Archive for the ‘American’ Tag

What’s American About American Art

Last night’s Clarice Smith Lecture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum posed the question. Adam Gopnick, American critic, essayist, commentator, and journalist, entertained the crowd very well. A writer for The New Yorker, Gopnick split the discussion into three sections. First, he considered who are American artists, then he focused on American art institutions, then concluded with a discussino about the definition of being American.

The artists he discussed including Winslow Homer, often moved into painting and other fine arts, after working in a more practical application of their artistic skill, such as illustration for newspapers. Unlike many European artists, they were not academically trained in many cases. Gopnick observed that these American art emerged in the mid-nineteenth century at a time when photography emerged to depict what painting had often been used for (showing an image). Thus, theses artists immediately faced the question of what is the purpose of art. Gopnick noted that the artists frequently made paintings that showed the abundance of American reality or the spiritual as a single white glowing oblong.

The boomerang effect between these two poles forms a major part of what is American about art. Another is that American art institutions included a wider range of items in their collections than European art galleries and museums. They showed decorative and other arts in the same gallery and hall as the “fine” arts, defining them all as part of American artistic creations. He did not discuss the origins of museums in America, which came out of the tradition of the dime museum, or the great hall of wonders, and included a wide-range of objects.

The presentation concluded with an argument to see American as not an innate biologiocal thing but a pluralistic urge that includes.

Surprisingly, Gopnick showed a small number of images. The main pieces he showed included Wayne Thiebaud’s Cakes

   and James Turrell’s light painting to illustrate the boomerang effect.

I think some people in the audience would have liked to have seen more images so that they could see things for themselves.

As a historian, I would like to see Gopnick link his thesis tohow the artists thought in the specific time and place in which they created their work. A sense of abundance in America would mean something different in the late 19th century US or even in mid-Twentieth century US, then it means to some one today. Same for the effortsd to represent the spiritual.


American Public Wants

Public Says No To Republicans’ Slasher-Movie Economics

Scott Walker feels the heat as public opinion polls show very low favorable ratings

Are most people sick and tired of losing their jobs, or watching neighbors take pay cuts

Meanwhile, it’s great to be on Wall Street. It must be glorious. You crash the economy, get a taxpayer bailout and hand out record bonuses.

People are marching on banks in cities across the nation complaining about their record bonuses.

From a person who was there:

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This was a very promising beginning, my friends!

For those who weren’t there other chants included:

“We’re not going away! We will make you PAY!” and “Bank of American You Can’t Hide, We Can See Your Greedy (or Evil) Side!” and “The Banks Get Bailed Out / The People Get Sold Out!”

And the top six banks in the US pay on 11% of their tax share instead of the 35% that they should pay because of tax loopholes. They also have not been loaning money out to help out small businesses in the country.

Character Politics

Three editorials in today’s Washington Post contained statements that carried suggestions about the character of the American people today.

Richard Cohen focuses on the deluge that many people feel as times have abruptly changed on them. He opines that a generation or so ago, “One had the feeling that what with wars and famines, disease and ruthless economic cycles, one could never really control one’s own life.” He compares today to the change wrought by the Great Depression and notes that “The people of the 1920s and ’30s were tough, hard. They did not expect all that much from life, and they had learned to expect next to nothing from government.

In contrast, we are soft, coddled. We actually thought that we could have a house we could not afford and a mortgage that we could not pay and that it would all somehow work out. This keeps being called the American dream. It was actually the American delusion.”

This agrees with a fantastic book by Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism from 1979, in which among other things, Lasch noted changes in our attitudes toward work and a softness in our characters and a focus on our individual selves.

Eugene Robinson applauds Obama’s budget submission and long-term view. “There’s a reason Obama’s approval ratings remain so high. He senses that Americans yearn for greater fairness and accountability, especially after the excesses that threaten to wreck our economy and destroy so many dreams. He knows that American individualism is tempered by the need to feel community in the nation and the world.”

Is Robinson correct? Can the wealthy see their paying of a higher percentage of their money in taxes as equitable? Are Americans willing to forgo certain individual perks for the greater good?

The founder and CEO of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, asserts that government stimulus money needs to offer incentives for entrepreneurship and innovation. Such allocation helps small businesses invest and grow, reimagine their products and services, and assess their strengths. Localized innovation develops the economy from the ground up.” Most of us agree that high paying jobs and new products are necessary for the country’s recovery. Some wonder how many jobs and products social networking sites create.

The focus in on comments about character and Hoffman offers this observation about venture capitalists without any irony, “Venture capitalists are biding their time — not for want of good ideas, solid management or stable capital but to ensure that they can get the most bang for their buck. Similarly, venture capital firms are waiting for the slide to stop and the recovery to begin before investing.”

He seems to be saying that the money in this country wants to maximize their individual take and make the most of the situation on a personal level. They will wait until the bad part is over regardless of whether their act could help the recovery take place sooner.

The culture of narcissism wins out.