Friday, January 04, 2008

And, Who Are You?

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Where did they look?

"they couldn't find a Native artist who did formal portrait sittings like this."
James V. Grimaldi reports in the WaPo that W. Richard West Jr., the founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, spent $48,500 in museum funds to commission a portrait of himself. Asides from the sensationalistic issue being made about the cost of the portrait - always try to minimize the value of the visual arts - what caught my eyes was this statement:
The portrait of West by New York artist Burton Silverman hangs in the patrons' lounge on the fourth floor of the flagship museum, which is dedicated to the arts and culture of American Indians. Silverman said West picked him after he saw a portrait Silverman had done of former Smithsonian secretary Robert McCormick Adams. The Adams portrait, completed about a decade earlier, was smaller and cost about half as much.

Silverman, of Polish descent, was chosen, said Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas, after "they couldn't find a Native artist who did formal portrait sittings like this."



Are you fucking pulling my leg?

I'm not even remotely a fucking expert on Native American artists, but off the top of my head I can think of a couple of DC area and former DC area Native American artists who are (among other things) excellent portrait artists. One of them, Michael Clark has made a worlwide reputation for his obsessive portraiture of George Washington, and he has also done dozens and dozens of portraits of JFK, Jefferson, Jackie O and many, many portraits. He's in the collection of a couple of DC area museums I believe.

His brother Mark (who I think used to work for the Smithsonian for God's sakes) is also a superb artist, a brilliant trompe l'oeil painter and has done many hyper-realistic portraits as well!

They're both of Native American descent.

But we all know by now that most DC area museum curators ignore their own backyard. But couldn't one just pick up a phone and call some art galleries in Santa Fe or Sedona?

Or use the web? So just for fun let's see if we can Google some Native American portrait painters:

Mike Larsen.

Johnny Lee.

Mary Anne Caibaiosai.

Karen Clarkson

Reno Moreno.

OK... some are better than others, but if in less that five minutes I can come up with half a dozen Native American artists who appear to be portrait artists, including one - Mike Larsen - a Chickasaw portrait artist who was named the 2006 Oklahoman of the Year!

Note to Kevin Gover, who took over as the Indian Museum's director early last month: when it's time for your portrait and you're looking for a Native American portrait painter: call me!

Or learn to use Google.

Cuban Hall of Fame

In Rockville, Maryland there's an excellent Cuban restaurant called "Cuban Corner." As far as my palate is concerned, this is the best and most authentic Cuban restaurant in the Greater Washington, DC area. They are at 825 Hungerford Drive, near Ivy League Lane, Rockville, MD, 301-279-0310. Essentially on a strip mall right on Rockville Pike.

The food is authentic, affordable and plentiful (see the menu here). My favorite dish there is "Ropa Vieja," although the "Vaca Frita" is also superb. Either of those dishes, with a side of yucca con mojo or tostones, will delight your mouth and belly.

A visit to Cuban corner also delivers the interesting spectacle of the restaurant's Cuban Hall of Fame... or as they call it: The Wall.

The Cuban Hall of Fame, as determined by Joaquin Cabrejas, the restaurant's feisty owner, is composed of Cubans, Cuban-Americans, and people of traceable Cuban ancestry, and is made up of hundreds of name plaques glued to the restaurant's walls.

Some potential surprises to non Cubans (and even to some Cubans):

- Angela Anais Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell - otherwise known as Anais Nin, one of the 20th century's sexual goddesses nymphomaniacs (and a damned good writer as well!).

- Amazon's creator Jeff Bezos.

- Benjamin Huberman, Science Adviser to several American presidents.

- Truman Capote (by adoption)... took the last name of his adopted dad. Capote in Spanish is a large cape or the hood of a car.

- Ysrael A. Seinuk, the "father of the modern New York skyline."

- Eamon de Valera: The father of the modern Irish republic was Eamon de Valera, who was born in New York in 1882. His father, Juan de Valera, although technically on paper always reported as a Spaniard, was really a Cuban, born in Cuba (which was part of Spain back then), the son of a Cuban sugar planter and escaped to New York during the Independence Wars with Spain. There he earned his living as a piano teacher. He met and married Irish immigrant Catherine Coll. Juan died shortly after the birth of their son Eduardo. After Juan's death, his wife sent Eduardo to Ireland, where her family changed his name to the Gaelic version of Eduardo: Eamon.

- Cameron Diaz... we all know who she is.

- Dr. Steve Pieczenik, author of 39 books, including 16 bestsellers. He is critically acclaimed author of psycho-political thrillers and the co-creator of the New York Times best-selling "Tom Clancy's Op-Center" and "Tom Clancy's Net Force" book series. He is also one of the world's most experienced international crisis managers and hostage negotiators.

- Olga Viso, the Hirshhorn Museum's former director and now director of the Walker Art Center.

- The Joker... I mean Cesar Romero.

Ambrosio José Gonzales, this Cuban Confederate Colonel played a significant role in the Civil War and was essentially responsible for building Confederate coastal defenses. He had his finest hour during the Civil War as the artillery commander at the Battle of Honey Hill.

Cubanos todos de alguna manera!