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If this helps one voter, amen.
If this helps one voter, amen.
The lowest common denominator. You may think it’s puckish but focus on how the wall is actually swarming with saliva-enhanced bacteria.
Kehinde Wiley is realer than his canvases. He’s a profoundly adept painter, but I see more here.
His work is hanging in nearly every contemporary art museum that fields a budget. He’s intentionally and successfully heroic in scale, lighting, pose. Which happens to showcase his exquisite studio skills as a painter. I suspect him of having a big brain.
His habit is to create a decorative background against which to pose a Black person who feels regal, entitled, opinionated. No Egon Schiele neurosis here. Power, self-possession, aware of their condition in racist reality. They wear their street clothes. They do not back down.
It’s significant that this is the opus of a painter. We know photography too well to be smacked in the face by a flounder by a deadeye portraitist in paint. We have our Alice Neels, our Philip Pearlsteins, portraitists who stamp their sitters with their modern distillations of style. They catch an essence, you can name the face that came and sat.
Wiley rejects that. I think he’s understood since way back that as a Black artist he wasn’t tilting against modernism — notably a segregated ambition — but against the anonymizing lie of Whites who feel they can talk about Blacks and understand “a black person” as a mute cartoon Negro. No hairstyle choice, no fire in the belly, no bent finger from fielding a pitch. No vibrations.
Art history holds big sway over Wiley. He’s studied and felt the White domination dripping like sugar-coating on a hot day. Are there even a hundred canvases known in the canon featuring Blacks? Here comes a painter riding a warhorse of talent and painting Blacks into history’s poses. It’s not your normal modern irony, angst, self-reflective. It’s irony is blatant and historic. Ever so hard to evade.
I watch myself lionizing this artist. I have favorites, true. But this is political — Kehinde Wiley has made stylistic choices that emphasize how much Black Lives Matter. He paints real faces with personal details, he has models wear what they’re wearing, their costuming from life. He often poses subjects echoing the poses of Whites memorialized famously in paint. The only difference, as Wiley points out wordlessly, is the color of their skin. Which in the classic surrounds keeps asking Why are we not here?
In another piece I might detail his merits as an artist. The way his unexpected backgrounds of flowers and furbelows slyly curl out around his humans. But that’s another story. Today we’re all alerted to the uneasy state of our democracy. Here’s an example of someone using art as an effective political tool.
When I first saw Wiley’s art in New York I sniffed a trick. The formula of the backgrounds fooled my eye into ignoring the gallery of faces so expertly seen. I’ve grown. Kehinde Wiley has taught me that you can wield artistic decisions for political clout.
George Saunders published CivilWarLand in Bad Decline in 1966. My world should have shook (I was Californian, so not a reach) but I didn’t even hear whisper of it. For decades. When I read the book I went and read five or six others. Here was a voice that tolled inside me like a bell made of heart muscle.
He got how off-kilter the world of humans is. How hilarious and sad, how un-said. Let others swoon over Hilary Mantel, George Saunders became my favorite living author.
I tell you this because I’m dismayed to find that something’s changed. In a funk I pulled out a couple of George Saunders’ books. Always good to read. Foundational as they say. Underpinning.
There are trolls in my bookcase. Or maybe in my head. George Saunders isn’t funny anymore. Wry doesn’t connect to any part I recognize.
I think of the news photo of a frenzied mob outside a subway car, faces shrieking invective at the Covid-masked faces within. Blond woman leading the pack at full bay. I remember the newspaper checked with several zombie movie directors who wished they could get that shot in their films.
Some newswriter noted these were the same people who, when seat-belts were mandated broke their vocal cords demanding their right to be smashed across their windshields. I was driving by then. I lived through the same experience and don’t actually remember it. Seatbelts were weird for awhile and then life rolled like a gentle wave over sand and life erased my noticing. I don’t think about brushing my teeth either but someone must be doing it.
A man yesterday shot at police with an automatic rifle because he didn’t want to wear a Covid-mask. Obviously he wasn’t black or he’d be dead.
Ever since Donald Trump aimed his belly at the podium on January 20, 2017 hate-hearted bipeds have been oozing like water through pebbles into my county’s psyche. They really do throw their passions at astonishing targets. They’re damned if you can make them wear Covid-masks. Actually you’re damned if you do. And if their leader scoffs at cataclysmic viruses, they’re ready and armed.
Is it any wonder that George Saunders rings all too true? Hey mister, your bent world is in my government, gnawing at the floorboards.
Gnawing on my brain.
In the great Alabama Senate race of 2017 let it be known that nearly two-thirds of white women voted for alleged child molester Roy Moore. To our white womanly eternal shame. Emphasize eternal.
On the up side, the Black vote was 98% female, 94% male. What a wallop! May a white woman be elated here? Watch me rollick and romp and gloat. Haven’t felt this hopeful since Obama won. Imagine an America where you were American by birth, not by melanin allotment. Where White Supremacists would hold their cabals in secret because the rest of us stood up to them. No matter how many guns they had. And the police would be on the side of the greater good.
This Black vote, Black voice, is I believe unprecedented. Finally the conscience of Black America turned the vote. If they run with this, American politics will change — like stepping on a land mine. One minute it’s just another day, next minute those who would keep any polity down would flicker down in political shreds.
I’m well aware of the Black raised eyebrow at me. Even though I’ve voted in your interest time and again. And have never used the ‘N’ word, or anything disrespectful. Still you blame me for institutional racism. It’s not enough we’ve got our own things we’re fighting for? We’re to blame you’re not going to the polls? GO TO THE POLLS.
We need you, America needs you.
Hallelujah for the Black voice loud in the American ear!
America is poised between just another sunny day and living forever with radioactive fallout. Blame it on the Confederacy that hadn’t the decency to admit defeat — tho their generals did. Their heroes. If we’d squashed out racism long ago it would be hard to stir up hate today. Without hate, no Trump. Well, with Putin’s help. And the gormless Electoral Collage. So America is in a pickle steeped in its own piss and vinegar. Out-maneuvered by our most poisonous enemy. And in possession of our most scandalous President, whom no-one can be sure is sane.
Someone likened him to Nero. Destructively mad, remembered through all of history. Maybe that is who Trump fancies himself tilting at like Quixote. That memory, that spectacularly mad.
One needn’t be genius caliber to know Trump has been in the White House X amount of days and done away with Y amount of science to know Kim Jong Un needn’t fear Trump’s saber-rattling. Our Nero is a self-deluded fool who imagines he can rattle swords he hasn’t yet made. He’s a doofus. A comic pet who assumes poses to make the humans pay attention for a while.
Why bluff a madman? Why bluff an enraged bull? Don’t you have any sense?
Dear Trolls of the Trumpforce, don’t you know radiation blows? You think our Nero will stand with upraised fist to save your children, to turn nuclear radiation back from our shores?
Are you that nuts? That sure that you must hang on to your hate, even now? You’d rather someone got blown to smithereens? Even you?
Than you would let a black man walk down the street without fear?