Monday, January 31, 2011


A new visit to that little piece of paradise parked next to the trash mountain in Broward County, and another crop of photos of Butterflies and Koi. I really do feel as though I’ve been transported to a dream world when I visit the short-lived beauties in Butterfly World. I’ve taken hundreds of photographs there over the past six years, and the butterfly pictures live in my morgue (oxymoron intended) and artworks. *

* morgue – an artist’s alphabetized picture file to be used as aids in art production.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – Oct. 11, 1965)

The fifth entry in the series, “Social Realism and the Popomo (Post Postmodern),” in which I ask the question – Is there a continued interest in using artwork to point out and/or correct social injustice by artists, curators, museums and other art institutions (The Art World) in the Twenty-first Century United States?

Dorothea Lange, "I Am An American" 1942

The famous social realist photographer, Dorothea Lange was a third generation U.S. citizen of German descent, * born in Hoboken, New Jersey. She contracted polio at age 7, and had a permanent limp in her right leg as a result. Lange said that (and I paraphrase) the limp guided her, and kept her humble because of its power over her physical being. Her father left the family when she was 12 years old, so she dropped his surname (Nutzhorn) and took her mother’s maiden name, a smart move as well as an emotional one (Nutzhorn being one degree more unusual than my own “Klomp.”. :-)

Lange learned photography from the great photography teacher, Clarence H. White, and was apprenticed to various New York City photographers, among them the famous San Francisco earthquake, and portrait photographer, Arnold Genthe. She moved to San Francisco in 1918 and lived there the rest of her life, marrying Maynard Dixon, the famous western painter in 1920.

The advent of the Great Depression in 1929 (you know, the one of which we almost had a repeat performance) sent Dorothea into the streets to photograph the unemployed and homeless. Those early photographs brought her employment in the Federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Thus, her photographs for the government, never earned her great amounts of money, only steady employment, and finally fame. Lange divorced Dixon in 1935, and married Paul Schuster Taylor, the economist, who had the greatest influence on her development as social photographer of the disenfranchised. I illustrated the journal entry of Tuesday, January 11, 2011, with Lange’s photograph (“Migrant Mother”) of Florence Owens Thompson. That photograph demonstrates in stark visual terms Owens’ plight, no work available, whose frightened and poorly clothed children are starving, as is she. It seems to me a strange and definitely odd contradiction of the first order that in the 1930’s and 40’s the United States federal government was responsible for overseeing Ms. Lange’s exposition of the disenfranchised farming and working class poor while our contemporary middle and working class members of the various Tea Parties’ desire less government interfearence in their lives (misspelling on purpose). Is anyone documenting – in photography, video, or film - the plight of the disenfranchised homeowners whose lives have been ruined by the big banks in the current economic crisis? * 2

"A crowd of onlookers on the first day of evacuation from the Japanese quarter in San Francisco, who themselves will be evacuated within three days."

After the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor, Lange refused a Guggenheim Fellowship in order to record the forced evacuation of Japanese citizens of the United States to internment camps. The photographs make plain the reality of thousands of Americans forced to give up property, livelihood, and all rights without recourse. * 3 The images were impounded at the time, though they are available today in the National Archives.

At the invitation of Ansel Adams, Lange became in instructor at the California School of Fine Arts (1945). She was also a cofounder of Aperture magazine in 1952.

Lange’s legacy lives on in her work. She died at age 70 of esophageal cancer.


* I mention the degree of removal from citizenship in these United States to remind myself that all of us, even those descended from the Mayflower arrivals in Plymouth, MA in 1620 are not the original citizens of the North American continent - the United States not even having been a figment in their imaginations – and most of us are only one to two times removed from that lack of U.S. citizenship.

*2 Though it is supposedly over, it is predicted that another 1 million homeowners will be forced out of their houses this year, 2011, and on average nationally, the value of the houses, condos, and apartments we live in is half of what it was in 2005. Great swaths of new domestic architecture have been abandoned because of the Banks and their bizarrely manipulated subprime mortgages – which (by the way) have not been made illegal by our government (less is better). Is anyone documenting all the billions of dollars worth of empty buildings nationwide?

* 3 We’ve gotten good at repeating the mistake!


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code. See Copyright.

*1 TITLE: San Francisco, Calif., Mar. 1942. A large sign reading "I am an American" placed in the window of a store, at 13th and Franklin streets, on December 8, the day after Pearl Harbor. The store was closed following orders to persons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas. The owner, a University of California graduate, will be housed with hundreds of evacuees in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war.

*2 "A crowd of onlookers on the first day of evacuation from the Japanese quarter in San Francisco, who themselves will be evacuated within three days."
By Dorothea Lange, San Francisco, California, April 1942
National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the War Relocation Authority
(210-GC-426) [VENDOR # 175]

Friday, January 21, 2011

South Florida Kitsch *

We in the United States have a propensity towards downright terrible counterfeit imitation of period architecture, and south Florida has some of the best examples of Italianate fakery. I actually love some of the worst offenders, and I plan to place some examples as journal entries. This particular structure perhaps built in the 1960’s is already in decline, the three Putti pedestals are cracked and beginning to crumble, a "queer" imitation of actual baroque ruin.

* Kitsch - poor mass produced insipid imitation of actual art objects,styles in art and/or architecture.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Social Realism and the Popomo: Also known as Social Realism in Twenty-first Century American Art: Part IV

Let me preface the forth part of this series with the statement that all my writing is ideologically motivated. Parts I and II of the series appeared in my Journal on October 27, 2010, and November 20th, 2010 respectively. Part III (January 11, 2011) is immediately before this entry

Thomas Hart Benton

The great nephew and namesake of the first United States Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton was on record as disliking homosexuals. Yes, I had to mention that first because it sticks in my “craw,” like a gargantuan dead and broken pine tree straddling a flood engorged gulch. That his dislike stands in opposition to so much of his work about the downtrodden, and/or ordinary working people seems odd. However, Benton’s location in time and place conspired to dispose him to dislike homosexual men. Benton stated his frustration with the usual Art Museum of the time because it was, as he said, “a graveyard run by a pretty boy with delicate wrists and a swing in his gait" with more disparaging vitriol concerning his belief that homosexuals had excessive Art World influence.*1 I can’t deny his belief, nor do I wish to though in the contemporary Art World it is just as likely that a group of trained men and women curators have established themselves as the greatest influence dealing in brobdingnagian artistic enterprises often financed with corporate assistance that require the organizational skills of the likes of a Christo or Nick Cave.

Having gotten that out, let’s deal with Benton’s extraordinary accomplishments. That he was a great art teacher can’t be denied, Jackson Pollock having been one of his protégés. Others among them, Charles Pollock, Jackson’s brother, Lamar Dodd, Frederic James, Charles Banks Wilson and many more. Benton is also placed among the American Regionalist artists like Grant Wood who worked for the most part in the American heartland during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Additionally he was a great muralist. He had spent time in Paris as a student early in the century, and became friendly with Diego Rivera, the Mexican muralist. The similarity in composition, even color between Benton and Rivera’s murals is obvious. Being friends, the influence probably was reciprocated, and worked back and forth over time. Here, the comparison of Benton’s “People of Chilmark” with “Rivera’s “Symbolic Landscape,” demonstrates the way both twist and turn and taper toward the top of the picture plain. Though the Rivera is a gnarled tree trunk, and the Benton is composed of human figures, the two compositions can be superimposed almost element for element. The rower’s ores and the clouds in the upper left portion of Benton’s composition act in similar fashion to the branches of Rivera’s tree. In both artworks, ore and cloud or branches work in opposition to human figures or trunk. The fact of Rivera’s communist affiliation should not prevent the association of the two artist’s works.

People of Chilmark (1920)

Symbolic Landscape (1940)

to be continued


*1 Wikipedia "Thomas Hart Benton (painter)," Viewed 10:25 AM EST, Sunday, January 16, 2011. Original from "Benton Hates Museums". Time. 1941-04-14. Retrieved 2007-07-29.

*2 The following are copyrighted images. I use them here for one time scholarly purposes.

People of Chilmark (Figure Composition), 1920, oil on canvas, 65 5/8 in. x 77 5/8 in. (166.5 x 197.3 cm.) Wikipedia "Thomas Hart Benton (painter)," Viewed 10:25 AM EST, Sunday, January 16, 2011. Original from the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC.

Diego Rivera, Symbolic Landscape, 1940; painting; oil on canvas, 47 7/8 in. x 60 1/8 in. (121.6 cm x 152.72 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Friends of Diego Rivera; © Banco de Mexico Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Social Realism and the Popomo: Also known as Social Realism in Twenty-first Century American Art: Part III

Let me preface the third part of this series with the statement that all my writing is ideologically motivated. Parts I and II of the series appeared in my Journal on October 27, 2010, and November 20th, 2010 respectively.

Dorothea Lange, photograph of Florence Owens Thompson titled “Migrant Mother”

The Art World does not recognize the Mexican Muralist influence upon Social Realism as a movement in our country. In actuality, the great muralists were a direct precursor to and influence upon Social Realism. Our own government, through the Works Progress Administration of the 1940’s sponsored works by the muralists in the United States, all of which deal with the common worker’s role in a modern industrial society. So, why is the influence not recognized? Perhaps it comes from an artificial opposition constructed about the categories “Muralist” versus the smaller scale works of the ordinary “visual artist.” Perhaps we are fearful that the Mexican Muralist’s social concerns grew directly out of oppression and revolution, and we as North Americans have needs totally unrelated to such drastic political realities (He said facetiously.). At least, that is the way the politics of Latin countries have often been presented in our public educational institutions, of which the Tea Party and extreme right are so dissatisfied. * Okay, time to get off my ideological high horse and turn back to actuality. I move on to the part of the category that is recognized within the cannon, Social Realism.

Social Realism is defined roughly as art that describes the everyday racial, social, and economic plight of the worker and the poor in our country. Historically, Social Realism is blind to race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality. Variations in sexuality were not present because at the time sexual categories were purposely avoided at the time, with the possible exception of Paul Cadmus. I shall limit my examination of the Social Realists here to but a few out of necessity because I cannot do the subject and the artists complete justice on such a small scale. I shall look at the following: 1) Thomas Hart Benton, 2) Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, photographers, 3) Ben Shahn, and 4) Romare Bearden.

To be continued


* Perhaps the right and the Tea Party better not try to fix something that preaches the conservative viewpoint so effectively.


Friday, January 7, 2011

St Francis & Sultan Malek al Kamil

The above is an interesting tidbit from my current “Mixed Media Distressed Paint” artwork that might provide food for thought to those who say the entire Muslim world is of necessity in opposition to the entire Christian world. The arguments in that direction don’t take into consideration the fact that the Muslim and Christian worlds are (each) fractious among themselves. Additionally most Christians and Muslims do not wish to fight a new Twenty-first Century Crusade.

However, I understand that it is impossible to apply logic to the illogical.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, Winter 2011

The photograph above was taken while visiting my partner’s sister in the Panhandle of Florida where the temperature dipped to 23 degrees Fahrenheit on two successive nights. Mind you, I’m not complaining, we could have been in the northeast with all that snow. The Video below was shot in Astoria, NYC, by Jamie Stuart, "Idiot with a Tripod."

New Year Wish

On this second day of the New Year, I’m passing on hope for an improved outlook for everyone, and I’ll leave it there, no laundry list of sufferers. One political wish for the New Year – I hope the new Republican majority in congress will have wisdom to actually say “YES” to change occasionally, and that the now Democratic minority will not take up the Republican “NO” mantra of the past two years.

I didn’t exactly stay true to my promise to avoid all electronic technology during the holiday season. On at least two occasions I responded to electronic inquiry, 1) on facebook to a friend, and 2) an e-mail concerning a bill. Never the less, I’m pleased, and I hope all those with New Year resolutions will do as well as I did the past two weeks.