can’t change it.
The need of the money can’t change it.
The status can’t change it.
The success can’t change it.
The failings can’t change it.
The secrets can’t change it.
The new greater knowledge of self can’t change it.

The decisions were ours.
We had been taught otherwise yet we no longer cared for that simple early knowledge.
It was just that, too simple, and we were certainly no longer those simpletons–
we were important.

And yet this seemingly invisible, ever present, ever near gentleman has watched all of this unfold.
He was there in the early simple knowledge, happy to run and jump, frolic and play.
Nurturing and steadfast, always present.
Joyous alongside our gleefulness.
Brave in our fear.
Strong in our weakness.
Quiet and unassuming.

Yet as we grew in stature of both mind and body, we were no longer needful nor carefree
We were busy.
We were smart.
We knew far too much for the gentleman’s seemingly simplistic ways.
And yet he stood aside, allowing us to pass upon our very important way.
He watched us march off.
Some of us looked back, a bit wistful, a bit sorrowful, a bit hesitant.
Yet we went forward anyway.

Our gentleman friend was left to wait as if he had not choice. . .
and yet it was his choice to wait.
He chose to wait, to wait upon both you and I.

He busied himself with other matters.
He waited with patience and even, dare it be said, love.
Ever knowledgeable in that first simple knowledge, he waited.

He saw the choices, the mistakes, the miscues, the purposeful destruction.
He saw the self righteous new knowledge and the indignation of
pride
lust
greed
hypocrisy
and the notion of needing nothing other than ourselves.

But as a gentleman, he remains just that, a gentleman
One who is there when needed, stepping back when not.
Called upon, he drops everything.
The lone raised hand, the signal to go, he goes without a word.
Coming in and out of the circumstance of lives full of knowledge,
He comes and goes as gently as a downy feather on the tempestuous wind.

The mistake will be to continue the weaving dance with the ever present, invisible gentleman.
Summoning him in and out of our lives, all on the whims and needs of the
beating of hearts.
As a gentleman, he never balks or steps in before being asked.
He sees things that he could do,
could stop,
could fix,
could remedy–
but a gentleman never jumps in without being asked, requested, acknowledged as needed.

He waits off to the side, out of sight.
He waits until we realize that it really is as simple as it once was.
He waits with that knowledge of long ago.
The knowledge we grew too important to claim.

The knowledge didn’t change, we changed.
He didn’t leave.
We left.

And so it is, ever present, yet ever hidden, he continues to wait–
for both you and I.

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Solomon 5:16

Dali and Age…odd? Yes.

“Let the labyrinth of wrinkles be furrowed in my brow with the red-hot iron of my own life, let my hair whiten and my step become vacillating, on condition that I can save the intelligence of my soul – let my unformed childhood soul, as it ages, assume the rational and esthetic forms of an architecture, let me learn just everything that others cannot teach me, what only life would be capable of marking deeply in my skin!”
― Salvador Dalí

DSC01242
(photograph: a bowl of nicely aged peppers)

Salvador Dali, to some art lovers (and my former students), is considered indeed one of the “great” artists of modern time. He help heralded the Surrealist movement to the forefront of the art world during the mid 20th century. Dali, however, is not credited with necessarily birthing Surrealism, but was rather the artist who seems best remembered for the role he played in it’s advancements.

Surrealism was actually born in Zurich in the early 20th century at the onset of World War I, under the blanket of the DaDa movement. A basic escape from conventional art, literature and thought–with a step into the world of the absurd– all full of youthful angst, disillusionment, a world war, political unrest and creative unhappiness. It was tongue and cheek, a youthful flight from the tried and true norm of the time. I am not a fan, but my students were always drawn to the allure of the DaDa and Surrealist movements– as to Dali in particular.

There is a certain curiosity to Dali’s work. It certainly draws the viewer into the canvas. Be it his bizarre combinations or the odd placement of subject matter, the exaggerations of human or animal forms, or his peculiar take on a historical event–all of which are portrayed in his paintings– to his even more bizarre and eccentric behavior during his lifetime— my kids love(d) Dali. He was always a favorite to imitate, explore and study. They even enjoyed the old black and white Youtube clips of Mike Wallace’s 1958 interview with Dali. Of which I find ridiculous, as he (Dali) appears simply daft–poor Mike Wallace.

I did stumble upon this Dali quote today. I am also feeling a bit ancient of body as I am still dragging around this blasted air-boot cast on my leg. Noticing the dried peppers as I was cleaning up the kitchen, I decided I was feeling pretty much how they looked, wrinkled and worn out. I remembered the quote and thought it aptly summed up my current mood. But in pairing Dali with my mood, perhaps all is not lost as there is truly a bit of the absurd involved—giving way to Dali’s ability of not taking things (or in my case, myself) too seriously. One thing I will give him credit for–even if I think him more of a nutcase, his ability to not take life too seriously—sometimes I just need reminding…Thank you Señor Dali.