Friday, January 16, 2009

When Interns Write Obits

Growing up I had three major artistic influences ever present in the home: reprints of Norman Rockwell on True Value Hardware store calendars, a reprint of a girl created during Picasso's pink period, and a reprint of Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth. The reprints were framed in various parts of the house and the calendar usually hung in my bedroom.

To learn of Andrew Wyeth's passing is met with shock and nostalgia. Shock: I thought he had already died. Nostalgia: he is no longer an influence, and I cannot say I still admire the work, but I am somewhat fond of it in much the same way I am still fond of soda pop (it isn't nourishing, but having one every so often can't be all that bad, either).

However, at this moment I am infested with an overwhelming sense of disappointment, not from his passing but from the obit I just read on CNN. Compare Wyeth's obit with Ricardo Montalban's obit and you'll see some major differences in writing style.

My friend Claire once worked at NBC's flagship. She'd tell me stories about how she (and others) had to research and fact check the biographies of world leaders and celebrities while they were still living so that they could be archived and updated, and easily accessible once news broke of the death. In the event of that celebrity death, the biography became the obituary. This practice merits the skit of Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw announcing the death of Gerald Ford before going on vacation.

The Montalban obituary reads like it had been prepared months, if not years, in advance. It is polished, meticulous, and is identifiably news. The Wyeth obituary reads like it was handed to an intern late last night - an intern who, when given the assignment, immediately asked, "who?" What gives this away? Citations to Ask Art and Info Please! (For comparison, notice that the author of the Montalban obituary did not cite the Internet Movie Database.) Though I cannot expect the author to discuss the significance of Wyeth's realism in relationship to the movements of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, or Minimalism, at the very least the author(s) could have mentioned that Wyeth's work is included in the permanent collections of The Whitney, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery, and The White House. Perhaps t(he)y could also include his National Medal of Art award, received in 2007, in the body of the article, rather than in the caption of the accompanying photograph.

This tenuous obituary would hardly merit a C- in college writing, lacking in both style and research, and is unworthy of publication. Perhaps it is an editorial decision by CNN that reflects their perspective on fine art, which from this angle makes them a less trusted source for news and information. It is bad enough that schools across this country limit the importance and value of fine arts by cutting arts programs from elementary through secondary curricula. Providing death notice attributions to various Internet sources - boring, general sources at that! - further cheapens and deteriorates the contributions artists are capable of providing to a populous. Though Andrew Wyeth may only possess nominal importance to 20th Century American Art as a stalwart apex for the conservative harrangue, and from a news perspective the value of that is a considerable trifle in comparison to Israel using white phosphorous on Palastinian civilians in what is an unparalleled military offensive, I find the debate over how we perceive objects and value art to be considerably more significant than the sordid details about Boy George's conviction for imprisoning a male escort. But that's just me.

Maybe CNN should take a lesson from The Boston Globe.

"That's the news, and I. am. outta here." - Dennis Miller, Weekend Update.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is "Starving" an Adjective or a Verb?

Two weeks ago Gretchen and I spent a few hours buying "modern" furniture at our nearby Ikea. Spoils loaded into the car, sights set for home, we sat idle for a few minutes, stationed parallel to the Holiday Inn, waiting to drive onto the on ramp and away from College Park, MD.

"F.ART!" I cried, pointing out the passenger window to the couple of somewhat ambiguous youth, wealth, and race walked to their parked car. "F.ART!" I cried again. Gretchen looked out her window. In their hands the couple clutched two paintings - starving artist paintings.

Gretchen reeled in horror. "Don't do it!" She screamed. It was cool out, and our windows kept out the chill of an early winter breeze, but they weren't so tight to seal in our mocking cries of horror. Or, so it seemed, anyway. The couple looked at each other. They looked around like children seeking the guidance of adult supervision. They looked at their newly acquired "art" and made the faces of uncertainty.

We gasped as he turned over his work: an insipid sea side portrait that might even make Thomas Kinkade, the current king of all kitsch, cringe. We gasped again when her work came into view. More of the same. Thin paintings, straight from the tube. The light turned green, and we drove onto the Interstate, choking back our vomit.

There is art and there is crime. We caught them red-handed.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

What Can Brown Do For You?

Let's focus less on what they can do for me and more on what they can't do for me. The answer: they can't screw it up any worse than FedEx has.

Pleased to learn that I would have work show in Chicago, I sent The Global Marketplace via FedEx Ground to A.R.C. gallery on Dec. 22 (A.R.C. doesn't write the name with the periods, but they pronounce each letter when answering the phone). It was slated to arrive within 2-3 business days, and with a holiday crammed in the middle, I figure it would arrive around the 28th. Currently, the work is in what is called a "destination station" in La Grange - about half way between Chicago and Naperville.

After three phone calls to Fed Ex I have learned quite a bit about their business model. Not enough to become an expert, but possibly enough to know that, unless it isn't urgent, I am sticking USPS. After all, they deliver for you.

I'm willing to believe the typical FedEx user ships from a retail store - a location to buy shipping supplies, get some "Kinkos" copies, and maybe do some computer work, all for exorbitant rates that they might deem "competitive." From there, it goes to a destination station, which differs if you ship air or ground. To the zip code I shipped, air goes to Hillside, ground to La Grange.

Destination Stations can also determine their own hours and work days. In La Grange, they don't do weekends. This might be the same for all FedEx Ground, but I cannot recall. The other thing La Grange apparently does not do is Dec. 30, Dec. 31, or Jan 2, as there is no vehicle activity for my package on any of those days.

There was a time when I swore I would never ship art again via FedEx or UPS. One summer I worked as the Assistant Gallery Manager at the Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts Gallery (they are only open during the 10 week summer season), and the Gallery Manager and I were strolling the grounds (got a coffee) and we passed a FedEx or UPS truck ( for short) about a block away from the gallery as he was making a delivery to another building in Chautauqua. The guy was literally throwing boxes around the back of the truck, and I joked to the manager that those boxes were probably ours.

See... we were expecting work that week for the upcoming "craft" exhibition - most of it glass.

The exhibition at ARC I believe opens on Jan 7th. My work, and the work of several other artists, might still be in La Grange.

I miss DHL. Though the joke was that it means "Dumped, Hidden, or Lost," I never had a problem with them. I'd like to believe it is because the D meant Deutsche.