Archive for March, 2011

Mural artist: Display my father’s Bronze Star instead

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Judy Taylor, the Mount Desert Island artist who painted the labor history mural that Maine Governor Paul LePage unilaterally ordered removed from the state Department of Labor office last weekend, proposes that her father’s Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War could fill the empty space where her mural was displayed. Her statement is a response to an anonymous complaint released by the governor that the mural looked like North Korean propaganda.

“After a competitive process,” Taylor writes in a public statement, “I was awarded the commission and commenced upon a year of research, preparation of archival materials, sketches of stories in context based on historical fact and painting the panels. I added one personal piece which was to include my mother and father as I had lost both of them the previous year. My father is the young Army officer and my mother the little girl in the Frances Perkins panel. My father served as a forward observer during the Korean War and was awarded a Bronze Star. He was a man who stood by every word he spoke, every letter he wrote. It was so heartbreaking to learn that this controversy may have started with an anonymous letter comparing this mural to a North Korean propaganda poster. Perhaps we should hang my father’s Bronze Star for his service in Korea in the now empty reception area of the Maine Department of Labor until the mural is returned, as a symbol of the importance of remembering our history, and not shuttering it away.”

A spokeswoman for the governor has said that LePage’s decision was prompted by “several messages” complaining about the mural, but only released a single anonymous fax that the governor’s office said “A Secret Admirer” sent on Feb. 24: “In this mural I observed a figure which closely resembles the former commissioner of labor. … In studying the mural I also observed that this mural is nothing but propaganda to further the agenda of the Union movement. I felt for a moment that I was in communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”

‘Return Our Mural’ protest tomorrow

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Critics of Maine Governor Paul LePage’s removal of a labor history mural from the state Department of Labor office last weekend will hold a “Return Our Mural!” protest in the Maine State House in Augusta at noon, Friday, April 1.

Organizers of the event—including the Union of Maine Visual Artists, Veterans for Peace, Maine Campaign to Bring Our War $$ Home and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—plan to:

“convene in the Hall of Flags to demand the return of the ‘Maine Labor History’ mural to its rightful place in the Maine Department of Labor. Governor Paul Le Page’s seizure and hiding of a mural painted for the people of Maine is not merely presumptuous and disrespectful but also illegal and a breach of the state’s contract with artist Judy Taylor.

All Mainers who are concerned about this governor’s disregard of the rule of law and of the dignity of Maine’s workers and their history are invited to attend. All Mainers who believe in supporting art that tells our history and who believe in organizing to defend our rights, please join us.”

In addition to the sponsoring groups, speakers and singers at tomorrow’s rally are scheduled to include Jose Joey Lopez, state director, Maine League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); a statement from Charlie Scontras, labor historian; Ed Beem, writer, critic, The Forecaster; Rep. Bruce MacDonald, District 61
Lee Sharkey; Jeff Young or John Beal, lawyers; a worker from MSEA-SEIU Local 1989 (Christopher G. Quint Executive Director); David Marshall, Portland city council, artist and art gallery owner; and a statement from Judy Taylor.

College leaders criticize mural removal
Yesterday, Donald L. Tusk, president of Maine College of Art in Portland issued a statement: “Maine College of Art requests that Governor LePage respect the process by which the artwork was selected and installed. Put the mural back.” Tusk added: “LePage reacted to the content of the mural calling it ‘one-sided’ and had it removed it from the lobby of the Department of Labor and asked instead for a neutral decor. Art is not decoration, nor is it neutral. It is provocative and should elicit a response from individuals. It is not created to please all who view it. Art, like democracy, allows for differing opinions, for discourse, for expression of personal beliefs.”

Lynn Pasquerella, president of Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, sent a letter to LePage on Tuesday: “I write with grave concerns regarding your decision to remove this past weekend a mural depicting scenes from Maine’s labor history, including a depiction of Frances Perkins, an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and one of the most important figures in American history. … I was particularly surprised to read that you were influenced by an anonymous fax comparing the 11-panel mural to North Korean political propaganda, because the act of removing images commemorating Maine’s history itself conjures thoughts of the rewriting of history prevalent in totalitarian regimes. If the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. is housed in the Frances Perkins Building, why can’t she be honored with a conference room in Augusta?”

The governor had declined to reveal the whereabouts of the mural since it was removed, but Maine Public Broadcasting Network reports that the 36-foot-wide was just moved to another location within the Central Maine Commerce Center building—where the Department of Labor leases space for its headquarters—and stored.

At least until GE pays taxes, no more arts funding cuts

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

When we talk about government funding for the arts, it’s easy to feel that cuts to arts funding are only fair when our Great Recession is already forcing governments to cut spending on necessities like police and firefighters and schools. So we at The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research might even support the 26 percent cuts–reduced from $167.5 million to $124.5 million–that the U.S. House approved a month ago for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget for the current fiscal year if we were guaranteed that that money was instead being spent on, say, police, firefighters and schools.

But it’s just as reasonable—perhaps even more reasonable—to assume that plans floated by President Barack Obama and Congress to shrink or eliminate the NEA, National Endowment for the Humanities, Community Development Block Grants, Pell Grants, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which subsidizes public radio and television, not to mention cuts to fire, police and schools, are actually all subsidizing the richest industries in America.

There’s an idea in America that we’re a straight capitalist society, you know, economic survival of the fittest and all that. But in fact our government subsidizes pretty much everything—from farming to oil, from finance to autos to GE.

General Electric, The New York Times reported last week, reported $5.1 billion profits in the U.S. and $14.2 billion worldwide for 2010, but through, ahem, innovative accounting and by keeping certain things overseas its tax filings profess that the company owes zero federal taxes—and actually the feds owe the company $3.2 billion in tax credits. Remember that the total federal NEA budget was $167.5 million, or just 5 percent of the tax break GE says it’s owed. That’s just one corporation.

Over the past decade, GE has cut 20 percent of its American work force. Last fall, GE pressed the commonwealth of Massachusetts for $25 million in tax breaks in exchange for promising not to cut more than 150 jobs at its aircraft engine plant in Lynn for the next six years. The state eventually declined GE’s blackmail offer.

With this background, is it a surprise that President Obama named GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt chairman of his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in January? Sigh. In fact the word for this sort of company—a wildly wealthy company that does all it can to avoid paying it’s fair share in taxes, while simultaneously claiming government welfare checks—is anti-American.

GE is just one of our great corporate welfare recipients. In Boston, the financial firm Fidelity announced in March that it plans to move nearly 1,100 jobs out of Massachusetts. This is the same firm that has been receiving significant annual tax breaks since the state created a special tax cut for mutual fund companies in 1996. The goal then was to make the state competitive with other states that had already given the financial industry similar tax breaks.

The Boston Globe reports: “The state provided a tax break to Fidelity and other mutual fund companies that significantly increased their workforce over the next five years. One of the changes allowed firms to calculate their state income tax solely based on the amount of sales in Massachusetts, instead of having to use a combination of sales, property, and payroll. But after five years, all the job requirements attached to the tax incentive disappeared — allowing any mutual fund company to qualify for the more favorable tax treatment, regardless of whether it added or eliminated jobs. The Department of Revenue estimates the tax change has allowed the industry to save roughly $1.7 billion over the past 15 years, including $142 million this year.”

Another example: A year ago, the Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council approved a multi-year $22.5 million tax break for insurance giant Liberty Mutual to help it build a $300 million office tower at the corner of Berkeley Street and Columbus Avenue in Boston. That’s on top of a $16 million tax break from the city of Boston over the next 20 years. So $38.5 million in city and state tax breaks spread over two decades, or corporate welfare of $1.925 million a year.

New York Magazine reports: “Corporate share of the country’s revenue from taxes fell from 30 percent in the mid-‘50s to 6.6 percent in 2009.”

If state and federal governments can continue to afford to subsidize our most successful and most capitalist enterprises, there’s no reason they can’t continue to maintain funding levels for the arts—and even increase them. Why should socialism just be for American corporations?

April 1, 2010: MA, RI subsidize millionaires, cut the arts.
Nov. 2, 2009: Fine arts not in Patrick’s Creative Economy?
June 29, 2009: 23 percent cut for MA cultural council.
June 14, 2006: Your tax dollars at work: “A decade ago, the state changed the way Massachusetts’s mutual-fund industry is taxed in a way that, according to our Department of Revenue, will save the industry roughly $132.4 million this fiscal year and some $141 million the next.”

MFA ranks 53rd by attendance

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts ranks 53rd in the world in terms of attendance, according to a report by The Art Newspaper. The publication reports that the MFA had 911,356 visitors in 2010, besting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam by 11,216 visitors, but trailing well behind the Louvre, the world attendance leader with 8.5 million visitors last year.

George Tooker has died

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

George Tooker–an artist best known for his nervous, claustrophobic, visionary paintings in egg tempera–died Sunday, March 27, at his longtime home in Hartland, Vermont, according to his dealer DC Moore Gallery. He was 90.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1920, attended Phillips Academy, Harvard and the Art Students League. Back in New York, he became friends with Paul Cadmus and Jared and Margaret French. In the late 1950s, Tooker and his partner William Christopher began building a house on land they’d bought in Hartland. They moved there from Brooklyn in 1960, and Tooker lived there for the rest of his life.

Pictured at top: George Tooker, “”Dark Angel,” 1996.

The Columbus Museum of Art produced a three-part documentary on Tooker in conjunction with a 2009 traveling retrospective of his work. You can find all three parts here.

George Tooker, “Self-Portrait,” 1947.

George Tooker, “”Sleepers II,” 1959.

Smithsonian acquires Pedro Martinez portrait

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

On Friday, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery installed its newly acquired portrait of Pedro Martinez, the three-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who helped the Boston Red Sox win its first World Series in 86 years in 2004. Susan Miller-Havens painted the oil and beeswax portrait (pictured below) in her Cambridge studio in 2000. It was donated to the Washington, D.C., museum by Gloria Trowbridge Gammons and her husband, sportswriter Peter Warren Gammons.

Pictured above, from left: Martin Sullivan, director of the National Portrait Gallery; Peter Gammons, portrait donor; Susan Miller-Havens, artist; Pedro Martinez, and Gloria Gammons portrait donor. Photo by Mark Gulezian, National Portrait Gallery.

Labor mural removed over the weekend

Monday, March 28th, 2011

The 36-foot mural of Maine labor history was quietly removed from the Maine Department of Labor office in Augusta over the weekend, Department of Labor spokesperson Adam Fisher tells The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. Governor Paul LePage called for the mural’s removal last week because he found it offensively pro-labor. Asked who ordered it removed, who removed it, where is it now, and what are the plans for it, Fisher replied, “I’ll direct your other questions to the Governor’s office for response.” The Lewiston Sun Journal has posted a photo of the now empty office lobby.

Opponents of LePage’s moves are talking of staging a series of protests at the Maine State House.

Contract for Maine labor mural

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Two sections of the state of Maine’s original contract with artist Judy Taylor to create the mural for the Maine Department of Labor in Augusta seem to apply to Governor Paul LePage’s current push to remove the mural, based on The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research’s interpretation of a copy of the contracted supplied to us by Maine Arts Commmission Director Donna McNeil today. (Read the entire contract here, though note that McNeil tells me: “This is not a signed contract and therefore we are unsure if this is the final version.”)

Section 5 of this contract draft says “The permanent location of the work shall be: Department of Labor, Augusta, Maine.” However the contract’s definition of “permanent” may not be the typical definition of “permanent” as Section 22 says: “Relocation: The work will be placed in the location for which it was selected. The contracting agency agrees that the artist and the Commission will be notified if, for any reason, the work has to be removed or moved to a new location. The artist and the Commission have the right to advise or consult with the contracting agency or its designee regarding this treatment of the work.”

We’re not legal experts, but this version of the contract seems to give Governor LePage wide latitude to pursue removal of the mural.

Gov seeks replacement for pro-Labor mural

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Also protest of Maine gov’s plan held

Maine Governor Paul LePage put out a call Friday for new artwork for the Maine Department of Labor office in Augusta, Maine, that “depicts the cooperative relationship that exists between Maine’s job creators and the workers who power Maine’s economy” to replace a mural there that he finds offensively pro-labor.

“Without workers and employers, we do not have an economy,” LePage said in a prepared statement Friday. “Maine’s Department of Labor needs to serve and balance the interests of both employees and employers to accomplish its mission. I encourage anyone with artwork that celebrates the cooperation that exists in Maine’s workplaces to consider offering it for display at any Department of Labor or Career Center location.”

We especially appreciate that LePage’s plan says “artists interested in participating should be willing to offer their artwork on loan to the state”–apparently unpaid. Could there be a better way for the governor to model a balance of the needs of employers and employees?

Meanwhile at noon Friday, a group of Maine artists and labor historians led by Rob Shetterly, Natasha Mayers, Joan Braun and Daniel Kany held a press conference (video above) at the Maine Department of Labor to “demand that Governor LePage not remove Judy Taylor’s ‘History of Maine Labor’ mural from the Department of Labor” and to “educate the public about why historical art is essential to preserve Maine history, and why the attempt to remove historical art in a politicized environment is a critical issue for all Mainers.” Protestors chanted: “Recall Paul.” The group has also launched a blog detailing their efforts.

The governor’s office says Taylor’s 2008 government-commissioned mural will be moved to Portland City Hall for public display, but opponents are already fighting this plan, saying LePage’s actions are illegal.

LePage’s request for new art came the day after The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research and Portland Phoenix combined forces to try to help the governor by issuing a call for a “mural depicting the glorious contributions of the Maine businessperson” to replace a degenerate, “one-sided” mural at the office.
Also Thursday, Jon Stewart (below) mocked the governor’s plans on “The Daily Show,” saying: “A Department of Labor with a mural celebrating labor … now I’ve seen everything.”

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“Go See Art”

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Franklin Einspruch, the Boston author of the late, lamented and more recently of Franklin Einspruch’s “Journal,” recently launched “Go See Art” (pictured above), which aims to be a comprehensive calendar listing of art exhibitions across New England. Check it out here.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Monday, March. 28, 6:30 p.m.
Judy Pfaff speaks at Boston University’s Morse Auditorium, 602 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Free.

Wednesday, March 30, 6 p.m.
Painter Richard Phillips speaks at MassArt’s Tower Auditorium, 621 Huntington Ave., Boston. Free.

Wednesday, March 30, 6 p.m.
Robin Starr, director of the American and European paintings and prints department at the Massachusetts auction house Skinner, discusses her career in the arts at Bate College’s Olin Arts Center, 75 Russell St., Room 104, Lewiston, Maine. Free.

Thursday, March 31, 12:30 p.m.
Photographer Tina Barney speaks at the Alfond Auditorium in the Museum of Fine Arts’s new Americas Wing, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. Free tickets are available at any MFA ticket desk on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Thursday, March 31, 6 p.m.
Ghanaian artist El Anatsui speaks in conversation with New York Museum of African At curator Lisa Binder and Princeton professor Chika Okeke-Agulu at Wellesley College’s Jewett Auditorium, 106 Central St., Wellesley, Massachusetts. Free.

Thursday, March 31, 6 p.m.
French filmmaker Dominique Cabrera speaks at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m.
MacArthur Fellowship-winning artist Whitfield Lovell speaks at Smith College Museum of Art, Weinstein Auditorium in Wright Hall, Elm Street at Bedford Terrace, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Friday, April1
Deadline to apply for Rhode Island State Council on the Arts grants.

Friday, April 1, 2:30 p.m.
Meet the models who inspired Norman Rockwell’s art as they share their personal stories at Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Friday, April 1, 7 p.m.
The Creative Impact Series, a project of the Rhode Island Council on the Arts, Attleboro Arts Museum and Art League of Rhode Island, presents “Cultivating Creative Lives” at the Attleboro Art Museum. New England arts agencies and organizations including the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, and the Art League of Rhode Island will speak about how they and other agencies help artists cultivate creative lives and work to grow arts, culture and humanities programs in our region. Also presentations of music and live gardens. Free.

Saturday, April 2, noon to 4 p.m.
The Boston Art Dealers Association operates its free ArtBus from noon to 4 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, September through June to facilitate visiting Boston galleries on Newbury St in the Back Bay and Harrison Ave in the South End. The shuttle stops at: Berkeley and Newbury Streets (in front of the Church of the Covenant); Dartmouth and Newbury Streets (in front of the Fitz Inn parking lot); and Thayer Street and Harrison Avenue.

Saturday, April 2, 1 to 5 p.m.
“Loving Cups: Tradition and Meaning in a Silver Form: A Conference,” Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Ave., Newport, Rhode Island, $25.

Thursday, April 7, 6 p.m.
Leslie Hewitt speaks at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Open call for public art to replace Maine labor mural

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

In collaboration with The Portland Phoenix, The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research is issuing a call for public art: Mural depicting the glorious contributions of the Maine businessperson.

Seeking designs for a 36-foot-long, 8-foot-tall mural to replace a degenerate, “one-sided” mural at the Maine Department of Labor office in Augusta. Please e-mail jpgs to, or if you insist to us.

Submissions are encouraged to honor Maine’s grand business history, from logging to ship building, from the brave executives who put down the 1937 women’s strike to steadfast proponents of child labor, from the paper mill bosses who purified our waters with dioxins to those who intrepidly called in the National Guard to restore order in the face of wrong-thinking mobs and crybabies, and surplus and salvage company CEOs who selflessly offer damaged goods for retail sale before giving it all up for public service.

Favorite entries will be published in the Portland Phoenix and online. All submissions will be forwarded to Governor Paul LePage as potential replacements for the Augusta office lobby.

Maine governor orders mural removed

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Maine Governor Paul LePage (pictured below), a Tea Party-backed Republican who won election last November, has ordered the removal of a mural depicting Maine’s labor history from the Department of Labor office, calling the painting too “one-sided” — i.e. too pro labor, according to a report by the Lewiston Sun Journal. Judy Taylor of Mount Desert Island, Maine, painted the 36-foot public artwork (one section is reproduced above) for the lobby of the labor department’s Augusta offices in 2008 after she won a commission from the Maine Arts Commission to depict the “History of Labor in the State of Maine.”

Wlodzimierz Ksiazek

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

From our review of Wlodzimierz Ksiazek’s show at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery in Providence:

Wlodzimierz Ksiazek’s exhibit of chunky, muscular abstract paintings is a dose of the old-time religion. The Pawtucket artist trenchantly continues to plumb Abstract Expressionism, which saw its heyday in the late 1940s and ’50s, in these eight recent paintings. Most of them are nearly seven feet wide by about 5.5-feet high. The canvases are displayed like icons under dramatic raking spotlights in a darkened gallery to emphasize the textures of the surfaces.

And what surfaces! A red 2010 canvas hums with its narrow range of hues — from crimson to deep blood red — applied in rectangular slabs of oil paint and wax, built up inches thick. You sense the artist pushing against the dense paint’s inertia.

Read the rest here.

Wlodzimierz Ksiazek at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, March 3 to 30, 2011.

Pictured: Four untitled paintings by Wlodzimierz Ksiazek. All are from 2010, except the green one which is from 2007.