The Fine Art of Alienation

Letters from the week of June 6, 2002

Church Business

Sex, lies and the Catholic Church: Thank you for your continued excellent reporting on the past and current state of affairs in Bishop O'Brien's office ("Blame Game," Robert Nelson, May 30). As a member of the church, I must tell you that the depth of the continued sanctimonius deceit, as well as the obvious malfeasance, continues to both amaze and sicken me. I for one have withheld all payments to the church and have written a letter of protest to the Office of the Holy See in Washington, D.C. Mr. Nelson, do not stop. Do not relent. Do not allow your newspaper to give in to the threats. I also applaud Mr. Romley. I ask and support his prosecution of the law. No one, no institution is above the law. Shame on O'Brien, who, as far as I am concerned, has forfeited his title. If I ever see him on the street, I will be happy to spit in his direction and then offer my forgiveness.

Michael A. Perrino
Tempe

Lost Art

Minority report: As an artist and arts writer, I read Susy Buchanan's piece on the MARS Artspace with great interest ("Ghosts of Mars," May 23). The circumstances that plagued the MARS space are not uncommon in the visual arts. This is particularly true of minority spaces as well as alternative venues. Either through design, or the way situations evolved, it seems from the article, that the MARS space was a victim of its own success in showcasing artists. As soon as the founders began to claim an audience for their individual works, a precipitous decline in interest and support of the group collective began. The draw to find other, and perhaps more profitable, venues left MARS minus the very people it needed the most for the long haul — its founders. Minus that drive, the space became a venue minus either an aesthetic direction or a community foundation.

I also feel that certain "attitudes" on the part of some members did not help matters. It is to be expected that artists use bravado and self-aggrandizement as promotional tools. However, Jim Covarrubias' quote: " Those cats just aren't as good as I am, that's why they can't sell," does very little to promote the merits of Chicano Art. Was it really necessary to allow that to see print, or was it a joke? Was this just so much "self promotion" along the lines of "I'm the best artist in Arizona?" What may pass as idle chatter or clever wit in private takes on an air of decided self-importance and superiority that may, or may not, be entirely merited. Since Mr. Covarrubias aligns his artistic identity with his ethnicity, this brings into question his sense of both commitment and support of the very ethnic group that fuels his creations and identity. I have seen this time and time again, where once a "minority" artist achieves some level of recognition and frequent sales, there is a persistent need to differentiate him or herself from the collective group by taking on the mantle of being "special." Rather than permitting a range of artists into this exclusive enclave, it seems imperative that the successful from the group ensure that their expressions are seen as the definitive ones and others as the contrivances of "lesser" talents.

Another issue that the article raised was that of Annie Lopez and her reaction to a negative review. It is to be expected that, when you place work in an open arena, you place yourself on examination. Lopez' reaction to the review was to create a work that was as jejune as it was confusing. When one evaluates work, one must create a judgment, either pro or con. To accuse an art reviewer of being judgmental is like punishing an artist for being too creative. It is part of the review process to be "judgmental" and to create a system for evaluating the merits of a work. One hopes that the reviewer will have an open system that is inclusive and aware of the state of visual art on both a local and international level. To respond with a work that is critical of the concept of judgment makes little if any sense and seems to point to an inability to accept constructive criticism.

Another point made by Lopez was her irritation at being refused exhibition space for her work while attention and room were made for "La Grafica Chicana: Three Decades of Chicano Prints, 1970-2000" at the Phoenix Art Museum. While she pointed out her exclusion from the proceedings, she did not note that it is a huge step forward that mainstream museums are acknowledging the artistic merits of Chicano artists, the very goal MARS was established to foster. The fact that Ms. Lopez was not included does not automatically mean that there is systematic segregation. Could it be possible her works are simply not on a level of accomplishment to make them worthy? Could it be possible that her creations did not fit the premise of the show? These are questions that one could easily ask before jumping to the conclusion that there is systematic racism taking place in this instance.

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