You Like It, You Like It Not

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Some journalists have the luxury of working on their articles for weeks, if not months, but that is definitely not the case when one is doing a weekly radio program. On Tuesday, my busiest day of the week, I spend five hours writing the program, and then rush to the subterranean offices of KCRW at Santa Monica College to tape it.


President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush
at the unveiling of their official portraits, Thursday, May 31, 2012


Even before Art Talk goes on the air, its text and images appear at and are sent out via email to thousands of subscribers. Your responses to my Art Talk -- thumbs up and thumbs down -- arrive soon after, which is one of the pleasures and privileges of speaking my mind to such an engaged audience. Today I want to share some of the comments you sent in response to a few of the latest shows.


John Howard Sanden: Portraits of Laura Bush and President George W. Bush, 2012
Courtesy of the White House


"I enjoyed your swell remarks about the portraits," commented Diana in reference to the painfully banal official portraits of George W. and Laura Bush unveiled recently at the White House. An anonymous listener wrote "Private portraits doing their job, providing a faithful rendering of the subject. Get up off the artist and go piss at somebody smearing you-know-what on a crucifix. That's troubling. Not crummy White House portraits." 


(L) John Nava, One Nation Under Surveillance, oil on canvas, 2006
(R) Sam Goodsell, Threshold, pastel, 2005


And a few of the listeners came with the names of their candidates to receive the commission for the next official Presidential portraits. Among them were artist John Nava, well known for his remarkable tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown LA, and Sam Goodsell, a well-regarded Brooklyn based artist.


Kenny Scharf mural for the Pediatric Ward at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Photo courtesy of the artist

When, a few weeks ago, I referred to the remarkable art collection of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, calling it "medicine for my eyes and medicine for my soul," a listener in London shared the story of bringing her husband to intensive care at Cedars: "I remember so clearly the comfort it was, being surrounded by Art whilst he was in the operating theatre…I wish I had voiced my gratitude to those involved in this gift."


Mickalene Thomas, Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2012
© Mickalene Thomas

Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
Photo: Christopher Burke Studio


Another listener wrote, "Was it not Marcia Weisman who was largely responsible for the Cedars-Sinai art collection?" To which Rosamund added, "Marcia would literally go into collectors' homes, select a work of art and tell them to give it to the Medical Center." By the way, to those of you who are not familiar with this name, I want to tell you that Marcia and her husband Frederick were major collectors and the very existence of MOCA owes much to Marcia's passion for art. She also happened to be the sister of Norton Simon. Enough said.


(L) Gustav Courbet, L'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World), 1866
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
(R) Mickalene Thomas, Origin of the Universe 1, 2012


In my program about the current exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Mickalene Thomas, who proudly embraces her identity as a black, gay woman, I was critical of her attempt to go head to head with masterpieces by 19th century French painter Gustave Courbet. Especially his infamous Origin of the World, depicting a close-up of the female vagina. And here are your comments to that. Olivia said " I think Thomas has anything but lost the battle, but rather is continuing a relevant and historic dialogue…I think she is referencing African American artist Romare Bearden, who aimed to redefine Black identity with his art." Martha commented, "I agree with you re: Mickalene Thomas, whose work I like a lot, but Courbet's Origin of the World is so sexual, it makes Mickalene's look wooden and nothing like her voluptuous femmes." And here's the last, but not the least of the comments: "No one says it better than you Edward. I venture to add: maybe too many vaginas in LA at the moment—I refer to this show and to that at Mat Gleason's place, Coagula, in Chinatown."

Banner image: (L) Mickalene Thomas, Qusuquzah, une tres belle nigresse #3, 2012; (R) Din, une tres belle nigresse #2, 2012