Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Trescott Blows It

I started writing this commentary a week ago, when the story was first published in the WaPo, and somehow I didn't publish it as soon as I wrote it, as I was traveling.

And today I came across it again, and it pissed me off even more.

I tend to criticize the WaPo mercilessly for their crappy fine arts coverage, and they generally deserve it. But one constant source of light and enlightment in their shitty fine arts coverage is Jacqueline Trescott.

Trescott usually writes savvy, intelligent words for the WaPo's precious few fine arts Illuminati.

But, in my pedantic view, she really fucked up in this article almost a week ago.


If you've read my ramblings long enough, then you know that I am not a big fan of artistic segregation.

I don't think that there should be an arts museum just for women, or African-Americans, or Latino/Hispanic Americans.

I think that museums should be driven to include meritable art by artists, regardless of race or ethnicity, who deserve inclusion in a museum collection -- and which should be open to all artists, not just artists of a certain geographic or ethnic presence.

Not guided by percentages or demographics or numbers, but merit, and regardless and in spite of skin color, skin hues, last names, or religion.

And this is where Trescott blows it.

In the article she refers to one of my art school professors and influences as "In its recent renovation of the Green Room, the White House has given a place of honor to a newly acquired masterpiece by Jacob Lawrence, one of the greatest African American artists of the 20th century."
Jacob Lawrence, circa 1980 by F. Lennox Campello

Jacob Lawrence, pen and ink, circa 1980 by F. Lennox Campello
In an Private Collection

In my own personal experience, Jacob Lawrence was pretty close to an asshole difficult as an arts teacher (which sometimes means that he was also a brilliant teacher to students other than me), a pretty good drinking buddy, and an opinionated bastard. But Lawrence and his artwork was also without a doubt (in my opinion) one of the greatest American contributions (and artists) of the 20th century.


Not "one of the greatest African American artists of the 20th century."

And Mrs. Bush shows some remarkable insight in selecting this work:
It was purchased for $2.5 million at a Christie's auction in May by the White House Acquisition Trust, a privately funded branch of the mansion's historical association. Mrs. Bush had wanted a Lawrence work since a personal friend lent her Lawrence's "To the Defense." It hangs in the Bushes' private dining room. "And because it's on the wall that I look at from my chair in the dining room, I just grew to like Jacob Lawrence more and more," she said.
Bravo to Mrs. Bush - she went with her guts and feelings; Boo-Hoo to Trescott - she went with her hard-wired "formation" in always trying to label Americans.

And I'll keep my own original Jacob Lawrence on my walls, as I have for years since I acquired it in Art School, and refer to him as a great American artist when people ask me about it.


Update: Below is an image of the painting in question - with thanks to Dangerous Chunky.

Jacob Lawrence painting

No comments: